AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: George Cukor (Dir)
Release Date:   1 Jan 1937
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 12 Dec 1936
Production Date:   28 Jul--27 Oct 1936; retakes began 7 Nov 1936
Duration (in mins):   108
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Greta Garbo (Marguerite [Gautier])  
    Robert Taylor (Armand [Duval])  
    Lionel Barrymore (Monsieur Duval)  
    Elizabeth Allan (Nichette)  
    Jessie Ralph (Nanine)  
    Henry Daniell (Baron de Varville)  
    Lenore Ulrich (Olympe)  
    Laura Hope Crews (Prudence [Duvernoy])  
    Rex O'Malley (Gaston)  
    Russell Hardie (Gustave)  
    E. E. Clive (Saint Gaudens)  
    Douglas Walton (Henry)  
    Marion Ballou (Corinne)  
    Joan Brodel (Marie Jeanette)  
    June Wilkins (Louise)  
    Fritz Leiber Jr. (Valentin)  
    Elsie Esmonde (Mme. Duval)  
    Eily Malyon (Maid)  
    Dorothy Granger (Woman in theater box)  
    Lita Chevret (Woman in theater box)  
    Adrienne Matzennauer (Soprano)  
    Eugene King (Gypsy leader)  

Summary: In mid-nineteenth century Paris, beautiful courtesan Marguerite Gautier, is known by all as "the lady of the camellias" because of her preference for the flowers. Marguerite's friends know her as a woman whose heart is bigger than her pocketbook. Though she is given money and jewels by her many admirers, her extravagance and generosity have kept her in debt. Marguerite's friend, Prudence Duvernoy, tells her to find a rich man who can take care of her debts and one night, arranges for her to meet the wealthy Baron de Varville. While Prudence leaves their theater box to find de Varville, handsome young Armand Duval, who has been in love with Marguerite and secretly followed her for weeks, goes to her. Because they have never met, she thinks that he is the baron and is immediately attracted to him. When she is introduced to the real Baron de Varville by Prudence, Marguerite is disappointed, but realizes that she must leave with him. Six months later, Marguerite has become de Varville's mistress and has indulged herself extravagantly with his money. When he goes on a business trip to Russia, her frail health will not allow her to accompany him, so she stays home. At a coach auction, she sees Armand again and is told by her maid, Nanine, that he came to inquire about Marguerite's health every day during her illness. Later, Marguerite invites him to a party at her home, and when she becomes ill, he carries her into her bedroom and tells her that he is deeply in love with her and wants to take care of her. She feels that he does not belong with people such as her friends and asks him to leave, but gives him her key and asks him to return later. Before Armand can return, however, the baron returns to see Marguerite one more time. Marguerite then has the door bolted, and Armand is unable to open the door. Despondent, Armand then goes to see his family and asks for money to travel. Monsieur Duval, a kind and loving father, agrees to give his son the money he wants, and Armand then writes a bitter note to Marguerite telling her that he is going away to forget her. After receiving the note, Marguerite goes to Armand's apartment. Seeing her, he again expresses his love and begs her to go to the country with him to regain her health. Marguerite accepts and leaves with him, telling no one where she is going. During the summer, they fall more deeply in love and are very happy until she learns that the adjoining property is the estate of the baron. After selling some jewelry to pay for the wedding of a young friend and give her a dowry, Marguerite and Armand dream of their own wedding, but Marguerite realizes that she will never have that happiness. Near the end of the summer, Armand writes to his father for money from his inheritance. When Monsieur Duval receives the letter, he becomes concerned and tries to find out what has happened. After learning about Marguerite, he goes to the country house and meets her one afternoon while Armand is out. Monsieur Duval soon realizes that Marguerite truly loves Armand, but convinces her that the relationship will only bring his son disgrace and unhappiness. When Armand comes back that evening, Marguerite is wearing a gown and tells him that she is going to go back to the baron, then leaves the cottage. The baron takes Marguerite back, but now on his own, less loving and generous terms. Back in Paris, she resumes the old life, but its rigors ruin her health. Soon she is so deeply in debt and ill that there is no hope for her recovery. With Nanine's help she writes to Armand, but before she can finish the letter, he comes to her. Seeing how ill she is, he promises to take her back to the country to regain her strength. She dies in his arms, knowing that she is as happy as she will ever be. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: George Cukor (Dir)
  Edward Woehler (Asst dir)
  E. Mason Hopper (Mob scene dir)
Producer: David Lewis (Assoc prod)
Writer: Zoë Akins (Scr)
  Frances Marion (Scr)
  James Hilton (Scr)
Photography: William Daniels (Photog)
  Karl Freund (Photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Fredric Hope (Art dir assoc)
  Edwin B. Willis (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Margaret Booth (Film ed)
Costumes: Adrian (Gowns)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Dance: Val Raset (Dances staged by)
Production Misc: Ulric Busch (Unit mgr)
  Harry Edwards (Props)
  Nathalie Bucknall (Research)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils (Paris, 1848) and his play of the same name (Paris, 2 Feb 1852).
Authors: Alexandre Dumas fils

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. 25/12/1936 dd/mm/yyyy LP6845 Yes

PCA NO: 2825
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Melodrama
Subjects (Major): Financial crisis
  Paris (France)
Subjects (Minor): Camellias
  City-country contrast
  Death and dying
  Fathers and sons

Note: The following written prologue follows the opening credits: "1847: In the gay half-world of Paris, the gentlemen of the day met the girls of the moment at certain theatres, balls and gambling clubs, where the code was discretion--but the game was romance. This is the story of one of those pretty creatures who lived on the quicksands of popularity--Marguerite Gautier, who brightened her wit with champagne--and sometimes with tears in her eyes."
       The Alexandre Dumas, fils novel was adapted into a play that was first produced in Paris in 1848. Information contained in a Sep 1937 feature article on Camille in Picturegoer Weekly notes that Dumas based his fictional heroine on Alphonsine Plessis, a French woman with whom he had had a relationship for eleven months. Plessis, who changed her name to Marie Plessis, died heavily in debt on 3 Feb 1947, at the age of twenty-three. According to a news item in DV , at one time M-G-M considered changing the setting of the Dumas story to modern times. Writer Ernest Vajda was the first screenwriter assigned to the project according to a 8 Nov 1935 HR news item, but Vajda's name is not included in credits after production began and the extent of his contribution to the completed film has not been determined. News items in DV and HR on 25 Jul 1936 note that John Barrymore was originally cast in the role of "Baron de Varville," but a bout of pneumonia prevented him from working on the picture. Barrymore's brother Lionel was scheduled to replace John in the role; however, a few days later, it was reported that a change in casting resulted in Lionel Barrymore's assignment to the role of "Monsieur Duval," and Henry Daniell's assignment to "Baron de Varville." Photographer William Daniels is mistakenly listed as a cast member in early HR production charts.
       A note in HCN on 4 Feb 1937 advises readers that the music played on the Herbert Stothart soundtrack during the scene in which "Armand" carries "Marguerite" into the barn of their country cottage is "Makin' Whoopee!" [by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson]; in fact, though the first few notes of the Stothart melody is very similar to the opening bars of the Kahn-Donaldson song, the Stothart music is played at a much slower tempo and immediately changes to an entirely different melody. This was Greta Garbo's first film since Anna Karenina , released on 6 Sep 1935. A programme for the Plaza Theatre in New York's premiere of the film indicates that opening night tickets sold for $5.50. Camille marked the screen debut of actress Joan Leslie, who appeared under her real name, Joan Brodel.
       Modern sources credits Jack D. Moore and Henry Grace with set decoration and Joan and Eugene Joseff with creation of the costume jewelry word by Garbo. According to a biography of director George Cukor, he agreed to do retakes on the film at the personal request of M-G-M production head Irving Thalberg whom he regarded highly. The biography quotes Cukor as calling Thalberg "the most brilliant, the most creative producer that I worked with. That includes everyone . Garbo was thirty-one when she made Camille and Robert Taylor was twenty-five. She earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for the picture but lost to Luise Rainer for The Good Earth . Garbo was named Best Actress by the New York Film Critics and was named one of the Best Actresses of the year by the National Board of Review. The film was also selected as one of the best of the year by the National Board of Review, and was included in the "Ten Best" list of NYT . Contemporary critics praised Garbo's performance as perhaps her best. The Var reviewed said, "Miss Garbo has never done anything better. Her impersonation of Marguerite Gautier is sure to go down among her best portraits." Frank S. Nugent of NYT wrote, "Miss Garbo has interpreted Marguerite Gautier with the subtlety that has earned her the title 'first lady of the screen'....and mark her as one is her performance in the death scene--so simply, delicately and movingly played--which convinces me that Camille is Garbo's best performance." Many modern critics have also pointed to Camille as Garbo's best performance. Dumas' novel was the basis for the 1853 Giuseppe Verdi-Francesco Maria Piave opera La Traviata . Among the many films which were the based on or inspired by the Dumas novel are, a 1907 Danish short entitled La dame aux camélias ; a 1915 Shubert production, entitled Camille directed by Albert Capellani and starring Clara Kimball Young and Paul Capellani; a 1917 Fox film, also entitled Camille , directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starring Theda Bara and Albert Roscoe (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.0580 and F1.0579); and a 1984 British-made television movie, directed by Desmond Davis and starring Greta Scacchi and Colin Firth. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   23 Jul 36   p. 3.
Daily Variety   25 Jul 36   p. 1.
Daily Variety   30 Jul 36   p. 6.
Daily Variety   31 Jul 36   p. 2.
Daily Variety   12 Dec 36   p. 3.
Film Daily   15 Dec 36   p. 8.
Hollywood Citizen-News   4-Feb-37   
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jul 36   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Aug 36   p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 36   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Nov 36   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Dec 36   p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily   14 Dec 36   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald   24 Oct 36   pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald   19 Dec 36   p. 54.
Motion Picture Herald   26 Dec 36   pp. 19-27
New York Times   23 Jan 36   p.13.
Picturegoer Weekly   4-Sep-37   
Variety   27 Jan 36   p. 12.

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