In Marseilles, France in 1794, Desiree Clary, a young millinery clerk, becomes infatuated with Napoleon Bonaparte, but winds up wedding Genaral Jean-Baptiste Berandotte, an aid to Napoleon who later joins the forces that bring about the Emperor's downfall. Josephine Beauharnais, a worldly courtesan marries Napoleon and becomes Empress of France, but is then cast aside by her spouse when she proves unable to produce an heir to the throne.Written by
I fell in love with Marlon Brando's and Jean Simmons's chemistry in Guys and Dolls, but I didn't know until recently that they'd made another film together prior to their musical pairing. In Desiree, Brando plays Napoleon Bonaparte, and once again, he's paired up with Jean Simmons, the title character. Yes, we all know Bonaparte married a woman named Josephine, not Desiree, so what's the story about?
Daniel Taradash wrote a very interesting script, with exciting, passionate characters. The film lasts decades, starting from Bonaparte's introduction to Desiree, before he changed his name, through the memorable Battle of Waterloo. As famous a figure as he was, the film actually focuses on Desiree, the woman torn between Bonaparte and Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. She's vivacious, loving, strong, and smart. It's easy to see how the two very powerful men fell in love with her. And if you thought Jean and Brando had sizzling chemistry together, just wait until you see her with Michael Rennie. He's absolutely adorable in this movie, and when Brando humiliates Jean by leaving her for Merle Oberon, it's no wonder she considers crying on Michael's very tall, comforting shoulder.
The Oscar nominated costumes, designed by Charles Le Maire and Rene Hubert, are exquisitely beautiful. Jean gets to wear a different gown in every scene, even in the diary-writing montages. She wears a gorgeous turquoise dress for only ten seconds, but it's a beautiful ten seconds. If you've only seen Jean in The Big Country or Guys and Dolls, you've got to rent this movie if only to see how beautiful she looks when she really dolls up (no pun intended). Even though Brando gets first billing, it's her show.
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