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"Perhaps it ill be better if I live in your heart, where the world
can't see me. If I'm dead, there will be no staying of our love."
The novel/play by Alexandre Dumas Fils LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS has attracted a lot of artists. Verdi wrote his opera LA TRAVIATA basing its content on this play. The film industry have also made a lot of adaptations of the play from the period of silent era up till modern times. However, if one hears a movie title CAMILLE, what usually comes to one's mind is the film by George Cukor with Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor. Why? There is something magical about this version that made it stand a test of time, something that helped it be appreciated for almost seven decades. Is it performances, cinematography, or Garbo's presence that make it so enchanting to watch? The answer is not so easy because the movie is a masterpiece of beauty at multiple levels.
The performances are absolutely outstanding. It is difficult to say if Garbo gives her best performance in CAMILLE or GRAND HOTEL. I think that it is more a matter of personal preferences. One thing is sure - she does something more than acting. She totally feels the role, every movement, every gesture is extremely natural as if you were watching reality not a movie. As a result, Garbo achieves something really outstanding in CAMILLE, some kind of the ultimate masterpiece of performance. Robert Taylor very well fits to the role of Armand Duvall. He manages to stress the most important feature of his role - delicacy and sincerity. Henry Daniell is a perfect choice for Baron De Varville - cruel, unemotional, cynical, and very selfish. I shall never forget the scene when Marguerite plays a lyrical piece on the piano expecting Armand's visit. However, it is Baron who comes unexpectedly. While Armand is trying to get to the house, Baron plays the piano and Marguerite has to behave as if she wasn't expecting anyone. The scene ends with hysterical laughter of them both and a magnificent acting. Laura Hope Crews also gives a lovely performance as Prudence Duvernoy stressing her frivolity and extravagance. Consider her performance at the party at the mansion. Yet, Lionel Barrymore, though not given much time on screen, is memorable, particularly in the scene of his meeting with Marguerite. What a lovely presentation of two different world views! Not a better or a worse view but DIFFERENT views - Marguerite attached to love and emotions and Monsieur Duval to social ties and reputation.
The cinematography is superb. Almost each scene has a "soul" which makes watching the movie a real admiration of beauty. The most memorable decorations are in the scene in a candle-lit boudoir filled with delicate lighting and shadows. Marguerite is looking at her reflection in the mirror and suddenly notices Armand from behind. A delicate classic musical piece is being played in the background. UNFORGETTABLE! The film's gorgeous imagery is a very strong point for the movie.
Perhaps, you will wonder why I praise this movie so much. But if you asked me if I can ever forget CAMILLE, my answer would be "never" because the imagery of this movie and the effect it has on a viewer is endless. How is it possible to forget a beautiful scene of Marguerite's first meeting with Armand? Is it also possible to skip a lovely idyllic pastoral sequence with sheep and flowering trees? How to forget a touching moment when Gaston, Marguerite's true friend, is putting a beautiful bunch of camellias at her side while she is lying ill in bed? Finally, the touching final shot and Marguerite's beautiful words that I entailed at the beginning of my review. These words, which purely refer to spiritual love, are the last words that Marguerite says.
Yes, CAMILLE is a masterpiece, one of the very few movies that promotes real beauty. It is not only a tearjerker. It is not only a story of love. It is a movie that teaches high respect for precious values in life. 10/10!
Maybe it helps to be a romantic. But for my money, this is the greatest
romance that was ever put on film. It has the perfect stars. Greta
Garbo was the star of the age--any age--still beautiful and absolutely
created to act in films. Even in silent films, her acting is measured
and understated. She never falls prey to exaggeration nor pretense. I
think that is the secret to her effectiveness. Allow me an example:
after accepting money from Baron de Varville for a disguised outing
with her lover Armand (which the Baron already suspects), she kisses
him gently on the cheek only to be reviled with a harsh slap from the
baron, who then departs. The camera moves in on that incomparable face.
The head slowly lowers, the lips slightly part, a low moan expresses
the guilt, shame and humiliation which momentarily consume her. Then
she spies the money clutched tightly in her hand. Recognizing she now
has the means to escape with her lover, a slight smile emerges
reflecting her change of mood and restored joy. It is a scene like no
As for her co-star, Robert Taylor was castigated as being too callow for the role. In fact, most critics today realize he was exactly what Dumas intended: young, impressionable--and certainly irresistibly gorgeous in his dewy youth. That beauty often caused the young Taylor undeserved venom from the critics. He was a very capable actor and probably set the standard for the contemporary romantic leading man we see even today. Rumors that Garbo dismissed him as unimportant are not true. She liked him very much and was greatly impressed after he sent her mother flowers when they all attended the premiere of CAMILLE in Stockholm.
CAMILLE? A great movie with a great cast, including the marvelous Henry Daniell, whose Baron de Varville is very Jekyll and Hyde. I encourage anyone to see it. It is one of the finest films of the 20th Century.
I noted that between the play and the opera La Traviata which is
adopted from Camille, there are well over a dozen filmed versions
around from all parts of the globe. Still this exquisite film from
Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer with its brightest star stands as the best and
Through a misinterpreted glance and a smile, society courtesan Marguerite Gauthier and young Armand Duval meet at the Paris Opera. Marguerite meant to get the attentions of the imperious Baron DeVarville, but got Armand's instead.
With the revival of tuberculosis as a byproduct of the AIDS virus, today's audiences have some idea of the death sentence that Marguerite was under. She's chosen to live for the present without care or worry for tomorrow and tomorrow's bills. Impetuous young Armand thinks he has found the love of his life and so does Marguerite, but she realizes at a certain level always that it is too late.
The characters as realized by Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor will stay indelibly with you long after viewing Camille. Garbo said the role was a favorite of her's. Her performance in her voice, her body, and face capture the zest for all the immediate living she has to do.
Robert Taylor was quoted as saying that he bettered himself as an actor by just being around Garbo, that one couldn't help doing that. As Armand he made such an impression in his period clothes and his romantic lines that he became probably the number one movie heart throb in the nation.
George Cukor directed this and said of Taylor that usually the role of Armand is played by middle-aged men who look ridiculous saying those same lines. Taylor represented callow romantic youth of the 19th century and the dialog rings true when he says it. Cukor and Taylor worked again together, but future teamings were less classical than this.
Camille also helped launch the career of British actor Henry Daniell in films as one imperious and snarling villain. The man with the built in disdain in his voice, Henry Daniell essayed so many roles as a bad guy his mere appearance on the screen told you who was the villain. DeVarville, cold, haughty, and imperious was THE Daniell part and set a high standard for Daniell that he met many times in his career.
Two other players in this you will enjoy, Jessie Ralph as Marguerite's maid Nanine and Laura Hope Crews as the world's oldest courtesan. Crews is best remembered as Aunt Pity Pat Hamilton in Gone With the Wind and in Camille it's as if Aunt Pity Pat decided to open a bordello, a chic one for the upper classes to be sure.
This film further proves that the assembly-line system of Hollywood
back then should also be taken seriously in terms of artistry. Just
movies were produced run-of-the-mill doesn't mean that they weren't paid
critical attention to by their makers. The usual impression on studio-era
Hollywood is: take a formulaic narrative style, maybe adapt a stage play
the screen, blend in a handful of stars from the stable and the films rake
in the profit at the box office. Not quite, that's the easy perception.
George Cukor, another of those versatile directors, made it apparent with
Camille that filmmaking as an art may still flourish despite (and even
within) certain parameters. Camille is beautiful, in so many respects. And
it's not just because of Greta Garbo.
Sure, the acting is amazing, the casting is perfect. Garbo is luminous, mysterious, cruel, and weak at the same time. Robert Taylor surrenders himself to be the heartbreakingly young and vulnerable Armand. Henry Daniell's coldness and sadism is utterly human and familiar. The others are just plain wonderful. The writing contains so much wit and humor, devotion and pain - but it never overstates anything. The rapport and tensions between lovers, friends, and enemies are palpable and consistent. The actions flow so naturally, just like every scene, that checking for historical inconsistencies seem far beside the point.
There is so much that I love about Camille that it's hard to enumerate them all, but with every little discovery comes the realization that this is "but" a studio production, so it makes the experience more exquisite. Camille is a gentle, poignant romantic movie that, like Garbo, takes its place delicately and self-effacingly in the history of American cinema, but makes itself indelible in the heart and mind of the lovelorn individual viewer.
When you think of the lavish 30s films of MGM, Camille is near the top of the list. Great story and flawless production here boasting perhaps the most shimmering of Greta Garbo's ethereal performances as Marguerita Gautier (Camille). Familiar and much filmed story, this is nevertheless the best of them all. Matching Garbor is the hopelessly romantic Robert Taylor in his best 30s role. Also good are Lionel Barrymore, Henry Daniell, and Jessie Ralph as the maid. Great comic relief is provided by Laura Hope Crews (Prudence)and Lenore Ulric (Olympe)--what a pair of vultures! But the center of this gorgeous film is Garbo. She is so frail looking, her voice so soft. Garbo plays Marguerite as a frailty incarnate. She never overacts the part as most do with the endless coughing and fainting. One of George Cukor's triumphs. Rex O'Malley and Elizabeth Allan are dull but have small parts. I also spotted Eily Malyon and Zeffie Tilbury, and Joan Leslie is listed in the credits. I think this is Garbo's best performance, but she lost the Oscar to Luise Rainer for The Good Earth. Also nominated that year: Irene Dunne (The Awful Truth), Barbara Stanwyck (Stella Dallas), and Janet Gaynor (A Star Is Born). Wow----how could you choose just one?
This is arguably the finest romantic film ever made and it contains Garbo's
finest performance (resulting in her third Oscar nom - she should have
and a NY Film Critics Best Actress Award). She is luminous, able to
great inner strength while projecting a fragility that is touching. Her
death scene alone is the finest in the history of the cinema - one can feel
the weakness, the tentative holding on to life only to see her beloved once
again. The film is full of small moments of flawless acting, in her
glances, in the tone and inflection of her voice, and in her delicate
movements. Great Greta!!!
MGM has lavishly produced the film. The cinematography, art direction and costume design are lavish and exceptionally beautiful. The supporting performances from Lionel Barrymore (touchingly noble) and Laura Hope Crewes (lewd and coarse - a revelation to those who only know her Aunt Pittypat in GWTW) to Maureen O'Sullivan (sweet and virginal) are exemplary. Only Robert Taylor is not up to the job - he is a poor actor here - but he IS gorgeous and we can forgive Garbo her mad infatuation with his Armand.
A classic film if there ever was one. Don't miss it.
The luminous Greta Garbo in one of her best remembered roles. In this she
is the tragic heroine who is dabbling with fate with Robert Taylor (who
seems to be wearing more make-up than Greta!) while moving towards the
inevitable weepie conclusion.
Certainly Garbo was best in these kind of other-worldly roles, in another place and time, than she was in the few contemporary features she attempted. Not a great actress, but a beautiful woman and a true star who the camera clearly loved. Taylor would move out of romances and musicals into more typically heroic roles by the end of the 1930s, but he's a good romantic lead here.
And I mustn't forget the pleasure of seeing Henry Daniell, one of Hollywood's greatest villains.
Filmed with the commonplace MGM gloss of the time, Camille' delivers on all levels - if you're looking for an escapist, teary, film with lots of close-ups and a nice slow pace. It belongs square in that first decade of the talkies and this sort of thing fell out of fashion after the Second World War.
Alexander Dumas fils, the author of "La dame aux camelias", created a
powerful novel that has been made into an opera, "La Traviata", as well
as a play and this film just titled "Camille". The story of Marguerite
Gautier, the famous Parisian courtesan has moved audiences since it
first came out in France.
George Cukor seems to have been the obvious choice for directing this adaptation of the book. Mr. Cukor had a great eye for detail, as well as for guiding his female stars into performances that defined a lot of careers in the movies. He was not strange to working with the divine Ms. Garbo, and their collaboration in this film seems to have been a match made in heaven.
The film clearly belongs to Greta Garbo who, as Marguerite Gautier, runs away with the film. This seems to be a role tailor-made for the star. It's without a doubt one of her best screen portrayals. Ms. Garbo clearly understood this woman, who is tormented into resigning the man she loved when his father comes to her to ask the famous courtesan to have pity on his family and to let the young man go free.
The selection of Robert Taylor to play Armand Duval was a coup for the studio and for the production. Mr. Taylor, who went to be one of the favorite stars at MGM exuded charm and seems to have had no problems playing opposite Greta Garbo. In fact, Robert Taylor contribution to the film is enormous.
This film has always been a perennial favorite among fans of Greta Garbo. We remember seeing it at MOMA with a rapt crowd that applauded so loud at the end of the screening for what seemed to be forever.
The supporting cast is excellent as anything that was assembled by MGM. Lionel Barrymore is seen as Monsieur Duval, Armand's father who pleads with Marguerite to let his son go. Henry Daniell plays the Baron de Varville with great style.
William Daniels was the cinematographer. He clearly understood how to photograph Ms. Garbo and he is at his best in this film. The great art direction by Cedric Gibbons shows what this man was capable of doing. The screen play shows such names as James Hilton, Zoe Akins and Frances Marion among the writers.
"Camille" is a film that will live forever thanks to the luminous Greta Garbo and the inspired direction of George Cukor.
Most Greta Garbo fans rank this as her finest work--and it probably is. Not
only is she highly competent in the title role, but the supporting cast
shines just as brightly--everyone from Laura Hope Crewes to Henry Daniell to
Lionel Barrymore. And Robert Taylor is the ideal romantic hero at the peak
of his darkly handsome good looks. He and Garbo make a wonderful
George Cukor's direction is full of richly observed details of behavior, never flinching from the occasional coarseness of the characters. All of the technical work is above reproach and those familiar with the story of the Lady of the Camelias will not be disappointed. Lionel Barrymore makes a brief but effective appearance midway through the film. His scene with Garbo is delicately played and gives added credence to Garbo's nobility in letting her lover go.
Biggest drawback is the film's pace--some editing may have helped--but the final result is still impressive.
The great literary romances of the late nineteenth century, despite
perhaps being presumed today to be models of propriety and principle,
were more often than not frank tales of adulteresses and prostitutes.
When many of these great works were adapted for the screen in the
1930s, the most natural choice for a leading lady was often Greta
Garbo, than whom there was none finer at portraying such fallen women
as noble and tragic heroines.
Garbo was one of the cinema's great natural performers, and in her day was probably the most genuine person to have graced the screen. She brought something to these roles not only because she was dangerously beautiful, but also because she was irresistibly human. Even when her character lied to her lover she could make us sympathise with her motives, as well as understand why the lead man was so enamoured of her to be taken in. In Camille, she brilliantly captures the conflict between Marguerite's strength of character and her physical frailty. Her occasional coughs and lapses into weariness are so neatly understated, but in a way that makes us accept that she is fighting against them rather than that they are insignificant.
Whether Garbo's professionalism rubbed off on others, or whether it was the intensely personal direction of George Cukor, Camille also features some superb performances from what could have been a disappointing supporting cast. Lead man Robert Taylor (who once described acting as the easiest job in the world) was generally little more than a handsome but wooden matinée idol, and yet here the youngster pulls off his part like a pro. True, for the first hour of the picture he is simply a handsome, grinning mug, but when his character is required to display some emotional depth he steps up to the task. Henry Daniell and Lionel Barrymore were both shameless hams, but here they are at their most restrained, without losing any of their trademark qualities. When you compare Daniell in Camille to his other performances, it's like seeing the real person that a caricature is based on.
While the sincerity of the cast certainly helps to give Camille its emotional intensity, it is the direction of Cukor which gives it its pace and watchability. Cukor's cinema is all about movement, and he has a hundred tricks up his sleeve, each using motion to draw our attention or set tone. Take Garbo's big scene with Barrymore. The two of them are essentially just wheeling around a small room, but Cukor keeps his camera up fairly close, emphasising their almost constant changes in position. This gives an unsettling, desperate quality to the scene, even giving the impression that Barrymore is chasing Garbo. At other times such rapid change would be distracting, especially if the scene contains a lot of important information, but Cukor still uses subtle shifts in perception to keep the narrative feeling fresh and meaningful. For example in the lengthy episode at the opera where we meet the principle characters for the first time, Cukor uses the fuzzy glow of the stage as a backdrop for the first meeting between Garbo and Taylor, and the blandness of the box for the equivalent encounter with Daniell.
Both the acting and the direction here are purely cinematic, the former glamorous yet honest, the latter unobtrusively guiding the audience with the moving image. And yet it takes away none of the integrity of Alexander Dumas fils' novel. And so this final nod is to the hidden hand behind the screen - producer Irving Thalberg. Thalberg's aim was never simply to make a fast buck; he wanted to leave high quality product behind him. It seems that pictures like Camille are what he always aspired to - ones that harnessed all the faculties of the medium, yet were as prestigious and culturally significant as any classic play or novel. This was among his last productions, and he died before it was released, but it is undoubtedly a worthy asset to his legacy.
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