Sprawling story set in 19th France in the reign of Napoleon III (nephew of Bonaparte) follows poor Theresa (Beryl Baxter) and her rise from poverty to wealth through marriage and liaisons. After she is thrown into the streets by her cruel father, she is taken in by a sensitive tailor (Andrew Osborn) after he finds her passed out on a rainy street. He's a former violinist with a bad hand. They eventually marry and he squanders what little he has on her, including a ticket to a concert where a famous pianist named Herz (Michael Rennie) is playing. The moment their eyes meet, they are in love.
They confront the tailor with their love and he commits suicide. They marry and enjoy a successful life (she plays violin) until he starts dallying with a famous courtesan named Cora Pearl (Christine Norden) and gambling. Unable to pay his debts, he sails for South America and a new start. The boat sinks. Befriended by the famous composer Offenbach (Miles Malleson), she gets a job playing violin and eventually meets and enters into an arranged marriage with the dissolute Marquis Paiva.
Now a Marquise, she catches the eye of the Emperor (Kenneth Kent) much to the ire of Cora Pearl, the one-time court favorite. The rivalry between the women is settled in a fantastic duel with whips (switches). Cora Pearl is sent packing and the Emperor comes to visit Theresa but she surprisingly turns him away. There's another big surprise waiting for our heroine.
Most reviews of this film are totally wrong in saying that Theresa sleeps her way to the top. Indeed, quite a lot is made of the fact that her virtue saves her over and over again.
Beryl Baxter is excellent as Theresa as is Christine Norden as Cora Pearl. Their scenes together are quite diverting. Michael Rennie gets top billing but has a relatively small role as Herz (not Hertz). Andrew Osborn is excellent as the tailor, and Miles Malleson is a delight as Offenbach. Others include Kenneth Kent (Napoleon), Margaretta Scott (Eugenie), and Leslie Perrins as the slimy Marquis Paiva.
This film has been out of circulation for so long, almost everything you read about it is wrong.
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