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Erich von Stroheim
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After a brief informal meeting two months earlier when they were impressed with each other, Countess Marie Walewska formally meets Napoleon Bonaparte at a ball in Warsaw. When Napoleon notes her husband is three times her age, and as he is taken with her charms, he unsuccessfully tries to seduce her. She ignores his frequent letters and flowers until a few grim Polish leaders led by Senator Malachowski urge her to give into his desires as a personal sacrifice in order to save Poland. She goes to him despite the humiliation of her husband, who leaves for Rome to annul their marriage. They are extremely happy for a while; Napoleon divorces childless Empress Josephine and Marie eventually becomes pregnant. She is about to tell Napoleon about her baby when he tells her he decided to marry Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. He explains it will be a political marriage to insure his future son could rule securely with Hapsburg blood in him. It will not affect their relationship, he says, ...Written by
Arthur Hausner <email@example.com>
This film lost more money for MGM than any other of its films during the period from 1920 to 1949. See more »
Countess Marie Walewska:
You say you're lonely. Where would you receive a friend? In your heart? That's too full of yourself. In your mind? That's too full of the world. And your desires are unworthy of friendship. You will always be lonely, sire.
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When the film leaves Walewska behind to follow Napoleon, it drags.
Ever since I first saw "Conquest" back in '38, I've been convinced that the first half of the film is a magnificent production, while the second half is terribly slow,as Clarence Brown's films always tended to be. The magnificent opening, with the cossacks invading the Walewski Palace, is typical of the best Clarence Brown, even if reminds you of Josef von Sternberg's "The Scarlet Empress". The trouble with the picture is that it starts telling the story or Marie Walewska, and in the middle leaves Walewska (and Garbo!) behind to tell us the political and military fall of Napoleon, which it does very badly. It is typical of this Garbo film, that its best scene omits her, and is a verbal duel between Charles Boyer and Maria Ouspenskaya. Garbo is magnificent, but Boyer was a more talented performer, and is the only actor ever to "steal" a picture from her. Magnificent production, a screen play that has no unity, and a direction that drags, conspire to make you admire Garbo, Boyer and Ouspenskaya during the first half, and sleep through the second.
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