Based on the true story of Madeleine Smith, a young Glasgow woman from a wealthy family, she stood trial in 1857 for the murder of her lover, Emile L'Angelier. Her trial was much publicized in the newspapers of the day and was labeled "the trial of the century." Written by
Ann Todd had portrayed the title character in theatrical productions of the play this film was based on, and had always wanted to play her in a film adaptation. Shortly after she married director David Lean, he agreed to make this film and cast her as the lead as a "wedding present" of sorts. See more »
When the prosecutor first walks away from addressing the jury the first time, the shadow of a boom can clearly be seen following after him across the jury. See more »
Ann Todd is "Madeleine" in this 1950 film directed by David Lean. The film also features Norman Wooland, Ivan Desny, Andre Morrell and Elizabeth Sellars. The film looks at the true story of the famous Madeleine Smith murder trial in the mid-1800s. Pressured by her upper class family to marry, Madeleine is in fact secretly intimately involved with a man from a lower class, L'Anglier (Desny) and has agreed to marry him. She doesn't want to tell her family, so she urges him to elope with her. L'Anglier was planning on marrying into the upper class lifestyle and insists instead that she tell her father (Leslie Banks) about their relationship. She can't, and believing that all L'Anglier wanted was her money all along, she breaks off with him and requests the return of her letters to him. She then agrees to marry William Minnoch (Wooland), who has been courting her.
L'Anglier doesn't return her letters, and after she purchases arsenic, he dies of arsenic poison, having become ill at her house once before. Madeleine is arrested for murder.
The film seems to follow the case quite accurately, but it's pretty cut and dried. There are some marvelous scenes - the two dancing in the moonlight is one, as an increasingly wilder dance goes on inside. The structure of the courtroom was interesting, as I had never seen a prisoner walk upstairs into the dock from what is almost a trap door in the floor. The view of all the faces looking down before she starts the climb gives an idea of what it's like to be put on trial.
Ann Todd is a good actress, though an internalized one who comes off as rather cold. She was married to Lean, which may be the reason for her casting. At the time of the murder, Madeleine's father was displeased that she wasn't married, complaining that she had met many men but none of them have worked out. She was twenty when she took up with L'Anglier and 22 when she broke it off. Todd was 41 at the time this film was made. She was not carefully photographed and looked her age - way too old for this role. Andre Morrell is excellent as Madeleine's attorney. The rest of the performances are very good, with Banks a strong, intimidating father and Desny hinting at the slime that's below the surface of L'Anglier. Norman Wooland gives a charming and concerned performance as Madeleine's suitor, Minnoch.
Lean's opinion of what happened is made very clear in the last moments of the film. Someone said the story needed Hitchcock's hand, but he was not successful with "The Paradine Case." There's something about these stories that is very detached and unemotional. Maybe Hitchcock could have cracked it; this early effort by David Lean doesn't quite make it.
11 of 13 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?