082 - Camille (1936)

Camille is a 19th Century love story about a Parisian courtesan who must choose between love or wealth.

Having gone from having nothing to having a full life of luxury in a matter of a couple of years, it is difficult to see why Marguerite Gautier (Greta Garbo) would have any reason to leave the Baron de Varville (Henry Daniell).

But, after meeting Armand Duval (Robert Taylor) at the theatre, Marguerite falls for his charms and after risking everything to be with him is told by Armand's father to leave and return to her life of luxury.

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
Camille isn't the first adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas play The Lady Of The Camellias. Indeed, a quick search on Wikipedia reveals that five previous silent movies have been based on the play as well as two more after the 1936 version. It is difficult to appreciate how, in such a saturated market, one film has rightly grown to such prominence ahead of its counterparts.

At heart, the story doesn't differ from the others - it is a typical forbidden love story where two people must overcome many obstacles in order to be together, only to have the metaphorical carpet swept from underneath their feet.

Marguerite's rise and fall has often been compared to Shakespeare's Hamlet, and her situation is beautifully summed up in the opening card as it explains that she is living on the "quicksands of popularity". As a character, her complex emotions and illness are difficult enough to explain in a review, so when Greta Garbo appears to be such a perfect fit for the role it is evident that she is the reason this film has risen above the rest.

Her brilliance as the film's main character is aided greatly by Robert Taylor's acting as Marguerite's long-standing admirer, Armand Duval. He places Marguerite on a pedestal, and so the audience places Garbo's acting in a similar light. Despite being seemingly overshadowed by Garbo, Taylor is able to contribute to the film in perhaps a greater manner than if he had tried to fight for some of the glory himself.

One of the truly great love movies.