“I do not think it is easy to be a successful scoundrel.”
A caddish social climber (George Sanders) in 19th century England woos a series of women, then discards them — all while remaining in love with a penniless widow (Angela Lansbury).
George Sanders starred in all three of director Albert Lewin’s literary adaptations: W. Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence (1942), Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), and this film (based on Guy de Maupassant’s novel Bel Ami). With his droll delivery and arrogant demeanor, Sanders at first seems perfectly cast in the title role as corrupt journalist George Duroy, whose monetary and social aspirations lead him to cruelly manipulate the countless women who fall for his charms. Yet we never fully understand why Sanders’ “Bel Ami” is so appealing to females: he’s handsome, but not irresistibly so, and is ultimately too icily self-contained to convince us of his persuasive powers as a lover. With that said, the women he woos — particularly Angela Lansbury as his one true love, and Ann Dvorak as the wealthy wife of his consumptive best friend (John Carradine) — give fine, empathetic performances, allowing us to vicariously experience the suffering he inflicts. Beautifully shot, with striking cinematography by Russell Metty, and creative period detail.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Angela Lansbury as Clotilde
- Ann Dvorak as Madeleine
- Atmospheric cinematography by Russell Metty
- Creative set designs
No, but it’s worth viewing once.