Tonight's Saturday Night feature is the screen classic, Madame Bovary, starring Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan and Van Heflin. Directed by the master Vincente Minelli, his waltz scene is one of the most brilliant directorial pieces conceived for the silver screen. The use of the camera, the music, and those breaking windows! Breathtaking! If you can't watch it all, watch the ball.
'Madame Bovary,' Based on Novel by Flaubert, at Capitol -- Jennifer Jones in Lead
By BOSLEY CROWTHERPublished: August 26, 1949
If such a thing were needed in this candid day and age as a moral defense of "Madame Bovary," the classic novel of Gustave Flaubert, then Metro's handsome film version, which came to the Capitol yesterday, would be precisely the item to turn this unlikely trick. For not only is this picture a faithful transcription of the tale of the misguided nineteenth-century housewife who rushed down the primrose path to ruin, but Metro has actually put it in the form of an open defense.
With James Mason playing the author on trial, at the start of the film, for writing this "infamous" novel—as, indeed, Flaubert actually was—the studio has had Mr. Mason speak a virtual preface to the work and offer occasional commentaries as an off-screen voice as the story unreels. Thus it has made it specific that Emma Bovary's tragic career was not the result of willful sinning by a selfish and licentious dame but was the consequence of her environment, her upbringing and her childish dreams. "We had taught her to believe in Cinderella," Mr. Mason's voice tenderly remarks.
And this understanding of the lady is beautifully and tenderly put forth in the patient unfolding of the story which a cohort of talents has contrived. Emma, throughout the picture—throughout her unhappy life—is the victim of her hopeless illusions, the silt of a romantic age. Not in her poor but loving husband does she find the man of her dreams, not in her dazzling, high-born lover nor in the pitiful law clerk with whom she absorbs. Nothing remains for her ambition. The end is ruin and despair, shame and desolation, arsenic and death. It is all very sad and depressing, but that, says Mr. Mason, is life.
Well, at least, it is grist and fodder to Metro's fine-grinding mill, and the best that one could ask for has been made from this tragic tale. Robert Ardrey has put it together into a literate and playable script and Vincente Minelli has kept it moving with a smooth and refined directoral touch. The high point of his achievement, indeed, is a ballroom scene which spins in a whirl of rapture and crashes in a shatter of shame. In this one sequence, the director has fully visualized his theme.
MADAME BOVARY, screen play by Robert Ardrey, based on the novel by Gustave Flaubert, directed by Vincente Minelli; produced by Pandro S. Berman for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At the Capitol.
Gustave Flaubert . . . . . James Mason
Emma Bovary . . . . . Jennifer Jones
Charles Bovary . . . . . Van Heflin
Rodolphe Boulanger . . . . . Louis Jourdan
Leon Dupuis . . . . . Christopher Kent
J. Homais . . . . . Gene Lockhart
Lhereux . . . . . Frank Allenby
Mme. Dupuis . . . . . Gladys Cooper
Mayor Tuvache . . . . . John Abbott
Hyppolite . . . . . Henry Morgan
Dubocage . . . . . George Zucco