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The Strange Madame X (1951)

L'étrange Madame X (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 24 May 1951 (France)
Can a person really lead a double life? It looks as though Irène can. On the one hand, she is the wife of Jacques Voisin-Larive, a big name in the publishing world. On the other hand she ... See full summary »



(original scenario), (dialogue) | 1 more credit »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Irène Voisin-Larive
Arlette Thomas ...
Louise Conte ...
Angèle (as Louise Conte sociétaire de la Comédie Française)
Robert Vattier ...
Paul Barge ...
L'oncle Léon
Roland Alexandre ...
Fernand Gilbert
Raphaël Patorni ...
Un invité
Yvonne Clech ...
Georges Sellier ...
Le général
Geneviève Morel ...
Une invitée
René Hell ...
Un ouvrier
Christian Lude ...
Le chauffeur d'Irène
Louis Blanche ...
Un invité


Can a person really lead a double life? It looks as though Irène can. On the one hand, she is the wife of Jacques Voisin-Larive, a big name in the publishing world. On the other hand she pretends to be a simple chambermaid when she is with Etienne, a handsome young cabinetmaker. But what will happen when Irène gets pregnant? Written by Guy Bellinger

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

double life | pregnancy | adultery | See All (3) »




Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

24 May 1951 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Sündige Liebe  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Finnish censorship visa 044905. See more »

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User Reviews

Waltzing into darkness
8 October 2006 | by See all my reviews

The first thing to bear in mind is that,at the time,Michèle Morgan and Henri Vidal were the ideal French couple for sixteen-year old schoolgirls .They met when they were making "Fabiola" and they got married.

Jean Grémillon and Albert Valentin do what they do best: setting a working class milieu against the bourgeois world ;the former had done "Gueule d'Amour " and "Lumière d' Ete " ,the latter had given "l'Entraineuse" and "la Vie de PLaisir".

This is the kind of "cinema-made-in-the-studio " which the Nouvelle Vague used to despise but it is this cinema which had lent credibility to the French films since the thirties.There's a striking contrast between the proles ' places (the street ,the uncle's restaurant,Etienne's bedroom,the small apartment where he thinks he 'll lead a peaceful life with the woman he adores and their baby girl)and the excessive luxury of the Voisin-Larive mansion.

THe construction of the movie can disconcert the audience cause the director takes us from one world to the other one,without giving any explanations.MIchèle Morgan is the only link between them and it is only little by little that we discover the truth.

Etienne (Henri Vidal) is a good guy ,in the grand tradition of Jean Gabin's parts of "Quai des Brumes" or "Le Jour se Lève".It is often mooted that Henri Vidal was a limited actor but his naiveté ,his human warmth and his handsome smile work wonders here.His hope is to marry Irene who told him she was the Voisin-Larive's chamber maid.

Irène (Morgan) is married to a rich bourgeois with whom she has no sexual relations.For him,she is a marvelous toy, a statue or a masterpiece ,something decorative you can show when you throw a party . When Irene tells him she is pregnant (by Etienne) he does not care ,he sends her to Switzerland ."I do not need any descendants " he says in a terrifying neuter voice .

Jacques ,the rich husband is some kind of monster.He is not evil,and the fact that he does not need children is downright disturbing,cause the bourgeois 's dream is par excellence a dynasty ,a boy who will continue his work .But this one seems selfishness itself.When Etienne -who still believes Irene is the chamber maid of the house - tells him his wife is pregnant by him,he finds it rather funny and does not give the game away.

Jeanette ,the less-than -attractive girl in love with Etienne ,is the rejected person we had met in "Pattes Blanches" (1948) .Played by the same actress (Arlette Thomas) ,she epitomizes hope against hope ,she is a Cinderella whose pumpkin never turns into a horse-drawn coach.Both those heroines (Jeanette and "Pattes Blanches"'s young hunchback girl ) have a similar fate.Both think that a dress can make the job done,both were born to cry.

This cinema-in-the-studio which I mention is often dazzling: there's a sublime shot of a prostrated desperate Morgan while a train is whistling and a hearse down there is crossing the street ,a scene to rival the best of Sirk (there's a similar scene in " a time to love and a time to die" ).Those carols ("Gloria in Excelsis Deo") become something as obscene as the dazzling Xmas decorations (one finds the same refinement in the final scenes in the castle in " Pattes Blanches" ) when a child is dying.Those bourgeois ,dancing in their luxury mansion ,waiting for the clock which's going to strike twelve ,is really a sickening sight.

"There are so many ways to die" Irene says to Jeanette,and then ,back home,she begins her waltz into darkness.

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