Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, after fourteen years of hard labor a strong man is released from prison, is turned away, and tries to steal; but a priest helps him and inspires him to be honest. He rescues an orphan girl from those exploiting her and raises her as his daughter. A police inspector tries to have him arrested, and he risks his own freedom to keep an innocent man from being punished. After an attempted revolution he rescues the inspector and the man his daughter wants to marry.
Jean Valjean (Harry Baur) moves a heavy sculpture with his great strength to restore a building, and he is chained with the other convict workers.
An official informs Valjean that his strong shoulder earned his early release from prison rather than in October. He is freed on September 8, 1815. On March 2, 1796 he had been sentenced at the age of 25 to five years hard labor for breaking and entering and theft, but four escape attempts got him 14 years of additional time. He is given his convict’s passport and 120 francs. He is escorted out of the prison, and he is reminded that one offense will bring him back there.
Outside the prison Valjean looks at the sea and walks down the steps. He dines and says they cheated him out of some money after nineteen years hard labor. He asks the way to Pontarlier and wants to exercise his legs.
Valjean walks on a country road with a backpack and stick. He comes to the town of Digne and has his passport stamped. At night he sits on a bench in a plaza. A woman offers him money, and the says no thank you. He says they turned him away everywhere. She advises him to knock on a nearby door, and he does so.
Monseigneur Myriel (Henry Krauss) invites him to enter, and Valjean comes in. He says he is a convict who stole a loaf of bread and resisted arrested. He spent 19 years in prison and has walked 14 miles. He says he has 119 francs and can pay for a room. The prelate Myriel tells Madame Magloire to set another place, and Valjean repeats what he said, noting they wrote that he is dangerous. The priest Myriel tells her to prepare his bed with clean sheets, and he says they are dining soon. Valjean realizes that he is letting him stay, and he asks who he is. Myriel says he is the priest there. Valjean puts his backpack on the floor. The priest asks for more light, and she brings two silver candlesticks to the table. They pray and sit down at the table with another woman. Magloire brings them large silver spoons for the soup. Myriel kisses the lady, and she goes out. He shows Valjean to his room and says goodnight. Valjean asks why he trusts him in the next room. He sees Magloire put away the silver spoons, and he lies down on the bed.
Valjean leaves from the window. Magloire tells the priest that the man robbed them. They hear a knock, and Valjean is brought in by three policemen. The bishop Myriel sees the silver in his hand and says that he gave it to him along with the candlesticks. He asks Valjean why he did not take the candlesticks, and he has Magloire get them for him. The police ask if they should release him, and the bishop says they must. They police remove his handcuffs and go out. Valjean takes the candlesticks, and the bishop invites him to come there again and wishes him good luck. He knows that he will use the silver to become an honest man. Valjean leaves with the silver items.
Outside he has put them in his backpack and walks away. He walks in the country on a path and sits down to rest. He hears a boy singing. The boy is tossing a coin and drops it in front of Valjean who puts his foot on it. The boy tries to get him to move his foot, but he tells him to run along and threatens him. The boy runs away, and Valjean moves his foot and picks up the coin. He is surprised to see the coin and calls to the boy to come back and get his money. Valjean gives up and calls himself a wretch, crying. He thinks of the chains and says it is enough. He rips up his convict’s passport and throws it away.
Men and women are dancing as an orchestra plays, and others dine. A man says a blonde is virtuous. At her table the blonde tells her women friends that she made a conquest, and the laugh. The man tells his friend that to kiss her one would have to promise to marry her. The friend says he will, and they go over to her. The dancer introduces his friend Mr. Tholomyés to Miss Fantine (Florelle).
In May 1823 at a professional school a man introduces Mr. Madeleine to the attending students who applaud. He says the man has agreed to serve as mayor, and they cheer. For five years he has exemplified the progress of the city.
A man talks with a woman about improvements in jewelry that Mr. Madeleine has developed. She says that Madeleine is rich now.
In his home Valjean lights his candles and uses the name Madeleine, and a man calls him a saint because of what was said at his inauguration. He says he knew a real saint, but he died last week. He is mourning the bishop of Digne.
An old man at a desk reads a letter for Fantine. He says your little Cosette is happy and in good health. She got a nice cloak for her sixth birthday. The letter asks that 30 francs be sent, and it is signed by Thénardier. Fantine is happy that Cosette is in good health, and she tells him to write that she is sending 20 francs at once.
Thénardier (Charles Dullin) reads the letter from Fantine and says he will not wait for ten more francs. He says a good-looking girl can make money. He asks his wife La Thénardier (Marguerite Moreno) to bring his writing table, and she yells at little Cosette in the kitchen. Cosette brings in the pen and writing board. Thénardier tells Cosette to bring the prescriptions that the doctor made out for Eponine and Azelma. Eponine reminds her it was when they had measles. Cosette understands and goes out.
Thénardier has written that Cosette has measles, and they need forty francs. Fantine shows the letter to the woman she works for and says she has no money. The woman asks whose child it is, and Fantine says it is hers. The woman asks if she is married. Fantine says no; she was to marry Mr. Tholomyés; but he abandoned her eight years ago when she was pregnant. She had no money; so she left the child with the innkeepers Thénardier. The woman sends her back to work and puts the letter in her desk. She looks out the window and sees men pushing a cart loaded with bags. In the workplace the women gossip.
In the street below a wagon gets stuck, and a man is trapped underneath it. The Mayor arrives, and they talk about getting a blacksmith. He says they cannot wait. Inspecteur Javert (Charles Vanel) tells him that only one man could lift the cart, and he is a convict at Toulon. Valjean takes off his coat and crawls under the cart and then lifts it on his back so that a man can pull the injured man out. They give the Mayor his coat and hat back.
The woman boss returns to Fantine and gives her fifty francs but tells her that the Mayor has said she must go after being there two years. Fantine asks how she is to manage when she owes 40 francs for her child and 30 for rent. She says she can leave immediately. Fantine says this is horrible as she puts on her coat. She asks what she did wrong, and another woman says that the Mayor cannot tolerate injustice. Fantine says what her supervisor told her, but this woman doubts the Mayor would dismiss her and asks if she has seen him. Fantine leaves, and the woman calls the supervisor a witch.
Javert is writing a letter to the head of the police in Paris that the Mayor has a striking resemblance.
Fantine walks up stairs and knocks on the door of Mr. Legris. He tells her to come in, and he asks her if she has the money. She says she lost her job at the factory. If she sends 40 francs for her child, she will have only 10 for herself. He says her rent must be paid one way or another. He tells her she must move out and says Cosette is her problem. He says she is stupid. She says a barber offered her 20 francs for her hair, and he says she can money for her teeth. He says that then no one will look at her.
La Thénardier tells her husband that Cosette is broke and that she refuses to prostitute herself. They should sell Cosette. Thénardier says he will give her all the credit she wants, and he will ask for 50 francs by return post. He says she will find money by stooping to pick it up. He says it is July, and by Christmas their girls will be in fur. He asks her to wait until winter.
Cosette tends a fire in a fireplace, and La Thénardier orders her to run errands. La Thénardier complains they don’t have furs, and Thénardier says winter is not gone yet. A maid is concerned that the little girl is in rags.
Cosette returns and tries to help the customers in the inn. A man asks who she is, and she says she is the maid.
Fantine is accosted by a man who examines her missing teeth and laughs. He says even monkeys catch cold as she coughs. He offers her an overcoat but puts snow down the back of her dress. She gets angry and hits him many times. People gather, and police arrest her.
Valjean at his desk hears the commotion and looks out the window. He takes his coat and goes out.
Fantine tells Javert that the man put snow down her back. She begs him not to put her in jail.
Valjean listens to people telling what happened.
Fantine says she has a little girl, and she owes the Thénardiers 100 francs. She says the man thought she was a loose woman. Valjean is listening to her. She coughs and begs Javert, saying she wants to earn enough to take care of Cosette. Javert is going to send her to jail and says she will get three months. He sees the Mayor, and she spits in the Mayor’s face. Valjean tells Javert to release her, and she says it was the Mayor’s fault that she lost her job. She thanks Javert for letting her go. Javert tells the Mayor he cannot do this. Valjean says he should have arrested the man, and she will not spend one day in jail. Javert says this is a police matter and that she is under arrest. The Mayor orders him to release her, and they argue. Javert goes out, and Valjean tells Fantine that he did not know anything about her. He says no one will ever hurt her again. He says he will send for her child, and he won’t abandon her. She thanks him. They go out, and a policeman brings a letter for Javert. He opens it, and the prefect of police has written that Valjean was caught in another robbery and is in prison again.
Fantine in a bed is being cared for by a physician and a nun. She asks when she will see Cosette again. The sister says when she is cured. Fantine says she is cured but coughs. The sister tells her to rest.
Cosette is sweeping the floor, and Thénardier has her feel the fine clothes of his two children. La Thénardier says that Fantine must have found a fool with deep pockets. Thénardier says they cannot let go of the child.
Valjean tells a servant that he is going away for a few days. He orders him to have Fantine sign a document. The servant says Javert is there to see him. The servant goes out, and Javert comes in. He says he must be relieved of his duties because after the incident he denounced the Mayor to the police in Paris as a former convict. He thought there was a resemblance, and he took him for Jean Valjean. They said he was mistaken because Valjean has been calling himself Champmathieu, and he was caught stealing apples. He is going on trial tomorrow, and Javert is going there to be a witness. The man is sticking to his story, but Javert says the evidence is against him. The Mayor asks how long the trial will last, and Javert says only one day. He will return as soon as he has testified. The Mayor thanks him, and Javert asks what his decision is in regard to his dismissal. The Mayor says he will decide after he comes back. Javert goes out.
Fantine coughs in bed, and the sister says the Mayor wants her to sign her name to a letter asking Thénardier to give Cosette to the bearer of the letter who will pay him all the expenses due. The sister helps her write her name. Fantine asks if the Mayor is going to get her, and the sister says he is.
Valjean studies a map and considers going to Arras. He realizes he cannot get there in time in his carriage or on his horse. Then he realizes he can go to Amiens and take a post to Paris. He looks at the coin he took from the boy and thinks that is all behind him. He is a mayor now who has built factories and done more good than harm. He considers Jean Valjean dead. He hears a voice that Champmathieu will be put in prison for life for the crimes of Valjean. He gets angry and knocks a candlestick on the floor. He picks it up and lights the candle. Later he hears a knock. A woman tells him that it is five, and his carriage is there. He puts a letter from the banker Lafitte in Paris in his coat, and he goes out.
Valjean outside asks a man if the horse can take the carriage 20 leagues in one day. He gets in and drives fast.
A doctor tells the sister that he fears Fantine will have another attack. He says the Mayor will not be back until tonight. Fantine in bed asks for Cosette. She asks if the Mayor will bring her soon. She learns it is ten in the morning, and he won’t be back until midnight.
In a courtroom three judges come in, and they take up the Valjean case.
Valjean on the road asks if it is far to Arras.
Javert testifies that Valjean tried to escape four times, and he formally recognizes him. The judges thank him. The prosecutor says they have a highwayman who is the hardened criminal, Jean Valjean.
Valjean arrives at night in the carriage and asks a boy to take him to the courthouse.
The prosecutor rests his case. Champmathieu asks to speak in his defense, and he tells his story. A messenger brings a note to a judge, and he tells him to show him in. Champmathieu gets mixed up and sits down; the people laugh. A judge asks if he has any more to say. Champmathieu hesitates and sits down again.
The messenger shows Valjean the door to the courtroom. He can hear the prosecutor saying that this man is Valjean.
Fantine sits up in bed and pleads for the Mayor not to abandon her. She says tomorrow Cosette will have no one. She begs him to love her.
Valjean is listening to the prosecutor speak and goes in the courtroom. Champmathieu says he only picked up fallen apples. He never heard of Valjean, and he declares that he is Champmathieu. The prosecutor and defending lawyer argue. A convict is brought in, and a judge asks him to retract his testimony. The convict says he was the first one to recognize him; they spent five years shackled together. Valjean asks the witness to look at him, and he asks the judge to order his arrest because he is Jean Valjean. A judge says they know the Mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer.
Outside Javert learns that a carriage is going to Montreuil-sur-Mer, and he asks where the man went and learns he is in the courthouse.
Valjean explains that they were about to make a terrible mistake and that they should release this man. He admits he robbed Monseigneur Myriel and the Savoyard boy. He tells the jury that he sank low, but he has risen above his infamy. He says jails make jailbirds. He asks the three convicts if they still do not recognize him; but he walks over and identifies each of them by name and tells one how he got a scar. The man says it is true. He tells another of his blue tattoo, and he shows it on his arm. Valjean says he will not disturb the court anymore. He has a duty to fulfill to save a dying woman. The prosecutor knows where to find him, and he can arrest him if he thinks it is proper. He says he is at the court’s disposal and goes out the way he came in.
At night Valjean drives the carriage.
Javert is looking for Valjean and goes up to Champmathieu who laughs at him. A judge comes out and says they issued a warrant to re-arrest the man.
Fantine sees Valjean come in and asks about Cosette. He says he had another duty, but he will care for her from now on. Javert comes in and says he has a warrant for Valjean’s arrest. Valjean says he will go with him, but he warns him not to disturb him for a moment. Javert stands by the door. Fantine sings a song about her child and dies. Valjean kneels by her and swears. He stands up and tells Javert to do his duty as nothing will prevent him from doing his. Javert grabs him.
Javert is knocking on a door. Inside Valjean gives instructions to the sisters, and he hands her money for the priest to donate to the poor. The rest in Paris is for Cosette. He tells the sister to leave him, and she tells him to go and hide. He goes out. Javert comes in and asks the sister where Valjean is. She says she did not see him.
Valjean rides a horse on a road.
Little Cosette is carrying a large bucket in the marketplace. She sees dolls, and La Thénardier calls her, scolds her for not having gotten the water yet, and orders her to buy bread.
Cosette is carrying the bucket in the woods and fills it with water she can hardly lift. She gets tired and sits down, crying. Valjean picks up the bucket and asks how old she is. Cosette says she is eight. He asks about her mother and her mistress, and she says it is Madame Thénardier. He says he is on the way there and takes her hand. They walk together, and she tells him her name. In town he says they are having a fair there. Cosette asks him to let her carry it in the house so that she won’t be beaten. Valjean goes into the inn with her and orders supper. Cosette serves him bread. La Thénardier asks her if she forgot the bread, and she says the bakery was closed. La Thénardier is about to hit her, but Valjean gives her a coin. The children play while Cosette puts down her knitting and picks up a doll. La Thénardier hits Cosette for handling the doll with her dirty hands. Cosette cries while knitting. Valjean goes out and comes back with the doll that Cosette saw in the shop and gives it to her. The other two girls admire the doll, and Thénardier tells his wife it must have cost 30 francs and to kowtow to him. Thénardier tells Cosette she can play with her doll, and his wife does also. Cosette asks Valjean if it is really hers, and he nods. Thénardier asks Valjean to pay for his meal, and he gives him a coin. Valjean asks about a painting, and Thénardier says it is him when he saved the life of a colonel at Waterloo. He says he painted it and asks if he likes art. Thénardier says times are hard, and he has to provide for the three children. Valjean asks him if someone could take Cosette off his hands. Thénardier says no because he likes the child. He says one does not give a child to a stranger. La Thénardier tries to kiss Cosette, and she flinches. Cosette takes her doll upstairs. Valjean asks Thénardier how much he wants for the child. He says 1,500 francs, and Valjean says he will pay him in the morning. He asks him to show him his room. His wife tells Thénardier that the man would pay twice that. Thénardier tells him that his wife does not want to let her go. Valjean shows them the letter to entrust Cosette to the bearer of the letter from Fantine. He says he can keep the letter he got from her before she died. Thénardier wants to talk figures. Valjean calls Cosette, and he tosses her a bundle of clothes for her. He tells them they are owed 150 francs. He gives them that and 1,500 francs and 50 for his bill. He calls Cosette and puts on his coat. Thénardier says Cosette stays there unless he pays 1,000 crowns. Cosette comes down the stairs with her doll. Valjean carries the doll and takes her by the hand and goes out. The Thénardiers go to the door and watch them walking away.
Valjean and Cosette (Josseline Gael) sit at a table and are celebrating her 16th birthday. She asks him if the air of Paris has changed her, and he says a little. The maid says she has become pretty and a coquette. She blows out the candles with two breaths and says she will marry in two years. He says she is impatient. She cuts the cake and serves him a piece, calling him Mr. Fauchelevent.
Outside Marius Pontmercy (Jean Servais) motions to Cosette at the window. Inside she asks Valjean if he would like to see her married happily. The maid asks if he would like to be a grandfather. He leaves the room, and Cosette asks if they hurt his feelings. She talks out the window to Marius and says she will see him in the park at four. He says he is going to his grandfather to get his consent. Then she can tell her father. Valjean comes to the other window and asks her about the man hanging around the house. In the dining room she asks if he is angry, and they embrace. He tells her to close the window and sit down, and she does so.
Marius walks away and goes into a restaurant. Javert asks a man the last name of Marius, but he does not know. Marius goes into a room where many young men have gathered, and they sing a revolutionary song. One man says they crushed the revolution of 1830, but at a signal in four hours 80,000 patriots could take up arms in 1832. He says that tomorrow is General Lamarck’s funeral. He knows he can count on them, and he gives them three minutes to decide.. They discuss it. The man calls their names, and they salute. Marius leaves the room and bumps into Javert before going out.
A servant is shaving the wealthy Mr. Gillenormand (Max Dearly), grandfather of Marius, and says he has the softest skin except the Baron Le Cocq. He dismisses him and tells him to come back again tomorrow. The maid comes in and introduces the new cook. He has her turn around slowly and looks at her. H asks her how to make a Norman soufflé, and she says with apples and brandy. She says her monthly wages are thirty francs, and he says she will be given 50 francs and be called Nicolette. They go out. A butler knocks, comes in, and says Marius is there.
Marius is waiting in an elegant room with a large painting. His grandfather comes in and asks what he wants. He asks if he is there to apologize and serve the king. Marius says no; he only came to ask him for permission to marry. He is 25. The grandfather orders a servant to fetch his daughter. She comes in, but he tells her not to get close to Marius. He tells her that her nephew wishes to marry, and he orders her to go out. She does so. He complains that Marius left his home to live like a pauper. He has rejected him and has gone to clubs that honor the memory of his father who was beaten with Napoleon at Waterloo. He accuses him of becoming a window smasher and thinks he probably has come back to be endowed. He calls him a Jacobin and himself a royalist. He asks how much he earns as a lawyer, and Marius says nothing. He asks how much the girl has, and Marius says the same as he has. He asks what her father does, and Marius says he does not know. Marius asks if he may marry, and his grandfather says never. Marius calls him father, and he puts his arm around Marius. He says he is dressed like a thief. He gives him 100 louis to buy a hat. Marius tells how he loves her and does not want to lose her as her father often is out of town. The grandfather suggests that he make her his mistress. Marius says he will never ask him for anything again and walks off. The grandfather calls to him and orders his servants to bring him back.
Outside Marius walks down the street. He comes back to his home at night and hears a boy whistling. The boy says he prefers the streets and favors liberty. He asks Marius if he has problems with a woman. He says he can get him into a cabaret. He tells him that Eponine likes him. They walk together.
Eponine (Orane Demazis) knocks and asks if Marius is in, but no one answers. She goes in and says he spent the night out. She sings. Marius comes in and says hello to her. He says he saw her brother last night, and they talked politics. He laughs, and she asks what is so funny. He combs his hair, and she says he looks good with ruffled hair. She looks at his book and says he did not study yesterday. She asks him about the Battle of Waterloo and says her father was there. He says two of his friends may be coming to see him. She asks about the pretty young lady and goes out.
Eponine goes down the hall and into the room of her parents. Thénardier drops a watch and notices it is still ticking. He lifted it recently. His wife says she heard the story many times..
Valjean and Cosette are coming out of church, and he gives money to the poor. She asks him to help a poor girl who says her mother is paralyzed and her father did not find work this week. He asks for her address and says he will go there.
Marius wears a suit and fixes his tie.
Cosette persuades Valjean to let her go with him to the poor family, and they get in a carriage.
Eponine comes in and tells her family that a carriage has arrived. Her father Thénardier tells them to make themselves look poor, and they all scramble to get ready.
Cosette knocks on the room of Marius, but Valjean goes the other way to the poor family’s dwelling. The father explains their difficult circumstances, and his wife is in bed. Valjean asks if he tried to find work, and he says he is an arthritic actor. Valjean says he will take his daughter home and will return at seven. The father thanks him for his goodness. In the hall Cosette tells Marius that she will see him at the Luxembourg. Thénardier says he remembers the man from eight years ago. He sends his daughters out to warn others so they can prepare.
Valjean sends Cosette home in the carriage. He talks to the boy, and he says he is the son. Valjean asks who else lives on that floor, and the boy says Marius does. The boy whistles, and the two girls come out and tell him where they are going.
Thénardier tells his wife that the pretty girl is Cosette. She resents her having fine clothes while her children are poor. Marius hears this and goes down the stairs.
Cosette tells the carriage driver to take her to the Luxembourg.
Thénardier says they have Croesus hooked now. He looks in Marius’s room and sees it is empty. He goes back and tells his wife the gang will be there at seven. He says the man will pay them, or they will give it to him. They laugh.
Cosette is waiting in the park, and Marius finds her. He asks where her father is, and she asks what his grandfather said. He says he said no. She is upset and wants to know why he wants to see her father. He says they need the police. He can’t tell her everything he overheard after she left. She asks if he can save her father, and he says he knows an inspector. She says she will be at another house tonight where they sometimes stay. She asks him to meet her, and he agrees. She asks him not to be angry at her for keeping something back because she had no right to tell him. He asks her to forgive him and says he loves her. He says she will be his wife.
Thénardier has explained the situation to five men.
La Thénardier finds a hat in a trunk and dusts it off.
Javert at his desk tells Marius that he would like to nab that gang. He asks about the benefactor, and Marius says his name is Fauchelevent. He asks what he looks like, and Marius says he is a big man. Javert says this may be something big; but he cannot do anything unless they attempt a crime. He gives Marius two small pistols.
Thénardier sticks a knife in the table as he talks with his wife about their plans. He says she looks good in the hat and stole. He instructs her what to do when he arrives. He tells her to go down and dismiss his cab, and she asks him for money which he gives her. He goes out and talks to Marius as he is coming home. He has him come in and says they weren’t expecting him so early. He says they are having a visitor tonight and want to borrow his room. He says they want to make a good impression. He shows him the painting of Waterloo and says he could have made a million. He shows him the watch. Marius asks if he saved the colonel at Waterloo and if his name is Jondrette. Thénardier hears something and says he is here. He makes Marius go into his own room and closes the door.
Eponine is in there, and she tells him to run away. Marius reads a letter from his father that tells him that Thénardier saved his life, and he should show him kindness.
Valjean comes in, sits down, and gives Thénardier 100 francs for rent and pressing needs. He says that his wife is looking much better. Thénardier says she is a connoisseur of the arts and found this painting of Waterloo.
Outside Javert motions to a man who grabs a girl and covers her mouth.
Eponine tells Marius to leave his room. She came to his room because she is afraid for him; he knows too much.
Valjean says the painting is very good, but he is not interested. Thénardier asks him if he reminds him of anyone. Valjean says no, and he says he is Thénardier the innkeeper.
Marius hears this and asks Eponine if her name is Thénardier.
Valjean says he has confused him with someone else. Thénardier laughs and tells him to think hard. Valjean says he remembers he is a scoundrel, and Thénardier accuses him of stealing Cosette for 1,500 francs. He says they can work things out, and several men are there listening. He says he must pay him 200,000 francs for the painting, or they will take the girl. He gives him five minutes to think it over. Valjean overturns a table and tries to go out the window, but the men grab him and fight with him. They get him down on the floor.
Marius and Eponine hear this.
Outside Javert and his man wonder what is happening.
Eponine tells Marius that he could have warned the police.
Valjean keeps fighting them off and stands up. He throws something at Thénardier and says they can search him because he has no money on him. He takes a hot poker and burns his arm. He picks up a chair and sits down, warning them they will get nothing from him. One man demands the girl’s address.
Eponine tells Marius that she wants to go for the police; but he says he already has them there outside.
The men fight against Valjean, and the throws a bed at them.
Eponine shouts on the wall that the bulls are there.
The men stop fighting and hear what she is saying. Thénardier tells his wife to get the rope ladder. Javert and several men break into the room and arrest the men and the Thénardiers. Valjean points out one more man and then goes out the window. Javert whistles out the window and says he must have been the best.
In the street the police struggle to put the men in a wagon. Javert asks for a cab. The boy comes down from a tree and says he is an orphan again. He whistles and talks to Eponine as she comes out. He gives her some bread and walks off.
Cosette is in a garden by an iron fence.
Valjean hears knocking and puts on his coat. He answers the door, and Javert asks him why he ran off. Valjean says he has not been out since morning. Javert says who he is and comes in. Valjean says this is an outrage. Javert says he knows only one man as strong as he is, and that is the ex-convict Jean Valjean. He says he was also a mayor using the name Madeleine. They have been looking for him for eight years. He asks if anyone ever said he looks like him. Valjean says he is making a mistake. Valjean says his name is Fauchelevent, and he has been living there for fourteen years. He shows him papers and then pulls the tablecloth and runs from the room. Other policemen enter to chase him.
The boy is singing by the river.
Cosette opens the gate, and Marius come inside. She says her father is safe, and they are leaving for England. He asks when, and she says she will explain. He says he has no money, and he has broken with his grandfather for good. They sit down, and she cries and says she loves him. Valjean has arrived and tells Marius he knows the harm he can do him and to get out. Marius says he has respect for him because he loves his daughter, and he can’t change that. Marius leaves, and Cosette cries. Valjean tries to comfort her. She says her mother would have been more understanding than he is. She says Marius only has his grandfather, and she gives him the address. He says he will go see him. He is no longer going to England. He knows she loves him. From their garden wall they can see soldiers marching in the street with prisoners in wagons. Cosette asks who they are, and he says they are going to penal colonies. The soldiers are whipping some of them. She asks if they are still human, and he says sometimes.
A poster announces “Republic or death.” People are walking in the street, and a man asks Pop Mabeuf if he is going to Lamarck’s funeral. He says they are going to overthrow Louis Philippe’s government.
The cavalry mount their horses, and they ride in the streets. The streets are lined with soldiers standing in a long line on one side. A man tells Eponine to find her neighbor and meet them. A woman asks about the dragoons and is told they are there for the funeral.
Officials in the government talk to the police prefect about what is needed for security. Javert reports that he learned that the students of the ABC club are planning to meet after the cortege passes the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. He is told to watch them and contact Captain Lasalle. Javert goes out.
People are also waiting on both sides of the streets and watch the cavalry go by slowly. Two women discuss how business is bad.
Toussaint tells Cosette and Valjean that she can’t find Marius. She heard people talking about barricades in Saint Merri. She stocked up on everything. Cosette tells her father that she is scared because Marius went to fight. He says he will go see Mr. Gillenormand. She says he turned him out. Valjean asks Toussaint who she gave the letter to, and she says she put it on Marius’s table.
Eponine picks up the letter from the table and replaces it with a note from his friends. She leaves the room with the letter.
Drums are heard, and the funeral wagon appears. People cross themselves as it goes by. After those on horses, people walk behind, and some are carrying signs for the rights of man. The boy takes something from a soldier. A man orders more soldiers to mount their horses. Shots are fired from houses, and fighting breaks out in the street. People throw furniture and other things from windows and balconies.
An official reports that the situation is out of control. The King in a uniform says he will take a look, and order will be restored by tomorrow.
Men march behind a banner that says “Republic or death.” They put up posters and recruit people to join them. They sing a song about the republic calling them.
Valjean tells Cosette that he has reasons for emigrating. She wants to find Marius. She does not want him to die thinking that she does not love him. She says he drove him away. Valjean asks if she is sure of her feelings, and she says yes. She loves him above all. He says all right; he will go. They embrace, and he tells her to stay there. He gives her a letter and tells her to read it if he does not return.
Marius is writing at a table, and several men come in. He says he just got there, and they tell him to wake up. They are going to man the barricades. People bring furniture and cobblestones to make a pile in the street. A man takes sheets to use for the wounded. Others are melting lead to make bullets for the muskets. Two boys says they can use the omnibus, and they run to it and take it over. They make everyone get off and remove the horses. They pull the wagon while others push. They take it to the barricade and then push it over on its side. A woman says she knows the password is “insurgency,” but a man says no women are allowed. On top of the barricade they raise the tricolor flag. Rubble stones are passed and used to build the barricade.
Marius is sitting at a table and is called a loafer. A leader Enjolras (Robert Vidalin) talks to him, and Marius says his life is his, and he will prove it. They shake hands.
Men pass out cartridges, and one says they are not to shoot until Enjolras gives the word. Enjolras tells the boy to be a scout and let them know when they are coming.
Government officials discuss the situation and the insurgency zone. Four barricades are important. Troops will surround all of them in thirty minutes. He wants a blackout by 9, and at 10:30 they will launch a coordinated attack on the four points. He says by midnight order should be restored.
At night men wait on and behind the barricades. The boy Gavroche (Emile Genevois) gives the signal and comes back to the barricade. They hear the sound of troops marching. They ask who is there, and a man on the barricade answers, “The French Revolution.” Shots are fired, and the flag falls. A man tells them to save their ammunition. Enjolras asks who will raise the flag. Pop Mabeuf takes it and puts it up; but he is shot dead. They carry his body down and put it on a stretcher. They see troops coming and start firing. The soldiers attack the barricade. Enjolras says they are coming around the side. A man brings a barrel of powder and tells them to get back before he blows up the barricade. The soldiers retreat as shooting continues. The boy warns them that Javert may be a snitch. They are running out of ammunition. Enjolras questions him, and Javert gives his name. Enjolras orders him tied up. The boy takes a basket and gathers bullets from dead soldiers in the street. The soldiers watch him and then start shooting at him. He sings a song about Voltaire and Rousseau. Finally the boy is hit, and he cries. He sings and is shot again. Marius and another man run forward and carry the boy and the basket back to the barricade. He is laid with the dead and covered with a blanket.
The soldiers set up cannons. On the barricade a man says the artillery officers could be their brothers. Enjolras warns them they will attack after the first cannon is shot. The soldiers charge and fight at the barricade. Then the soldiers retreat. The revolutionaries shoot at spies signaling from a roof. Valjean picks up a wounded man and carries him in the building. Marius has found that Eponine is wounded and talks to her. Valjean listens to the heart of a wounded man. He gets up and talks to tied-up Javert who says he can rest easy now. He says Valjean will probably be the one who executes him, and he agrees. Eponine tells Marius that he is there because of her. She wanted to die before him. She had kept his letter and did not want him to get it. She asks if they will meet again and tells him to take his letter. He finds it. She asks him to promise her that he will kiss her forehead when she is dead. She says she was a bit in love with him. She dies, and he closes her eyes and kisses her on the forehead. He reads the letter from Cosette that says she loves him. Valjean asks him if it is good news. Valjean says she sent him to Marius.
Four soldiers march forward with a white flag. They tell them that their sacrifice is in vain and that they should surrender. Enjolras says they will fight for liberty and will die so that their brothers will be free. They sing, and he holds up a flag. Marius looks at Valjean and goes to join them. The four soldiers turn and march back. Enjolras orders ten men to go with Grantaire (Paul Azais). He asks who will finish off the informer, and Valjean volunteers.
He goes inside to Valjean and unties him.
Enjolras speaks to them and tells them to fire at his signal. Then he will blow up the barricade.
Valjean makes Javert walk with his ankles and hands tied. Valjean takes out a knife, and Javert says it will be a convict method. Valjean cuts the rope from his feet and hands and tells him he is free. He says if he gets out of this alive, he may arrest him; he will not resist. Javert checks his address, and Valjean lets him go and fires his gun in the air.
The soldiers charge and fight the men. They start shooting from the barricade. Enjolras lights a fire, and the soldiers retreat as the barricade explodes. Enjolras says they served the republic well. The soldiers charge again and cross the barricade. Enjolras tells a soldier to shoot him. Valjean carries Marius. A man joins Enjolras, and the firing squad shoots them.
Valjean carries Marius in the street. Javert sees him and follows. Valjean opens a metal grid and climbs down a ladder into the sewer. Then he closes the grid. Javert looks around and notices the grid.
At dawn Valjean is carrying the body in the sewer. He comes to bars. By the river Javert is waiting with two coaches. He waits by the bars and a gate. Valjean is looking for a way out. He walks in water that gets deeper. He keeps the head of Marius out of the water. He comes out of the water. He sees bars and light. Outside Javert stands back and hides. Valjean opens the gate and comes out. He puts Marius on the ground and against a wall. Javert steps forward and tells him that two carriages are waiting. He says he can escort the wounded man home, and he will follow him. Valjean asks if he is arresting him, and Javert says no. Valjean says thank you. Valjean puts Marius in a carriage and gets in while Javert gets in the other one.
The two carriages stop, and Valjean carries Marius into the house of his grandfather and puts him on a couch. He tells the butler to tell Gillenormand that Marius was wounded on the barricade. He comes down the stairs in an angry mood and complains that he went off to get killed to spite him. He orders the servant to get a doctor. He thanks Valjean for bringing his grandson and offers him lunch. Valjean sits at a table and writes a letter while Gillenormand talks to his unconscious grandson. Valjean says he will recover and that his happiness depends on him. He tells him to give the letter to Miss Fauchelevent. Valjean says he cannot stay for lunch and goes out.
Valjean tells Javert that he is his prisoner and will not try to escape, but he wants to make another stop. They get in the carriage. Javert asks him why he spared him last night. Valjean asks him why he stalks poor devils. Valjean says they each have their duty. He asks if a wretched man has a right to save him. They get out of the carriage, and Valjean asks him to wait. He goes in a house. Javert pays the driver, who drives off. Javert walks away. He talks to himself about whether he should arrest the convict and bumps into a woman who calls him a snitch. Javert walks on.
A man tells the prefect of police that Javert left a suicide note that he was no longer worthy of being a policeman because he let a convict escape. The prefect says he was a good element.
At a banquet Marius and Josette are celebrating their wedding at a very long table. Gillenormand stands up and makes a toast to beauty, youth, and love. Josette smiles.
Valjean looks at items of clothing.
Gillenormand says he will open the ball with a special dance, and he dances with Cosette. Others join the dance.
Outside servants wait, and Valjean looks up to a window.
In the morning the large room is empty, and Valjean comes in and asks to speak to Gillenormand. Marius comes into the room and calls him father. He says Cosette is still asleep. Valjean says it was best that he not attend his wedding because he did not want to sign anything to render the marriage contract void. He came to tell him that he is an ex-convict. Marius asks what that means, and he says he is a fugitive from justice. Marius asks what he did, and he says he stole a loaf of bread. He asks how he knew Cosette, and he explains that after her mother died, he was able to rescue her from scoundrels. He says Cosette is leaving his life. Marius asks why he is telling him this, and Valjean says it is because of his conscience. He says remaining silent would have been easier. He says he could never break the bonds that kept him there nor could he silence the little voice he hears when he is alone. He says he is leaving him now even though he offered him a place in his family. He has no family and is a convict. He asks if he can say goodbye to Cosette, and she comes in and asks if he is leaving her again. She says she is afraid and asks him to kiss her. Marius says they are still his children and what he said changes nothing. Cosette begs him not to be cruel, and Valjean says that her happiness has been the sole purpose of his life. They hug each other, and she asks what is the matter. He says his wound may have re-opened. He sits down and says he had to say goodbye.
Valjean is lying on a couch under a blanket. He tells them not to cry because dying is nothing. What is terrible is not to have lived or to have taken the wrong path. He asks them to gather around him and tells Cosette that he wants her to have the two silver candlesticks that Monseigneur Myriel gave him. He hopes that the one who gave them to him is satisfied with him. He did the best he could. He is a poor man, and he wants them to bury him in the first plot of earth that they find with no name on the headstone. If Cosette should visit it occasionally, he would be very happy. She asks if he wants a priest, but he says he has one. He tells them to be happy and live in peace. He says God is just; it is man who is sometimes unjust.
This powerful story from the romantic era depicts French society in the era after Napoleon. The drama reflects how punishment can make people worse, but kindness and generosity may inspire them to be better people. The difficulties of poverty can make people desperate and cruel while those with means have the opportunity to help others.