When David O. Selznick produced the film version of the 1000-plus page novel Gone with the Wind, he declared he could not make a film running any less than 222 minutes. When Warner Bros. adapted the even longer Hervey Allen best-seller Anthony Adverse, the studio managed to pack everything--except the most censorable passages, which had made Allen's novel a best-seller in the first place--into 139 minutes. Surprisingly, the film version of Anthony Adverse moves rather smoothly, though it is nowhere near as involving (or as much fun) as Gone with the Wind. Fredric March stars as Anthony Adverse, the illegitimate offspring of Anita Louise, the wife of Spanish nobleman Claude Rains. When Adverse comes of age, he inherits the prosperous business run by his kindly foster father Edmund Gwenn, which he abandons for an aimless trip around the world after his heart is broken by childhood sweetheart Olivia De Havilland. Sinking deeper into the morass of alcohol and degeneracy in the West Indies, Adverse is regenerated when he is reunited with De Havilland, now the mistress of Napoleon Bonaparte. Suddenly enervated, Adverse battles the efforts of Claude Rains and Gwenn's duplicitous former assistant Gale Sondergaard to take over Gwenn's business. Along the way, he learns that Gwenn was actually his grandfather and that De Havilland has born him a son (Scotty Beckett). Instead of dying, as he does in the novel, Anthony Adverse takes his son to America to start life anew. Whew! Though no award winner itself, Anthony Adverse enabled Gale Sondergaard to win the first-ever "best supporting actress" Oscar.
by Hal Erickson synopsis