review for Anthony Adverse on AllMovie

Anthony Adverse (1936)
by Richard Gilliam review

Anthony Adverse is a handsomely made film, albeit one with considerably less passion than its best-selling source novel merits. Despite a talented cast, the acting is uniformly sterile and the story is ploddingly presented in by-the-numbers fashion. What shines through is Anton Grot's elegant production design and the fine orchestral score of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The usually superb Fredric March can only be as good as the formulaic script allows him to be. The film attempts to cram too many incidents into too little story space and offers only expurgated versions of what occurs in the richly structured novel. The result is a story that is more of a highlight reel than a compelling dramatic narrative. Nonetheless, the film has compensating virtues and represents a step forward on the road toward the more compelling epic storytelling of Gone With the Wind. The geographically diverse 19th century settings are generously re-created, and Tony Gaudio's cinematography effectively alters the atmosphere as needed. Anthony Adverse received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, winning four awards, including for Gaudio's cinematography, Korngold's score, and Gale Sondergaard's supporting performance.