Camille (1936)

“Never be jealous again! Never doubt that I love you more than the world — more than myself.”

Synopsis:
In 19th century Paris, a sickly courtesan (Greta Garbo) whose bills are paid by a wealthy baron (Henry Daniell) falls in love with a young admirer (Robert Taylor) whose father (Lionel Barrymore) fears for his reputation.

Genres:

Review:
Greta Garbo inhabited one of her most iconic roles as the title character in this adaptation (by George Cukor) of Alexandre Dumas fils’ novel about the moral policing of love in a class-driven landscape of sexual politics. Garbo is continually reminded by her bawdy advisor (Laura Hope Crews) that earning her keep through charm and allure while living in high fashion must be her aim — but when Taylor falls head over heels in love with the consumption-ridden Garbo and the couple experience an idyllic summer together in the countryside, Garbo knows her goals for life (albeit the limited amount she has left) have shifted irrevocably. Only her complete devotion to Taylor can convince her to give him up — supposedly for his own good, though that proves to be utterly wrong-headed on every count. Cukor nicely directs numerous scenes of the couple reveling in each other’s company; it’s easy to believe in their mutual infatuation, and (of course) challenging to watch Camille sacrificing her future on behalf of propriety — though viewers should rest assured that this adaptation allows the lovers a sweet form of reconciliation.

Note: Watch for an unexpectedly powerful and startling moment, as Daniell responds to Garbo’s request for $40,000 to cover her expenses.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Greta Garbo as Camille
  • Lush cinematography

Must See?
Yes, for Garbo’s Oscar-nominated performance. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Camille (1936)”

  1. In all fairness, I’ll agree that this is a must for Garbo fans. But, personally, as much as I like Garbo, I’m not a fan of this film. Even this rewatch now was a little tough for me. At the risk of seeming a non-romantic (which I’m not), I find the whole story a bit too much melodrama – and the film over-earnestly so.

    When I lived in New York, I saw a stage version (a revival) off-Broadway, performed by Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company- with Ludlam starring as Camille. Although he was in drag, of course, it wasn’t really a drag performance. Ludlam was a highly skilled comedian and the script (an adaptation by him) played more like – well, a ridiculous parody. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on a stage – and the way I’ve always preferred the tale of Marguerite Gautier.

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