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A Dutch company's owner bankrupts his own company, burns the incriminating ledgers and plans to run to Paris with the company payroll but he is caught in the act by his accountant who challenges his actions, leading to a reversal of roles.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Arresting, Biting, Cynical, Honest Portrayal of Power and Control!
"The Private Affairs of Bel Ami" is one of the most unusual films to come out of Hollywood during the Golden Age of Hollywood (1920-1950). An adaptation of a Guy de Maupassant work, "Bel Ami" honestly and bitingly portrays an "homme fatale", a man who uses sex to gain social, economic, and political power. This is the only film, to my knowledge, that portrays such a phenomenon that in real life has been much more common than is commonly held.
George Sanders was never better than as Georges DuRoy. His playing displays the numbing of feelings, desperation of a life of poverty and low social rank, and misogyny that propel him to do what he does. No film character in the Golden Age of Hollywood was as blatantly hateful of women as Georges DuRoy. Witness the scenes with Sanders and Marie Wilson!
The female characters display a moderness in attitudes, relationships with men, and an awareness of their roles in their relationships with Georges DuRoy that is startling not just for 1880, but for 1947, when the film was released. Only French and some Italian films of the 1960's have equalled that frankness by female characters of what their place is in the lives of men.
Ann Dvorak carries much of the film gracefully and with a strong, frank portrayal of a woman much like Georges DuRoy and unapologetic about it. This is definitely Dvorak's finest and the showiest role of her career. Unfortunately, it did not propel her to major stardom and she retired from acting only three years after filming "The Private Affairs of Bel Ami".
Angela Lansbury proved here in this early film of her career what a fine character actress she is. Her portrayal of Clothilde could've been pathetic. Instead, Clothilde emerges as well-rounded character who is never tiresome to watch.
Marie Wilson never got a dramatic part like the one in this film as a Folies Bergere dancer. She only proves the point that behind every great comedienne lies a fine dramatic actress. She truly evokes a character, not the dumb blonde comedy relief that was her stock-in-trade.
A surprising number of top character actors in this film! The film's look and score are very noirish. That only highlights the modernity of the characters in the film, much like 2000's "Moulin Rouge".
The movie looks and plays like an RKO-Radio film noir of the mid-'40's.
Cool concept. The startling use of color for the one scene in which it is used only adds to the uniqueness of this film's acting and look.
The only drawback is the use of decidedly obvious painted backdrops. They only highlight the low budget that was obviously involved in making the film. Too bad, while the rest of the sets appear well-lighted and -appointed.
An arresting film! Definitely worthy of critical and popular reevaluation!
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