We're continuing our look at films set in Paris with the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera. The film was made on an elaborate soundstage in Hollywood that recreated the Paris Opera House.
Many old Hollywood films recreated famous Paris locations on studio soundstages, but perhaps none were more elaborate than the Paris Opera House sets for the 1925 silent film, The Phantom of the Opera.
|The Phantom (Lon Chaney Sr) kidnaps opera singer Christine (Mary Philbin) in The Phantom of the Opera (1925).|
|A vintage window card for The Phantom of the Opera (1925).|
The Paris Opera House (its proper name is the Palais Garnier), is one of the great landmarks of the City of Lights. It was built between 1865-1871 in the Second Empire style by architect Charles Garnier.
|The facade of the Paris Opera House.|
Here is the still from the film:
Here is La Poesie from the front:
And here is La Poesie from the vantage point in which it appears in the film:
The Phantom of the Opera's showstopping sequence was the masquerade ball. It was filmed in Technicolor, and features Chaney dressed as The Masque of Red Death from the short story by Edgar Allan Poe (photo at the top of the article). Universal recreated Garnier's grand staircase for this sequence. The original staircase was made of white marble with red and green balustrades.
The Opera House's lavish auditorium was painstakingly recreated on Universal soundstage 28. The set was constructed with steel girders, so it would be strong enough to support an audience and the performers. The actual stage was built just like the one in Paris, complete with curtains and trap doors that would be needed for a real opera production.
Here's the real auditorium:
And here's a video of Universal's recreation:
The famous sequence where the chandelier in the auditorium crashes into the audience is based on real-life events. Garnier designed the elaborate bronze and crystal chandelier, which cost 30,000 francs, as the auditorium's piece de resistance. In 1896, one of the chandelier's counterweights broke and it crashed into the audience, killing one person.
Here's the Opera House's chandelier:
Here's the recreation for the film:
Soundstage 28 was used for many films through the years, including Dracula (1931), The Sting (1973) and most recently The Muppets (2011). Sadly, it was torn down in September, although the auditorium set was preserved for future display (there's more here).