The 1943 Remake
The Chaney Phantom set a standard for retelling the story, partly because of its ongoing popularity after the mid-twenties. Yet it also helped establish some studio modes of filmmaking that could then be split apart and recombined in later productions. Oddly enough, it was Universal’s attempts to extend the popularity of its 1925 version that helped instigate the splitting of The Phantom’s different elements. In 1930, with Chaney now irretrievably under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (and near the death from throat cancer that took him in August of that year), Universal re-released its “masterpiece” with a soundtrack of its own, including extensive synchronized music, dialogue sequences reshot and recorded by Mary Philbin and Norman Kerry (albeit quite feebly), and a publicity note almost happily admitting that “Lon Chaney’s portrayal of the Phantom [remains] a silent one” (Blake, 73). The coming of sound, of course, had rapidly moved the film musical to the forefront—the 1929 Academy Award for Best Picture went to M-G-M’s The Broadway Melody (Osborne, 17) —so, given the close connection of the musical to opera, the reuniting of The Phantom of the Opera with sound must have seemed an inevitable method for extending the film’s vaunted “production values” and its audience by filling the one great lack in a silent film about opera, all at relatively little cost to a studio now facing great losses in the Depression along with nearly everyone else.
KeywordsBurning Depression Silent Picture Europe Amid
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