Le Fantome de l'Opera was written in 1910 by French author Gaston Leroux.
The story originally appeared in serialized form in the daily newspaper
Le Gaulois and then in novel form.
The English translation appeared the following year under the title
The Phantom of the Opera, accompanied by color illustrations
by Andre Castaigne.
In 1922, Carl Laemmle, founder and president of Universal Pictures,.
met Gaston Leroux during a visit to Paris. Leroux gave him a copy
of The Phantom and Laemmle promptly purchased the movie rights.
Laemmle had only one actor in mind to play The Phantom..
Lon Chaney. The Man of a Thousand Faces.
Chaney had starred as Quasimodo in Universal's mammoth film version.
of Victor Hugo's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.
As was becoming a popular practice with big pictures in the mid-1920's,
several sequences of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA were filmed in Technicolor,
then a two-strip dye transfer process. Only the Bal Masque sequence survives
The film previewed in Los Angeles to decidedly unflattering response and comments.
What followed was a tumultuous period of writing and shooting additional scenes,
ultimately discarded, a subsequent preview in San Francisco - as disastrous
as the first one - and a series of missteps that almost led to the film being shelved.
Robert E. Sherwood described the rather fantastic goings-on:
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was now ready for its
World Premiere in New York City. A massive advertising campaign
Carl Laemmle himself appeared in the film's theatrical trailer.
Click HERE to download a PDF of a copy of
the original suvenir program.
The film then went into national release, including regional
theaters whose patrons were unprepared for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA!
The film was then shipped overseas to worldwide acclaim.
Rather than Chaney's Phantom, this Dutch poster seems to have been fashioned
after the "Rat Catcher" whom Raoul and Ledoux encounter while searching for
the Phantom in the catacombs of the Opera House.
And then, after the Movies had learned to talk....
Not wanting to destroy the original negative to produce a new part-talking
version of THE PHANTOM, the studio put together the revised edition using
alternate takes of scenes that would be repeated. Below are comparisons of the
1925 and 1929 versions of several scenes.
In fact, since a new "Carlotta" was employed to sing Marguerita's Jewel Song
from Faust, the original "Carlotta" became "Carlotta's Mother"!
One of the most striking differences between the two "Unmasking" sequences
are the shots of Erik the Phantom leering toward Christine after
she removes his mask.
Several scenes were deleted entirely to make room for newly-created
talking sequences. These deleted scenes included the doctor tending to Christine;
Raoul demanding action from the Prefect of Police; most of the footage of Faust
and the Devil; and both an interlude and a honeymoon epilogue at Viroflay.
As for Lon Chaney, MGM did not permit him to take part in the new version of
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. So the Phantom did not speak. Lon Chaney did make
one talking picture for MGM - a remake of his silent film THE UNHOLY THREE. But by
late August, 1930, Chaney was dead of lung cancer.
As for the Phantom - he lives on and on. Universal remade the film as a Technicolor
musical melodrama in 1943 with Claude Rains, Nelson Eddy and Susanna Foster.
The studio then released Hammer's 1962 remake with Herbert Lom.
Enter Andrew Lloyd Webber, who created a worldwide phenomenom with his romantic
musical version. This was followed by several cash-in films who took advantage
of the original story's public domain status.
There have been many stage and screen Phantoms since 1925. But none have come
anywhere near approximating Lon Chaney's original characterization of Erik,
the master of Black Art who had escaped from Devil's Island and became...
The Phantom of the Opera!
And now, please enjoy Chelsea Rialto Studios' reconstruction
of the 1925 release version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA,
featuring a musical score comprised of music from the
Universal Horror Films of the 1940's - restored by John W. Morgan
and conducted by William T. Stromberg - and music from Charles
Gounod's FAUST. Synchronization by Chelsea Rialto Studios.
Original content © 2020 Chelsea Rialto Studios