It is a story about hope, dreams, bravery, courage, redemption. It is a story about the human condition at its most glorified and at its darkest. Long before Victor Hugo's epic novel "Les Miserables" was turned into a Tony award-winning musical, it was the subject of many film adaptations. Here is a just a brief history behind some of them.
In the time of the silent film era, the ground-breaking filmmakers including the Lumiere Brothers and the first ever female filmmaker, Alice Guy-Blache, recognized the need to transform Hugo's pages onto celluloid. Its themes and characters have been proven universal since it has been adapted in different countries starting in 1910 with the first Japanese adaptation, "Aa Mujo." The story has been adapted eight different times in Japan alone.
"Les Miserables" (1934). Directed by Raymond Bernard. Starring Harry Baur, Charles Vanel and Florelle. The film clocks in at four and a half hours but for devoted fans of the story, it is worth the viewing time. It is considered by critics the greatest adaptation of the novel. The film consists of three films that were originally released over the period of three weeks. In 2010, curator Robert Herbert chose the film as a part of an exhibition for French drawings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The film was screened in its separate parts over three days.
In 1935, Hollywood was able to make its own adaptation directed by Richard Boleslaski and starring Fredric March as Jean Valjean and Charles Laughton as Javert. Although the basic plot follows Hugo's novel, there are differences from the book including the change of Valjean's prison number from 24601 to 2906, which to the most devoted fan is a major detail. The film was nominated for two academy awards - Best Picture and Film Editing.
In the more recent years, Les Miserables continues to attract the imagination of filmmakers and audiences. In 1998, another American film adaptation was made starring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean, Geoffrey Rush as Javert, Uma Thurman as Fantine and Claire Danes as Cosette.
In 2012, the long-awaited and highly anticipated adaptation of the Broadway musical will be released. The film will be directed by Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper with an all-star cast including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried. The film will feature Broadway Alum Colm Wilkinson who starred as Valjean in the Broadway production as well as Samantha Barks whom has previously portrayed the character Eponine on stage. The film is known for taking a major risk in its production. It will break the rules of traditional filming of a musical whereas the actors may lip synch to a backtrack. Instead as the camera's rolled, Hooper had the cast sing live on set.