Phantom of the Opera is a 1943 Universal horror film starring Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Claude Rains, directed by Arthur Lubin. The original music score was composed by Edward Ward. It was the first Phantom to be shot in Technicolor.
It was filmed on the same Universal soundstage as the studio's 1925 version of the story, in which a replica of the Opéra Garnier interior had been built (and exists to this day). Other than the sets, this "remake" had little in common with the earlier film. There was no attempt to film the masked ball sequence, although the famous falling of the chandelier was re-enacted on an epic scale, using elaborate camera set-ups. The cinematographers were Hal Mohr and W. Howard Greene.
The plot of the film follows Erique Claudin, an aging composer and violinist who has fallen in love with the beautiful singer, Christine DuBois. Christine is barely aware of Claudin, and has no idea he is the mysterious patron who has been paying for her singing lessons. Instead, she has two other ardent suitors, fellow singer Anatole and policeman Raoul, who are comically wooing her at the same time. When Claudin is fired from his job in the opera's orchestra, he becomes desperate and attempts to sell his compositions. Mistakenly believing that his music has been stolen, he gets into a fight in which he kills a man and has his face horribly scarred by acid. Fleeing the police, he hides in the sewers under the opera house, steals a mask from the costume department, and begins stalking Christine. The formerly gentle and mild old gentleman has become mentally deranged by the trauma.
Claudin's plans eventually culminate in his kidnapping of Christine; he has decided the two of them shall live under the opera and make music together. He leads the horrified Christine to his lair, explaining how the underground cellars are much more peaceful than the cruel world above. Meanwhile, Anatole and Raoul are attempting to find Christine. Having guessed that the "Phantom" who's been stealing food and props is really Claudin, it is decided that his composition should be played on stage in order to lure him out. Instead, Claudin, hearing the music from his lair, plays along and tells Christine to sing. Their music is heard by Anatole and Raoul, who race through the cellars and discover the lair. After Claudin is unmasked, a fired gunshot causes a crumbling brick wall to collapse on top of him, presumably killing him. Christine and her suitors escape, and Christine explains that she pities the poor old Claudin. In the final scene, Anatole and Raoul demand that Christine finally choose between them, but she surprises them both by choosing to marry neither and pursue her singing career instead. She leaves to join her adoring fans, and the two snubbed men go off to commiserate together. This version of the old story places more emphasis on opera than Phantom; the music was adapted from Tschaikovsky and other Russian composers. There is no official "opera" performed; Russian lyrics were added to pieces of symphonies, piano concerti, etc. during the climactic chandelier scene. This was probably an economic decision, as most of the music used would be in the public domain, hence no royalties to pay. Nelson Eddy is a bit over his head in this role; his baritone voice was great, but not operatic. Susannah Foster, on the other hand, fills her musical role very well. Another note - evidently director Lubin watched Lon Chaney's 1925 masterpiece and decided to make the chandelier scene more dramatic. Chaney's Phantom is seen in shadow, untying the rope slowly that holds the chandelier accompanied by a title slide that quotes the novel: "She is singing to-night to bring the chandelier down!". The scene is not played to its full dramatic potential. Lubin intercut between singers on the stage and the Phantom's sawing away on the support chain with a hacksaw. He builds tension; he highlights the dramatic crescendo in the music as it builds to a climax, with the chandelier falling as the soprano puts her hand to her mouth and screams...great melodrama. Not a faithful rendition of the novel (the first film tries the hardest of all to stick to Gaston Leroux's 1911 novel, which would be a difficult undertaking given the scope of the back story), it is the first version to utilize sound (and some great singing) to its full potential. It's not perfect, but it was a wonderful distraction for folks tired of war in 1943.