When lovely and virtuous governess Henriette Deluzy comes to educate the children of the debonair Duc de Praslin, a royal subject to King Louis-Philippe and the husband of the volatile and ...
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Olivia de Havilland,
When lovely and virtuous governess Henriette Deluzy comes to educate the children of the debonair Duc de Praslin, a royal subject to King Louis-Philippe and the husband of the volatile and obsessive Duchesse de Praslin, she instantly incurs the wrath of her mistress, who is insanely jealous of anyone who comes near her estranged husband. Though she saves the duchess's little son from a near-death illness and warms herself to all the children, she is nevertheless dismissed by the vengeful duchess. Meanwhile, the attraction between the duke and Henriette continues to grow, eventually leading to tragedy. Written by
Although all of the characters (other than Henry Martyn Field) are meant to be French, only the Duc has an French accent. Bette Davis speaks with an English lilt as her character Henriette had come from England after being a governess to a British family. See more »
The Duchess of Praslin is seen licking envelopes in which she has placed letters to her husband, the Duc de Praslin. This film is set in the 1840s; gummed envelopes would not be invented for another 100 years. Correspondence in the 1840s would not be placed in a #10 business envelope anyway as seen in the film. The letters would be be placed in another sheet of paper and then sealed over with a wax seal or simply folded over and sealed with a wax seal, sometimes a ribbon set in the wax as well. See more »
Duc de Praslin:
Why are you smiling? May I share whatever pleases you so?
You will think I am very silly I'm afraid, but standing here like this with the snow falling reminds of something I used to know. Do you remember a little round glass globe that...
Duc de Praslin:
Oh yes, I know, with a snow scene inside. We had a paper weight on a desk at home like that. You shook it and the snow whirled around out from nowhere in a blinding storm.
Yes, that's exactly what I mean.
Duc de Praslin:
And if you looked closely enough the whole world seemed...
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Director Anatole Litvak does an exceedingly good job with this romantic period piece, as do each of the actors involved. Bette Davis plays Henriette Deluzy-Desportes, a governess in 19th Century France, who lands a position working for Theo, Duc De Praslin (Charles Boyer) and his family. The childern adore the new, spirited governess, but Boyer's psycho bitch wife, the Duchesse (Barbara O'Neil), is resentful of Henriette's intrusion into the family. The new addition to the family works her magic on everyone but the Duchesse. Theo and Henriette, predictably, begin to fall in love, which further complicates things, sending the crazy wife into even more rages of insanity. All of this builds momentum until a climactic crime of passion takes a life.
Davis is a kick to watch as she struts her stuff with an excellent French accent. Boyer is awesome in this dark, brooding, but romantic role. And O'Neil deservedly got an Oscar-nomination for her role, full of anger and energy. But the real stand-out, interestingly enough, is Richard Nicols as Boyer's so-adorable-you-just-wanna-squeeze-him son Reynald.
Overall, this dark, dreary film is a highly-satisfying experience, slightly off-put by the preachy, silly final scene in the classroom.
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