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After a brief informal meeting two months earlier when they were impressed with each other, Countess Marie Walewska formally meets Napoleon Bonaparte at a ball in Warsaw. When Napoleon notes her husband is three times her age, and as he is taken with her charms, he unsuccessfully tries to seduce her. She ignores his frequent letters and flowers until a few grim Polish leaders led by Senator Malachowski urge her to give into his desires as a personal sacrifice in order to save Poland. She goes to him despite the humiliation of her husband, who leaves for Rome to annul their marriage. They are extremely happy for a while; Napoleon divorces childless Empress Josephine and Marie eventually becomes pregnant. She is about to tell Napoleon about her baby when he tells her he decided to marry Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. He explains it will be a political marriage to insure his future son could rule securely with Hapsburg blood in him. It will not affect their relationship, he says, ... Written by
Arthur Hausner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The lavish ballroom set where Napoleon dances with Marie Walewska is actually identical to that used in Maytime (1937) - the Jeanette McDonald /Nelson Eddy operetta. It has simply been redressed and given a different floor covering and shot from a different angle. See more »
This movie has two halves to evaluate. The first half is brilliant, among the best scenes ever put on film. Boyer gives the performance of his life as the "Little Corporal" trying to woo an obscure (and obscurely beautiful) Polish Countess. Sadly, once she is wooed the movie is lost in a muddle of syrupy sentiment and questionable history lessons.
Boyer is outstanding all the way through the movie. This is the role he was born to play. He is funny, abrupt, insane, and believeable. He puts his whole body into this role. But Garbo - *sigh* - she's better at portraying melancholy than happiness. When she's in love in this movie, it's irritating. Excepting her scene with Dame May Whitty as Napoleon's mother, I just can't stand it.
The second half is just mush. It's plodding, for the most part uninteresting, and sheds no light on Napoleon as a historical figure. Maybe the first half of the movie had so much energy that it was impossible to sustain. In any case, I recommend this movie, if only for Boyer's performance and the opening sequence.
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