The only memento of Hollywood kept by Greta Garbo was a pair of Adrian-designed kid gloves from this film. White leather, they were beaded with an ivy leaf pattern that spelled out her initials "G.G." over and over.
The play originally opened in Paris on 2 February 1852. Alexandre Dumas fils based the character Marguerite on a woman with whom he had an affair for 11 months. She died when she was 23. The movie inspired Milton Benjamin to write and publish a song in 1936 called "I'll Love Like Robert Taylor, Be My Greta Garbo".
Many people found Greta Garbo's process as an actress inscrutable, though no one questioned it because the results spoke for themselves. Her habit was to work out a performance ahead of time in private as much as possible. Too many eyes on her in front of the camera made her uneasy. As George Cukor once explained, "[Garbo] said that when she was acting she had some sort of an ideal picture in her mind - something she was creating - and she never saw the rushes because she was always disappointed in what she saw. But she said while she was acting she could imagine certain things and if she saw people just off the set staring at her, she felt like an ass, like somebody with a lot of paint on her face making faces. It stopped her imagination."
The film had its world premier at the Plaza Theater on Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, California on 12 December 1936, which also was the grand opening night of the theater. Robert Taylor was in attendance at the gala.
As was her nature, Greta Garbo didn't like having a lot of people around the set, and she kept those who were there at arm's length. However, she did make an effort to put Robert Taylor at ease, even if she wasn't exactly warm. It was all part of her method. George Cukor recalled, "Garbo didn't talk much to Robert Taylor. She was polite but distant. She had to tell herself that he was the ideal young man, and she knew if they became friendly she'd learn he was just another nice kid."
Sometimes, George Cukor was able to use Greta Garbo's natural aloofness to the film's advantage, such as during the scene at the beginning of the film when Marguerite goes to the theatre. He explained, "I wanted to show that Marguerite was a public woman, that she went to the theatre to be seen. She had to walk through a crowded lobby of men...I wanted her to walk through to show herself, as if on parade for clients. At first Garbo walked through rather quickly, as if she didn't want to be seen. I might have said, 'Walk through a little more brazenly, a little more slowly,' but I didn't. I realized she was right. She could slip through, and you knew damn well the men would look at her anyway."
Future two-time Oscar-winning director Fred Zinnemann was an uncredited assistant to George Cukor, helping him on camera angles and visual concepts. Zinneman explained, " In 1936, long after I had worked with Busby Berkeley and Gregg Toland, I was again out of a job, and through the good offices of a friend, I was introduced to Cukor, who very kindly asked me to help him with camera angles and visual concepts in the making of a film starring Greta Garbo and 'Robert Taylor' (qV) entitled "Camille." Actually my function on the film was rather limited. While it was a most interesting and valuable experience for me, I do not see how it could have been of much value to George. Since then we have occasionally met socially on very friendly terms, and, needless to say, I have enormous respect for George and for his work; but our professional association was not renewed, as I was signed by MGM to direct short subjects after "Camille" in 1937.
Henry Daniell replaced John Barrymore due to the influence of Greta Garbo. According to Daniell's daughter Allyson, by this point the increasingly alcoholic Barrymore had poor personal hygiene, and the actress preferred Daniell as de Varville. According to Allyson in a January 1983 issue of "Films in Review," "She enjoyed working with John in Grand Hotel (1932) but when it came time for "Camille," it was observed that, unlike Barrymore, Daddy didn't smell."
Even though Greta Garbo liked George Cukor, he did have one behaviour on the set that annoyed her. He had the habit of sitting behind the camera during a scene and mouthing the words along with the actors, sometimes making hand and facial gestures as well. Garbo didn't waste any time telling him that she found it extremely distracting and asked him to stop. Nevertheless, she and Cukor worked remarkably well together, and over the course of filming they developed a deep respect for each other.
In the middle of production, Irving Thalberg, who had always suffered from congenital health problems, suddenly died of a heart attack at age 37. His death came on the heels of George Cukor losing his own mother earlier during production, and the sense of grief was palpable. The loss inevitably hovered over the film, especially while Greta Garbo filmed Marguerite's famous death scene.