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Madame Bovary (1949)

Passed | | Drama, Romance | 23 January 1950 (Sweden)
A provincial doctor's wife's romantic illusions about life and social status lead her to betray her naive husband, take on lovers and run up ruinous debts.


Vincente Minnelli


Robert Ardrey (screenplay), Gustave Flaubert (novel)
3,146 ( 19,479)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jennifer Jones ... Emma Bovary
James Mason ... Gustave Flaubert
Van Heflin ... Charles Bovary
Louis Jourdan ... Rodolphe Boulanger
Alf Kjellin ... Leon Dupuis (as Christopher Kent)
Gene Lockhart ... J. Homais
Frank Allenby Frank Allenby ... Lhereux
Gladys Cooper ... Mme. Dupuis
John Abbott ... Mayor Tuvache
Harry Morgan ... Hyppolite (as Henry Morgan)
George Zucco ... DuBocage
Ellen Corby ... Félicité
Eduard Franz ... Roualt
Henri Letondal Henri Letondal ... Guillaumin
Esther Somers Esther Somers ... Mme. Lefrancois


French author Gustave Flaubert is on trial for writing the "indecent" novel "Madame Bovary." To prove that he wrote a moral tale, Flaubert narrates the story of beautiful Emma Bovary, an adulteress who destroyed the lives of everyone she came in contact with. Written by Daniel Bubbeo <dbubbeo@cmp.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


All she wanted was everything. See more »


Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

23 January 1950 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Madame Bovary und ihre Liebhaber See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


After the expensive box-office failure of "The Pirate", director Vincente Minnelli worked hard to cut corners on this film, fearing he might be otherwise be accused of extravagance. However, he devoted a great deal of time to the ball sequence, which he regarded as the most important scene in the film; he even had composer Miklos Rozsa compose the waltz theme used in it well in advance of the start of filming. See more »


Charles Bovary: I like everything, I suppose that's what's wrong with me.
See more »


Featured in Private Screenings: Liza Minnelli (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Lacks the complexity and depth of the book but still beautiful cinema...
25 January 2014 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary is beautiful and shocking, one of the European literary greats. While it is not the most faithful adaptation around, Vincente Minnelli's Madame Bovary does stand on its own two feet and is a beautiful film in its own right. It does suffer from what made the book so complex and shocking not being fully allowed to come out due to the limitations of the Production Code at the time of it being made and released(maybe the film's length too). So you do miss the stuffiness and hypocrisy of French provincial life, which I always took as a crucial part to Emma's character, while the script could have done with more of a dark edge and Minnelli's direction is often dazzling and technically skilled(the ballroom sequence has to be a highlight in his directorial career) but also a little too relaxed in places, so the drama has occasional stodginess. But it is unfair to dismiss Madame Bovary due to these because its positives are a great many. That it is one of the most visually beautiful films of the 40s is one, the costumes are evocative and astonishingly elegant, Emma's dresses are a wow factor while the sets are the very meaning of grand with a Baroque/Roccocco influence. The photography dazzles just as much as Minnelli's technical style in the ballroom sequence(an intricate and in all senses wonderful scene, perhaps one of the greats in cinematic history). Miklos Rosza's music score is another huge part of the appeal, one of his best, the stylistic elegance, haunting undercurrent and energy are all here in the score, the Madame Bovary Waltz being the most memorable.

The script may lack edge, but it does maintain the book's ironic humour and is very poignant too without descending into melodrama, and the story regardless of the watering down still compels and moves. Some may find Flaubert's narration and trial at the beginning unnecessary, to me it was actually very interesting- James Mason's thoughtfully earnest performance as Flaubert helps- and that the book itself caused a scandal at the time and is still controversial now made it further easier to understand why the book's depth doesn't quite come through here. The aforementioned ballroom sequence is the highlight of the film, but the deserted windswept streets in the middle of the night scene where Emma is waiting for Rudolphe is beautifully shot and emotionally telling. The performances are fine, Jennifer Jones is very moving(not to mention stunning to look at), she does capture the selfishness and insufferable woman traits that Emma has yet makes it clear Emma is also a victim of her own passions, it is very easy to not stand Emma and make her one-dimensional but with Jones there is a degree of compassion. Van Heflin is sympathetic and mild-mannered without being too much of a bore and oafish without being too much of a dork and clown, like with Jones both of those are easy traps to fall into. Louis Jourdan is perfectly cast, suave and charismatic while conflicted and menacing. Alf Kjellin is a gentle Leon, a good contrast to Jourdan's Rudolphe, while Gladys Cooper as ever is a scene stealer as is Frank Allenby as the malefic L'Hereux. Harry Morgan and Gene Lockhart are dependably solid. Overall, a beautiful film but those wanting a faithful adaptation of Madame Bovary(a big ask really as it is perhaps one of the most difficult books to adapt) may want to look elsewhere. But even then, there will be people who think that to some extent but still take this film for what it is. 8/10 Bethany Cox

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