Madame Bovary (1949)

114 mins | Drama | August 1949

Director:

Vincente Minnelli

Writer:

Robert Ardrey

Producer:

Pandro S. Berman

Cinematographer:

Robert Planck

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Onscreen credits include a written acknowledgment stating that actors Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan and Christopher Kent appeared in the film "by arrangement with David O. Selznick." In the opening credits, James Mason is listed last, and his credit reads "portraying Gustave Flaubert, the author." In the closing credits, however, Mason is listed second. The film also contains the following written epilogue: "Gustave Flaubert's acquittal, almost a century ago, was a triumphant moment in the history of the free mind. His masterpiece, Madame Bovary , became a part of our heritage, to live--like truth itself--forever." Flaubert's novel was first published in installments under the title "Madame Bovary: Moeurs de province," in Revue de Paris magazine (1 Oct--15 Dec 1856). Following the first publication of Madame Bovary , the French government charged Flaubert with writing an immoral story. Flaubert stood trial in Jan and Feb of 1857, and narrowly escaped conviction. Voice-over narration spoken by James Mason as "Flaubert" is heard intermittently throughout the picture.
       According to an Oct 1947 HR news item, M-G-M "leased" the screen treatment of Madame Bovary from writer Robert Ardrey for $10,000 a year. An Aug 1948 HR news item indicates that Lana Turner was originally set for the title role. The film marked the American motion picture debut of Swedish actor Alf Kjellin, who was billed as Christopher Kent. According to modern sources, Selznick agreed to loan out Jones on the condition that M-G-M also use Kjellin and Jourdan for the film. According to memos reprinted in a modern source, Selznick, who married Jones in 1949, sent several memos to ... More Less

Onscreen credits include a written acknowledgment stating that actors Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan and Christopher Kent appeared in the film "by arrangement with David O. Selznick." In the opening credits, James Mason is listed last, and his credit reads "portraying Gustave Flaubert, the author." In the closing credits, however, Mason is listed second. The film also contains the following written epilogue: "Gustave Flaubert's acquittal, almost a century ago, was a triumphant moment in the history of the free mind. His masterpiece, Madame Bovary , became a part of our heritage, to live--like truth itself--forever." Flaubert's novel was first published in installments under the title "Madame Bovary: Moeurs de province," in Revue de Paris magazine (1 Oct--15 Dec 1856). Following the first publication of Madame Bovary , the French government charged Flaubert with writing an immoral story. Flaubert stood trial in Jan and Feb of 1857, and narrowly escaped conviction. Voice-over narration spoken by James Mason as "Flaubert" is heard intermittently throughout the picture.
       According to an Oct 1947 HR news item, M-G-M "leased" the screen treatment of Madame Bovary from writer Robert Ardrey for $10,000 a year. An Aug 1948 HR news item indicates that Lana Turner was originally set for the title role. The film marked the American motion picture debut of Swedish actor Alf Kjellin, who was billed as Christopher Kent. According to modern sources, Selznick agreed to loan out Jones on the condition that M-G-M also use Kjellin and Jourdan for the film. According to memos reprinted in a modern source, Selznick, who married Jones in 1949, sent several memos to M-G-M throughout the course of the production, advising the studio on details ranging from Jones's makeup to the development of her character. Modern sourcess add that Selznick was reportedly instrumental in the firing of Dotty Ponedel, a makeup artist assigned to Jones.
       The film received an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Art Direction and Set Decoration. Among the many other screen adaptations of Flaubert's novel are: the 1932 Allied Pictures Corp. film Unholy Love , directed by Albert Ray and starring H. B. Warner and Lila Lee (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films 1931-40; F3.4867); the 1934 French film Madame Bovery , directed by Jean Renoir and starring Valentine Tessier and Pierre Renoir; the 1937 German film directed by Gerhard Lamprecht and starring Pola Negri; the 1969 German-Italian production Madame Bovary (Play the Game or Leave the Bed) , directed by John Scott and starring Edwige Fenech; the BBC/Time-Life production televised as part of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre in 1976, directed by Rodney Bennett and starring Francesca Annis and Tom Conti; and the 1991 French film directed by Claude Chabrol and starring Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Francois Balmer. A stage adaptation of Flaubert's novel, written and directed by Benn W. Levy, opened in New York on 16 Nov 1938 and starred Constance Cummings and Eric Portman. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Jul 1949.
---
Daily Variety
1 Aug 49
p. 3.
Film Daily
1 Aug 49
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 48
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 48
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 49
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 49
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Aug 49
pp. 4705-06.
New York Times
19 Nov 49
p. 13.
Variety
3 Aug 49
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Women's cost
Men's cost
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Hairstyles des by
Hairstyles for Miss Jones by
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Grip
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Paris, 1857).
MUSIC
"Emma Bovary Waltz" by Miklos Rozsa.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1949
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 25 August 1949
Production Date:
mid December 1948--mid March 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 July 1949
Copyright Number:
LP2461
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
114
Length(in feet):
10,242
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
13686
SYNOPSIS

In 1857, French author Gustave Flaubert is ordered to stand trial to defend accusations that his novel, Madame Bovary , is "an outrage against public morals and established customs." During the trial, prosecutors argue that the subject of the book, Emma Bovary, is a "disgrace to France and an insult to womanhood," and that the book should be banned for its indecency. In response, Flaubert contends that his story is about forgiveness and that many women like Emma exist in the real world. Flaubert then illustrates his point by telling the court the story of Emma, beginning when she was twenty years old and living a lonely life on her father's farm: One night, a country physician named Charles Bovary arrives at the farm to examine Emma's father, who has an injured leg. Emma, who has spent years living in a convent and fantasizing about love and romance, falls instantly in love with Charles. The two are married a short time later and settle into their modest home in the small town of Yonville, in Normandy. While Charles establishes his practice in the town, Emma sets out to decorate her new home just as she had always dreamed. She is greatly disappointed, however, when her expectations of immediate social prominence are not met. Determined to fulfill another one of her dreams, Emma tells Charles that she wants a child, specifically a boy. Emma is disappointed yet again when, months later, she gives birth to a girl. Emma grows increasingly bored, morbid and depressed in the years that follow, and hardly participates in the upbringing of her daughter, Berthe. She also ... +


In 1857, French author Gustave Flaubert is ordered to stand trial to defend accusations that his novel, Madame Bovary , is "an outrage against public morals and established customs." During the trial, prosecutors argue that the subject of the book, Emma Bovary, is a "disgrace to France and an insult to womanhood," and that the book should be banned for its indecency. In response, Flaubert contends that his story is about forgiveness and that many women like Emma exist in the real world. Flaubert then illustrates his point by telling the court the story of Emma, beginning when she was twenty years old and living a lonely life on her father's farm: One night, a country physician named Charles Bovary arrives at the farm to examine Emma's father, who has an injured leg. Emma, who has spent years living in a convent and fantasizing about love and romance, falls instantly in love with Charles. The two are married a short time later and settle into their modest home in the small town of Yonville, in Normandy. While Charles establishes his practice in the town, Emma sets out to decorate her new home just as she had always dreamed. She is greatly disappointed, however, when her expectations of immediate social prominence are not met. Determined to fulfill another one of her dreams, Emma tells Charles that she wants a child, specifically a boy. Emma is disappointed yet again when, months later, she gives birth to a girl. Emma grows increasingly bored, morbid and depressed in the years that follow, and hardly participates in the upbringing of her daughter, Berthe. She also has a brief affair with a young man named Leon Dupuis, who lives with his mother. Emma is overjoyed one day when she and Charles receive an invitation to attend a ball at the home of the aristocratic Marquis D'Andervilliers. Emma disregards Charles' concerns that they will be out of place at the party, and begins planning her dress. Wearing an exquisite gown chosen by Monsieur Lhereux, a dealer of fine linens, Emma makes a great impression at the ball. While Emma dances through the night, Charles drinks heavily and awkwardly wanders around the party alone. Emma's revelry comes to an abrupt end when Charles makes a drunken appearance on the dance floor and asks her to dance with him. Profoundly embarrassed, Emma insists that Charles take her home. Days later, Leon visits Emma and attempts to resume his affair with her, but the romance is spoiled when Leon's mother arrives with news that she has arranged for her son to study law in Paris. Soon after Leon leaves Yonville, aristocrat Rodolphe Boulanger arrives and attempts to pursue a furtive romance with Emma. Though her marriage continues to deteriorate, Emma believes that she can save it by encouraging Charles to become the rich and famous husband she always wanted. To accomplish this, Emma pressures Charles into agreeing to perform a dangerous but revolutionary operation to repair the legs of the village invalid. Charles refuses the operation at the last minute, however, as he realizes how dangerous it is and how hollow Emma's "storybook fantasies" are. Emma eventually gives up hope of happiness with Charles and continues her romance with Rodolphe. Although she hopes to realize her dream of creating the perfect home with Rodolphe, he calls her obsession with his home an intrusion on his privacy. Emma and Rodolphe's planned elopement to Italy ends in sorrow for Emma when Rodolphe leaves for Italy alone. The rejection leaves Emma distraught, and she spends the next several months in her bed. When Emma recovers from her depression, she and Charles attend the opera in Rouen, where they meet Leon, who is back from Paris. Emma stays alone in Rouen for one night but rejects Leon's attempts to resume their affair. When she returns to Yonville, Emma learns that Charles has left town to attend his father's funeral. During Charles' absence, Lhereux demands that Emma repay her debts to him. Emma goes to Leon to ask for money, but he has nothing to lend her and confesses that he is only a clerk at his law firm. Desperate to repay her debt before Charles returns, Emma visits Rodolphe, who has returned from Italy, and pleads with him for money. When Rodolphe refuses to help her, Emma decides to kill herself and steals some arsenic from a pharmacy. She ingests the arsenic before she returns home, and despite Charles' attempts to save her, dies. After concluding his story about Emma by summing up her legacy, Flaubert is acquitted of all charges against him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.