B&W, 106 min.
Released: August 27, 1949 (MGM)
Cast: Jennifer Jones (as Emma Bovary), Van Heflin, Louis Jourdan, James Mason, Christopher Kent, Gene Lockhart, Frank Allenby, Gladys Cooper, Ellen Corby, Henry Morgan..
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Tagline: "Whatever it is that French women have, Madame Bovary has more of it!"
Complete Credits at IMDB
Gustave Flaubert's literary masterpiece "Madame Bovary" was highly controversial when it was published in 1857 and Flaubert even went to court (but was acquitted) for publishing a morally offensive book. At the beginning of this film, Flaubert (played by James Mason) takes the stand to defend himself and tells the story of his heroine, Emma Bovary, a woman whose fantasies of romantic idealism eventually lead to her and her husband's downfall.
Madame Bovary is a sumptuously produced film, expertly directed by Vincente Minnelli, and still looks good today. The sets, photography and costumes (by Walter Plunkett) all contributed to a technically flawless production. There are many scenes that remain vividly etched in the viewer's memory long after the film has ended. The Vaubyessard ball scene was hailed by critics for its brilliant execution. Throughout the film, Emma often looks at herself in mirrors and the scene at the ball when she sees herself in the mirror surrounded by suitors is a classic moment. Other notable scenes include the one where Emma is to elope with Rodolphe to France. It is the middle of the night and Emma, dressed in a flowing cape, is pacing the deserted windswept streets waiting for her lover's carriage to arrive. And Emma's deathbed scene is one of Jennifer's best.
Producer Pandro Berman's first choice for the role of Emma Bovary was Lana Turner. Director Minnelli vetoed his suggestion (Turner was pregnant anyway and wasn't available.) Minnelli heard from Selznick that Jennifer was interested in the role and offered to loan her to MGM if they would also use some of his unemployed actors (Kent and Jourdan).
Critical reception of Jones' performance at the time of the film's release was mixed. Seen today, her performance is decidedly uneven with her being weaker in the first half but strong in the final half. Some of her scenes, notably the one following Rodolphe's departure for France without her and her confrontation with Charles, is (in my opinion) some of the best dramatic work she ever did.
The film did modestly well in the United States and was a big hit overseas. It received an Academy Award nomination for Art Decoration but was oddly omitted in the Costume Design category.
Interesting Tidbit - Ted Turner colorized Madame Bovary for TNT several years ago. While I am not a fan of colorization, I must admit that he did an exceptional job and this is the type of film that needs to be seen (at least one time!) in color.
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