Camille is a courtesan in Paris. She falls deeply in love with a young man of promise, Armand Duval. When Armand's father begs her not to ruin his hope of a career and position by marrying Armand, she acquiesces and leaves her lover. However, when poverty and terminal illness overwhelm her, Camille discovers that Armand has not lost his love for her. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For more than two decades I have been a journalist, with extensive experience writing about historic Hollywood. Along the way, I have read much about this movie: about how horrible it was, the critical reception (quite unpleasant), how it ruined careers, etc.
Last night I finally had the chance to see the beautifully restored version on Turner Classic Movies.
I cannot speak for the world of 1921 (being much too young, of course), but this movie must rank up there with one of the top ten films of the silent era. The acting, while not perfect, exhibits little of the hamminess and showiness that earmarks the typical 1920s silent. Nazimova is spectacular in her performance of the dying woman of ill repute. The design elements are tremendous -- especially considering how unique they were in their time. Beautifully realized sets, costumes, props, etc.
Other versions of this movie have been made before and since, but this version far outweighs the more familiar version with GG (next to whose photograph the word "hamminess" appears in the dictionary).
The only downside to this otherwise marvelous film is the appearance by Valentino -- whose popularity must have been a product of the times, as I still cannot fathom how he ever got more than a bit part in a Hollywood film.
Of special note are the French flashbacks that pop up throughout the film. They bring a special poignance to the finale that is especially touching.
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