The film also features Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe, Gibson Gowland, John St. Polis and Snitz Edwards. The only surviving cast member is Carla Laemmle (born 1909), niece of producer Carl Laemmle, who played a small role as "prima ballerina" in the film when she was about 15.
The film opens with the debut of the new season at the Paris Opera House, with a production of Gounod's Faust. Comte Philippe de Chagny (John St. Polis) and his brother, the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny (Norman Kerry) are in attendance. Raoul attends only in the hope of hearing his sweetheart Christine Daaé (Mary Philbin) sing. Christine has made a sudden rise from the chorus to understudy of the prima donna. Raoul visits her in her dressing room during the performance, and makes his intentions known that he wishes for Christine to resign and marry him. Christine refuses to let their relationship get in the way of her career.
At the height of the most prosperous season in the Opera's history, the management suddenly resign. As they leave, they tell the new managers of the Opera Ghost, a phantom who asks for opera box #5, among other things. The new managers laugh it off as a joke, but the old management leaves troubled.
After the performance, the ballet girls are disturbed by the sight of a mysterious man in a fez (Arthur Edmund Carewe), who dwells in the cellars. Arguing whether or not he is the Phantom, they decide to ask Joseph Buquet, a stagehand who has actually seen the ghost's face. Buquet describes a ghastly sight of a living skeleton to the girls, who are then startled by a shadow cast on the wall. The antics of stagehand Florine Papillon (Snitz Edwards) do not amuse Joseph's brother, Simon (Gibson Gowland), who chases him off. Meanwhile, Mme. Carlotta (Virginia Pearson), the prima donna of the Paris Grand Opera, barges into the managers office enraged. She has received a letter from "The Phantom," demanding that Christine sing the role of Marguerite the following night, threatening dire consequences if his demands are not met. Christine is in her dressing room at that moment, speaking to a phantom voice (which the audience sees as a shadow on a wall behind the dressing room.) The voice warns her that she will take Carlotta's place on Wednesday and that she is to think only of her career and her master.
The following day, in a garden near the Opera House, Raoul meets Christine and asks her to reconsider his offer. Christine admits that she has been tutored by a divine voice, the "Spirit of Music," and that it is now impossible to stop her career. Raoul tells her that he thinks someone is playing a joke on her, and she storms off in anger.
Wednesday evening, Carlotta is ill and Christine takes her place in the opera. During the performance, the managers go to Box 5 to see exactly who has taken it. The keeper of the box does not know who it is, as she has never seen his face. The two managers enter the box and are startled to see a shadowy figure seated. They run out of the box and compose themselves, but when they enter the box again, the person is gone. In her next performance, Christine reaches her triumph during the finale and receives a standing ovation from the audience. When Raoul visits her in her dressing room, she pretends not to recognize him, because unbeknownst to those in the room, the phantom voice is present. Raoul spends the evening outside her door, and after the others have left, just as he is about to enter, he hears the voice within the room. He overhears the voice make his intentions to Christine: "Soon, Christine, this spirit will take form and will demand your love!" When Christine leaves her room alone, Raoul breaks in to find it empty. Carlotta receives another discordant note from the Phantom. Once again, it demands that she take ill and let Christine have her part. The managers also get a note, reiterating that if Christine does not sing, they will present "Faust" in a house with a curse on it.
The following evening, despite the Phantom's warnings, a defiant Carlotta appears as Marguerite. At first, the performance goes well, but soon the Phantom's curse takes its effect, causing the great, crystal chandelier to fall down onto the audience. Christine runs to her dressing room and is entranced by a mysterious voice through a secret door behind the mirror, descending, in a dream-like sequence, semi-conscious on horseback by a winding staircase into the lower depths of the Opera. She is then taken by gondola over a subterranean lake by the masked Phantom into his lair. The Phantom introduces himself as Erik and declares his love; Christine faints, so Erik carries her to a suite fabricated for her comfort. The next day, when she awakens, she finds a note from Erik telling her that she is free to come and go as she pleases, but that she must never look behind his mask. In the next room, the Phantom is playing his composition, "Don Juan Triumphant." Christine's curiosity gets the better of her, and she sneaks up behind the Phantom and tears off his mask, revealing his hideously deformed face. Enraged, the Phantom makes his plans to hold her prisoner known. In an attempt to plead to him, he excuses her to visit her world one last time, with the condition that she never sees her lover again.
Released from the underground dungeon, Christine makes a rendezvous at the annual masked-ball, which is graced with the Phantom in the guise of the 'Red-Death' from the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name. Raoul finds Christine and they flee to the roof of the Opera House, where she tells him everything that followed the chandelier crash. However, an unseen jealous Phantom perching on the statue of Apollo overhears them. Raoul plans to whisk Christine safely away to London following the next performance. As they leave the roof, the mysterious man with the fez approaches them. Aware that the Phantom is waiting downstairs, he leads Chrstine and Raoul to another exit.
The following evening, Raoul meets Christine in her dressing room. She has heard the voice of the Phantom, who has revealed that he knows their plans. Raoul has arranged for a carriage and reassures her nothing will go wrong.
Backstage, Simon finds the body of his brother hanging by the strangler's noose and vows vengeance. During the performance, the Phantom kidnaps Christine off the stage during a blackout. Raoul rushes to Christine's dressing room, and meets the man in the fez, who reveals himself to be Inspector Ledoux, a secret policeman who has been studying Erik's moves as the Phantom since he escaped as a prisoner from Devil's Island. Ledoux reveals the secret door in Christine's room and the two men enter the catacombs of the Opera House in an attempt to rescue Christine. Instead, they fall into the Phantom's dungeon, a torture room of his design. Philippe has also found his way into the catacombs looking for his brother, and a clanging alarm alerts the Phantom to his presence in a canoe on the lake. Phillipe is drowned by Erik, who returns to find the two men in the torture chamber. Turning a switch, the Phantom subjects the two prisoners to intense heat.
The Phantom gives Christine a choice of two levers: one shaped like a scorpion and the other like a grasshopper. One of them will save Raoul's life, but at the cost of Christine marrying Erik, while the other will blow up the Opera. Christine picks the scorpion, but it is a trick by the Phantom to "save" Raoul and Ledoux from being killed by heat — by drowning them. Christine begs the Phantom to save Raoul, promising him anything in return, even becoming his wife. At the last second, the Phantom opens a trapdoor in his floor through which Raoul and Ledoux are saved.
A mob, led by Simon, infiltrates the Phantom's lair. As the clanging alarm sounds and the mob approaches, the Phantom attempts to flee with Christine in the carriage meant for Raoul and Christine. While Raoul saves Christine, the Phantom is pursued and killed by a mob, who throw him into the Seine River to finally drown. In a brief epilogue, Raoul and Christine are shown on their honeymoon in Viroflay.
This flim is by far the closest to Leroux's novel and it is considered by most fans to be the best flim verison to date
The movie was adapted by Elliott J. Clawson, Frank M. McCormack (uncredited), Tom Reed (titles) and Raymond L. Schrock. It was directed by Rupert Julian, with supplemental direction by Edward Sedgwick, and Lon Chaney (unconfirmed).
The original film that debuted in Los Angeles had several scenes from the novel, now lost, including The Phantom playing the violin at the grave of Christine's father, and a different ending closer to the novel. After bad reviews it was re-edited for subsequent releases.