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Son of Monte Cristo, The (1940, Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett)

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LOUIS HAYWARD was one of the first actors to get a percentage of the profits from his movies and starred in a series of popular swashbucklers in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. After playing The Man in the Iron Mask in 1939, he turned to another French classic a year later with The Son of Monte Cristo.

The second of three films inspired by Alexandre Dumas’s original novel (Rowland V Lee also directed the first, The Count of Monte Cristo , in 1934, while Hayward also featured in the third instalment, The Return of Monte Cristo , in 1946), this is an archetypal swashbuckler, full of derring-do, heroic actions and damsels in distress. Ironically, Hayward only got the role of the Count after Robert Donat turned down the opportunity.

The action is set in the fictitious duchy of Lichtenburg, a country nominally ruled by Grand Duchess Zona (JOAN BENNETT) but actually under the control of a despotic army leader, General Gurko Lanen (GEORGE SANDERS). The duchess flees to France for aid, but needs the assistance of a stranger, the Count of Monte Cristo (Hayward), to avoid capture by Lanen’s men. Lanen arrests the duchess’s ally, Prime Minister Baron Von Neuhoff (MONTAGU LOVE), and has the duchess herself kidnapped from the Count’s residence. With Lanen now intent on marrying Zona and trying the Baron for treason, the Count plots to thwart the general’s plans: he adopts the mantle of a masked liberator, known only as ‘The Torch’, and sets about rescuing the duchess and ridding Lichtenburg of the evil dictator.

The Son of Monte Cristo is a fast-paced adventure yarn, full of excellent fight sequences, daring getaways and, of course, a classic ‘boo, hiss’ villain in the shape of George Sanders (who later won an Academy Award for his performance in All About Eve). There’s also a brief appearance by CLAYTON MOORE as a Lichtenburgian: Moore became a famous masked hero a few years later in the popular serial The Lone Ranger .

production details
USA | 102 minutes | 1940

Director: Rowland V. Lee
Script: George Bruce

cast
Louis Hayward as Edmund Dantes Jr.
Joan Bennett as Grand Duchess Zona of Lichtenburg
George Sanders as Gurko Lanen
Florence Bates as Countess Mathilde Von Braun
Lionel Royce as Col. Zimmerman
Montagu Love as Prime Minister Baron Von Neuhoff
Ian Wolfe as Conrad Stadt
Clayton Moore as Lt. Fritz Dorner
Ralph Byrd as William Gluck
Georges Renavent as Marquis de Chatante
Michael Visaroff as Prince Paul Pavlov
Rand Brooks as Hans Mirbach
Theodore von Eltz as Captain
James Seay as Lt. Stone
Henry Brandon as Lt. Schultz
Jack Mulhall as Schmidt
Edward Keane as Turnkey
Ernie Adams as Informer
Stanley Andrews as Turnkey
Maurice Cass as Max, Tailor
Michael Mark as Archbishop
Charles Trowbridge as Priest
Ted Oliver as Turnkey
Wyndham Standing as Chamberlain
Lionel Belmore as Hercules Snyder
Margaret Fealy as Mrs. Snyder
Charles Waldron as Kurt Mirbach
George Barrows as Bit Role
Ted Billings as Extra in Mirbach’s Shop
Stanley Blystone as Max
Dick Curtis as Guard
Donald Curtis as Guard
Franklyn Farnum as Friend of Von Neuhoff
Dwight Frye as Pavlov’s Secretary
Lawrence Grant as The Baron
Chuck Hamilton as Guard
Leyland Hodgson as Wedding Guard
Jerry Jerome as Bit Role
George Lollier as Bit Role
Walter McGrail as Bit Role
Alberto Morin as Friend of Von Neuhoff
Edmund Mortimer as Officer
Dirk Thane as Bit Role
Victor Zimmerman as Bit Role