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Writer Georges Duroy (George Sanders) is one social-climbing S.O.B. who does most of his climbing over the warm (and cold) bodies of women. He begins with Rachel (Marie Wilson), a hanger-on in the cafes and Folies Bergere crowd, and then moves on to dally with Clotilde de Morelle (Angela Lansbury.) Always striving to move upward on the social scale, he ditches her to marry Madeleine Forestier (Ann Dvorak). Now he gets on the fast track. He persuades Madame Walter (Katherine Emery), the wife of his publisher, to fall in love with him, and then compromises Madeleine to frame a divorce, so he can pursue Madame Walter's daughter, Suzanne (Susan Douglas, before somebody decided her later-married name was her most-often used screen name.) He moves along so well that ere long he is in legal position to usurp the title of one of France's most noble houses. The moral, at the end, is it is okay to mess with French women, but triffling with French titles is going too far. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Virtually the same story as the same star's later and contemporary DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL, THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI sees George Sanders on fine caddish form as a swine who works his way through a series of unfortunate women in 19th century France.
The story is well staged by Albert Lewin, who wrings plenty of melodrama out of the events, and of course there's a great performance by George Sanders - one of the original "guys you love to hate" - as the titular bad guy. He's also given decent support by Angela Lansbury (who'd suppose she was ever young?) and John Carradine, playing outside of B-movies for once.
The story is well paced and has a decent script, based on a story by ace writer Guy de Maupassant. It has inevitably dated in the years since release, lacking the moments of high drama that you'd expect from the premise, but it makes up for it with the dramatic stand-off at the climax.
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