ⓘ Camille (1936 film)


ⓘ Camille (1936 film)

Camille is a 1936 American romantic drama film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer directed by George Cukor, and produced by Irving Thalberg and Bernard H. Hyman, from a screenplay by James Hilton, Zoe Akins, and Frances Marion. The picture is based on the 1848 novel and 1852 play, La Dame aux Camelias, by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The film stars Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Jessie Ralph, Henry Daniell, and Laura Hope Crews. It grossed.842.000.

The film inspired Milton Benjamin to write and publish a song called "Ill Love Like Robert Taylor, Be My Greta Garbo". Camille was included in Time Magazines All-Time 100 Movies in 2005. It was also included at #33 in AFIs 100 Years.100 Passions.


1. Plot

Beautiful Marguerite Gautier Greta Garbo is a well- known courtesan, living in the demi-monde of mid-19th century Paris. Marguerites dressmaker and procuress, Prudence Duvernoy Laura Hope Crews, arranges an assignation at the theatre with a fabulously wealthy prospective patron, the Baron de Varville Henry Daniell. Marguerite has never met the Baron, and she briefly mistakes Armand Duval Robert Taylor, a handsome young man of good family but no great fortune, for the baron. She finds Armand charming, but when the mistake is explained, she accepts the Baron without hesitation.

Marguerite spends money carelessly, sometimes out of generosity, as when she bids a fortune on a team of horses in order to give an old coachman employment, but more often because she loves her lavish lifestyle and the late nights of dancing and drinking - and because she knows her days are numbered. She has consumption, which is a death sentence for anyone who lives as she does. She has bouts of severe illness, and during one spell, the only person who came to her door was Armand, bearing flowers. The baron contrived to be in England. She finds this out after she has recovered, and she invites him to her birthday party. The baron has just departed for a long stay in Russia. During the party, Marguerite retreats into the bedroom with a coughing spell and Armand follows, He professes his love, which is something she has never known. She gives him a key and tells him to send everyone home and come back later. While she is waiting for him, the baron returns unexpectedly. She orders Nanine to shoot the bolt on the door. The baron, who is clearly suspicious, plays the piano furiously, not quite masking the bell. He asks who might be at the door and, laughing, she says" The great romance of my life - That might have been.”

At Armands family home in the country, he asks his father for money to travel, to prepare for his career in the Foreign Service. He sends Marguerite a scathing letter he saw the barons carriage but when she comes to his rooms they reconcile immediately. She sees a miniature of his mother and is amazed to learn that his parents have loved each other for 30 years." Youll never love me 30 years,” she says, sadly." Ill love you all my life,” he replies, and they embrace. Fadeout. Fade in to the two of them on the floor, Armands head in her lap. He wants to take her to the country for the summer, to get well. She tells him to forget her but agrees in the end. However, she owes 40.000 francs, which must be paid. The baron gives her the money, as a parting gift, and slaps her in the face when she kisses him in thanks.

Armand takes her to a house in the country; Marguerite thrives on fresh milk and eggs and country walks and love. A shadow is cast by the discovery that the barons chateau is in the neighborhood. Marguerite tells him she has asked Prudence to sell everything, pay everything. ”Never doubt that I love you more than the world.” Armand asks her to marry him, but she says it isnt fitting. God might get angry.

The idyll ends when Armands father Lionel Barrymore comes to the house and, acknowledging her love is real, begs Marguerite to turn away from his son, knowing her past will ruin his chances at a career or profession or place in society. When Armand returns to the house, she is cold and dismissive and tells him the baron is expecting her. He watches her walk over the hill.

Back in Paris, at a gambling club, Armand comes face to face with the Baron and Marguerite, who is ill. Armand wins a fortune from the Baron at Baccarat and begs Marguerite to come with him. She lies and says she loves the Baron. Armand wounds the Baron in a duel and must leave the country for 6 months. When he returns, Marguerite is deathly ill. ”Perhaps its better if I live in your heart, where the world cant see me”, she says. She dies in his arms.


2. Cast

  • Wilson Benge as Attendant uncredited
  • Elizabeth Allan as Nichette, the Bride
  • Mabel Colcord as Madame Barjon uncredited
  • Laura Hope Crews as Prudence Duvernoy
  • Rex OMalley as Gaston
  • Henry Daniell as Baron de Varville
  • Robert Taylor as Armand Duval
  • Lenore Ulric as Olympe
  • Lionel Barrymore as Monsieur Duval
  • Mariska Aldrich as Friend of Camille uncredited
  • Greta Garbo as Marguerite Gautier
  • Jessie Ralph as Nanine, Marguerites Maid

3. Production

According to a news item in Daily Variety, M.G.M had considered changing the setting of the famous Alexandre Dumas, fils., story to modern times.

The film was not changed to modern times, but Thalberg wanted the film to have a more contemporary feeling than earlier Camilles. He wanted audiences to forget that they were watching a "costume" picture. He also felt that morality had changed since the earlier Camilles, and the fact that Marguerite was a prostitute was not as shameful anymore; so, Garbos character became more likeable than in previous productions. The modernization of the story proved to be successful.

While filming Marguerites death scene, Robert Taylor brought his phonograph to Garbos dressing room so that she could play Paul Robeson records to put her in the mood.

In the words of Camille Director George Cukor, "My mother had just died, and I had been there during her last conscious moments. I suppose I had a special awareness. I may have passed something on to Garbo without realizing it." Garbo later praised Cukors sensitivity: "Cukor gave me direction as to how to hold my hands", said Garbo. "He had seen how, when his mother lay dying, she folded her hands and just fell asleep."

While producing Camille, producer Irving Thalberg died. After filming was ended, and post-production began, Louis B. Mayer assigned Bernard Hyman as the films new producer. Hyman arranged re-takes, cut some scenes, or edited scenes from the original Thalberg produced film. It is not exactly known which scenes were edited or cut.

The famous death scene we see is not the original version from the first version of the film. In the original version, Garbo died on the bed, had more text to say, and folded her hands before she died. This original death scene is lost. Cukor thought that it didnt really feel very natural talking that much when you are about to die; so, Garbos last scene was re-written and re-shot three times. In the first and second alternative endings, Garbo was on the deathbed, with less words to say, but they still werent satisfied. They thought it seemed unreal for a dying woman to talk so much. In the third alternative ending, Garbo had to be even quieter, and just slowly slipped away in Robert Taylors arms.

The 1936 production of Camille was the eighty-fourth anniversary of its original stage presentation in Paris in 1852. It was also far from new to the films, since it was done once in 1915, twice in 1917, again in 1921 with Nazimova and Rudolph Valentino, and last in 1927 with Norma Talmadge.

News items in Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter on Jul. 25, 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. Barrymores 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 Barrymores assignment to the role of "Monsieur Duval", and Henry Daniells assignment to "Baron de Varville". Photographer William Daniels is mistakenly listed as a cast member in early Hollywood Reporter production charts. Camille marked the screen debut of actress Joan Leslie, who appeared under her real name, Joan Brodel.


4.1. Reception Promotion

The "Selling Angles" section in BoxOffice Magazine, Dec. 26, 1936, suggested tips for selling Camille. Theatre managers were advised to make a display of some of the famous Camilles of past decades, including Garbo as the latest to join the list of immortal actresses; have local florists stage a "Camille Show"; find old reviews from metropolitan daily papers back files and run them in conjunction with reviews of the modern film story; and print throwaways in the style of the old "Gas Light Era" programs. The suggested best "Catchlines" for selling Camille, according to BoxOffice, were:

  • "Again…Dumas classic love tale.with the screens most dramatic love team – Garbo and Taylor."
  • "Her love was like a great flame…burning…scorching…withering…and when the flame died, she no longer cared to live."
  • "Her destiny was to be loved…but not to love…until she met the man who was to change that destiny."

4.2. Reception Premiere

Camille had its grand premiere on December 12, 1936, at the brand new Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs, California. Many celebrities attended the gala which cost ten dollars a seat. The little desert resort of Palm Springs was turned upside down with all the commotion of the films premiere. Some of the film was actually buried in stone to commemorate the celebration. Ralph Bellamy, who was a leading civic figure and Racquet Club owner in Palm Springs, was master of ceremonies. Rumors were spread that Greta Garbo was staying at the desert resort and would attend the premiere, but these rumors proved to be unfounded. The reclusive Garbo remained that way.

At the gala premiere, Camille was given an enthusiastic reception; the critics praised it as the finest performance ever given by Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore, and Lauren Hope Crews, and the best work by Director George Cukor. The enthusiasm accorded the picture was seen as a tribute to the genius of the late Irving G. Thalberg, who conceived of, and was responsible for, the production. The 37-year-old Thalberg died just prior to the films release.


4.3. Reception Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $1.154.000 in the US and Canada, and $1.688.000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $388.000.


5. Awards


  • New York Film Critics Circle Awards: NYFCC Award; Best Actress, Greta Garbo; 1937.


  • Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Actress in a Leading Role, Greta Garbo; 1937.

6. Cultural references

  • In the 1982 musical film Annie, the film is both seen and referenced to. A portion of the film is seen after the number "Lets Go to the Movies". With the 1957 current logo of MGM Logo. The final scene is also alluded to in the lyrics of the song: "Greta Garbo is probably crying/While Robert Taylor is locked in her dying embrace."
  • Margaret Booth 1898–2002 was the editor for Camille and also the supervising editor for Annie 45 years later.
  • In the lyrics of "How Can Love Survive", from the Broadway production of The Sound of Music, there is a reference to Camille: "I cannot die like Camille for you."
  • On the series premiere of The Lucy Show in 1962, the Carmichael and Bagley families are going to see the film on television. Lucy Carmichael Lucille Ball attempts to use the films television airing to keep her daughter Chris Candy Moore from going on a date, much to the annoyance of her friend/roommate Vivian Bagley Vivian Vance.