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Madame Bovary

1949 : Madame Bovary
de Vincente Minnelli
Avec Jennifer Jones, Van Heflin & James Mason.
Louis Jourdan dans le rôle de Rodolphe Boulanger

Louis Jourdan & Jennifer Jones

The New York Times Review.
'Madame Bovary,' Based on Novel by Flaubert, at Capitol -- Jennifer Jones in Lead
Published: August 26, 1949

If such a thing were needed in this candid day and age as a moral defense of "Madame Bovary," the classic novel of Gustave Flaubert, then Metro's handsome film version, which came to the Capitol yesterday, would be precisely the item to turn this unlikely trick. For not only is this picture a faithful transcription of the tale of the misguided nineteenth-century housewife who rushed down the primrose path to ruin, but Metro has actually put it in the form of an open defense.

With James Mason playing the author on trial, at the start of the film, for writing this "infamous" novel—as, indeed, Flaubert actually was—the studio has had Mr. Mason speak a virtual preface to the work and offer occasional commentaries as an off-screen voice as the story unreels. Thus it has made it specific that Emma Bovary's tragic career was not the result of willful sinning by a selfish and licentious dame but was the consequence of her environment, her upbringing and her childish dreams. "We had taught her to believe in Cinderella," Mr. Mason's voice tenderly remarks.

And this understanding of the lady is beautifully and tenderly put forth in the patient unfolding of the story which a cohort of talents has contrived. Emma, throughout the picture—throughout her unhappy life—is the victim of her hopeless illusions, the silt of a romantic age. Not in her poor but loving husband does she find the man of her dreams, not in her dazzling, high-born lover nor in the pitiful law clerk with whom she absorbs. Nothing remains for her ambition. The end is ruin and despair, shame and desolation, arsenic and death. It is all very sad and depressing, but that, says Mr. Mason, is life.

Well, at least, it is grist and fodder to Metro's fine-grinding mill, and the best that one could ask for has been made from this tragic tale. Robert Ardrey has put it together into a literate and playable script and Vincente Minelli has kept it moving with a smooth and refined directoral touch. The high point of his achievement, indeed, is a ballroom scene which spins in a whirl of rapture and crashes in a shatter of shame. In this one sequence, the director has fully visualized his theme.

Perhaps a better performance of Emma Bovary could be wished than the generally beaming and breathless (or else frowning) one which Jennifer Jones gives. Miss Jones, though perfectly constructed for the wearing of clothes and aureoles, is a little bit light for supporting the anguish of this classic dame. But Louis Jourdan is electric as her elegant lover, Rodolphe, and Van Heflin is quietly appealing as her trusting, small-town spouse. A nicely dimensioned portrait of the weakling lover is given by Christopher Kent, and Frank Allenby is brilliantly malefic as the usurous merchant, Lhereux. Gene Lockhart, Gladys Cooper and Henry Morgan are good in minor roles. And, to be sure, Mr. Mason does well by Flaubert and the defense.

But, of course, the ultimate question is simply whether a defense of "Madame Bovary" is timely, after all these wicked years. And from that we reach the question of whether Emma is timely herself. Many ladies much like her have been seen on the screen for many years. She looks pretty in this picture, but she also looks slightly déclassé.

On the stage at the Capitol are David Rose and his orchestra, with Eileen Barton and Jay Marshall

Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan & Van Heflin

1949 Portrait.
Légende d'origine: Handsome heart breaker Louis Jourdan portrays the role of the handsome Rudolphe Boulanger who steals the heart of Emma Bovary in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's exciting dramatic production, Madame Bovary, based on the famous French novel by Gustave Flaubert. The cast is headed by James Mason, Jebbifer Jones, Van Heflin, Jourdan, and Christopher Kent. It was directed by Vincent Minelli and produced by Pandro S. Berman.

MADAME BOVARY, screen play by Robert Ardrey, based on the novel by Gustave Flaubert, directed by Vincente Minelli; produced by Pandro S. Berman for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At the Capitol.

Gustave Flaubert . . . . . James Mason
Emma Bovary . . . . . Jennifer Jones
Charles Bovary . . . . . Van Heflin
Rodolphe Boulanger . . . . . Louis Jourdan
Leon Dupuis . . . . . Christopher Kent
J. Homais . . . . . Gene Lockhart
Lhereux . . . . . Frank Allenby
Mme. Dupuis . . . . . Gladys Cooper
Mayor Tuvache . . . . . John Abbott
Hyppolite . . . . . Henry Morgan
Dubocage . . . . . George Zucco


Photographs by : Allan Grant (/Time & Life Pictures)
from the August 1, 1949 issue of LIFE Magazine





On the film set with Jennifer Jones & Vincente Minnelli.

with director Vincent Minelli


Illustrierte Film-Büne Magazine Cover