Time: 109 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Garbo).
Garbo takes self-sacrifice to a whole new level in this rendition of the classic tale of a kept woman who discovers what true love is in the arms of a handsome, honorable young man. Love may be a glorious experience, but when a lady depends on the favors of rich admirers to keep up her expensive lifestyle, it's a luxury one cannot afford. Marguerite (Garbo) is one of the most sought after women in Paris and is content with her life of meaningless encounters and outrageous parties. Until she met the honest, sweet and charming Armand Duval (Taylor), she believed all men wanted from her was a good time.
Armand sees past the party girl and makes an effort to get to know the woman underneath all the ruffles and jewels. Unfortunately, since he doesn't have enough money to support her, she's forced to continue her relationship with Baron de Varville (Daniell), a man who doesn't like to share his toys. When her precarious health takes another turn for the worst, she allows herself to indulge in her feelings for Armand and goes away with him to the country, to the detriment of her "friendship" with the baron. Their idyllic romance quickly hits a major roadblock in the form of paternal disapproval. Knowing in her heart that she's not long for this world, Marguerite shows her honorable side when she agrees to let Armand go (seemingly to a more upstanding life), breaking his heart by returning to the arms of de Varville. Of course, he never really stops loving her and is by her side when she takes that final journey to the other side, content that she at least experienced a few moments of true love.
While CAMILLE is considered one of Garbo's best films, I think it might be too melodramatic and old-fashioned for most modern movie watchers. However, her performance is enchanting, going from flighty to forlorn with the greatest of ease and hitting every emotional high-note in between. She also has amazing chemistry with Robert Taylor (they were lovers in real life), which helps buoy the rather old-fashioned values on display here. He proves that personality goes a long way to winning a woman's heart, regardless of one's financial situation. While most parents would be hard pressed to welcome a lady of the evening into their family with open arms, Marguerite is not some common gutter snipe, but a refined, intelligent, independent woman with a somewhat dubious moral compass.
Women of that time period didn't really have many options open to them. They were forced to survive through the good graces of men husband, father, lover or employer. Personally, I can hardly blame her choice of profession. At least she has some control over her life. That being said, she isn't left with much but her dignity by the end of the film. Her illness is a convenient plot device that allows her to redeem her wayward life. There's no way she'd let the only man to ever love her walk out the door, even with family pressure, if she was healthy. It's a major cop out, that the actors manage, through their great talent, to turn into a denouement filled with power, class and grace. If only we could all exit this life as sweetly as Garbo. A must see for those wishing to see what the mystique of Garbo is all about. Those not already a fan of classic film won't be converted by this picture.