Monthly Archives: January 2019

Madame Bovary (1949) by Vincente Minnelli: the Waltz Scene with Jennifer Jones and Louis Jourdan.

By John P. Walsh

In the 1949 film Madame Bovary directed by Vincente Minnelli, beautiful and charming Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) meets wealthy Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) at a ball where he literally sweeps her off her feet. Selfishly aggravated by her husband Charles Bovary (Van Heflin) for not fitting into high society, Madame Bovary begins a love affair with Rodolphe. Though the pair scheme to elope to Italy, Rodolphe does not love Madame Bovary. 

The Waltz Scene was Filmed to the Music 

One of the film’s most carefully wrought and delightful scenes is this ballroom sequence. It was one of the last segments to be shot. The film footage was tailored to Miklós Rózsa’s music. Minnelli explained to the composer in advance the camera movements so he could write the music in an arrangement for two pianos. The scene was then filmed to match it. Their artistic collaboration produced one of cinema’s most original scenes uniting robust music with weaving and gliding images on film.

Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) and Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) waltz at the ball. It is one of the film’s most delightful scenes and one of the last to be shot. Director Vincente Minnelli made certain its choreography carefully matched the music of Miklós Rózsa. Madame Bovary was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.

“Break the Windows”

As Rodolphe swirls her, Emma Bovary’s head spins until she becomes dizzy. The viewer sees her disorientation as the camera takes her viewpoint. She keeps dancing but asks for fresh air. Her request leads to an extraordinary and incredible reaction by the stewards. They start to smash the ballroom’s windows with chairs to help her cool down. This fantastically destructive action of broken glass aligns with the destruction of Emma’s romantic illusions throughout the film. 

In reaction to Madame Bovary becoming dizzy while waltzing with a new lover, the stewards smash the ballroom windows to give her air. The extraordinary action ultimately becomes symbolic of the destruction of Madame Bovary’s romantic illusions with handsome and wealthy Rodolphe.

Night of Repressed Passion

Along with her husband’s boorish behavior at the ball and everywhere else, her romantic disappointment leaves Madame Bovary feeling publicly humiliated. Instead of love and excitement, she runs out of the ball in shame. Though she yearns for happiness and excitement, her pursuit of selfish pleasures ends in scandal and ruin.

Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful and equally insightful to the character’s selfish and nervous personality.

A film poster for Madame Bovary. There were several different versions.

Publicity photo for Madame Bovary showed the love triangle of Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan, and Van Heflin.

Thirty-year-old Jennifer Jones plays Gustave Flaubert’s doomed title character, Madame Bovary, from his 1856 serial novel in Vincente Minnelli’s 1949 film of the same name.

Van Heflin is Charles Bovary, whom Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) had loved and hoped to build a respectable life, but in whom she grew disillusioned.

Madame Bovary loves Rodolphe. They plan to elope to Italy together–but Rodolphe leaves for Italy without her.

The film story is told at one remove from the audience since it is narrated as part of the trial of its author, Gustave Flaubert, accused of corrupting morals for writing it.

Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) is indulged by an unscrupulous shop-keeper as she lives beyond her means and takes on heavy debt.

Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful and equally insightful to the character’s selfish and nervous personality. In the end she finds her own death more attractive than living with her shattered romantic and financial dreams. Charles, who always loved her, begs her to wait for a doctor to arrive, but Madame Bovary sighs, “Oh, Charles, why are you always trying to save me?”

1949 film posters for Madame Bovary directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Jennifer Jones.

 

 

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Images of Ballet.

Pointe shoes

Pointe shoes.

Marie Rambert (1888-1982) was a prominent dance teacher in British Ballet. She is pictured here in the late 1940’s with students. Rambert founded the Rambert Dance Company which is active today.

In the late 19th century, Ballet developed mainly in Russia. That development included the revival of the male role and rise of the pas de deux.

Ballet Society, New York, 1948. Photo: Irving Penn.

THE DREAM. Choreographer: Frederick Ashton. Music: Felix Mendelssohn. Story: W. Shakespeare.

The Dream is a one-act ballet adapted from Shakespeare created in 1964 for the Royal Ballet. Depicted is elegant Oberon, king of the forest fairies, in a later production.

ONEGIN. Choreographer: John Cranko. Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Story: A. Pushkin.

With music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) and first performed in 1965, Onegin is one of the most popular story ballets for audiences to watch and for dancers to aspire to perform in. His ballet masterpiece, Onegin was created by John Cranko (1927-1973). The lead roles of Tatiana and Onegin, and Olga and Lensky, are finely drawn characters who tell a story of love and tragedy through a series of intricate and diverse dance sequences.

MAYERLING. Choreographer: Kenneth MacMillan. Music: Franz Liszt. Story: G. Freeman.

A staple of The Royal Ballet since its premiere in 1978, Mayerling was created by principal choreographer and former artistic director Kenneth MacMillan (1929-1992). It is the tragic story based on a true story of the murder-suicide of the crown prince of Austria-Hungary and his mistress. The music is by Franz Liszt. Appearing in virtually every scene in a three-act ballet, the male lead dancer performs with five different ballerinas. It is one of the most demanding roles of the ballet stage. Mayerling is the Imperial hunting lodge in the Vienna Woods where the bodies of the pair were discovered on January 30, 1889.

Ballerina: Pierina Legnani (1868-1930).

Pierina Legnani (1868-1930) is considered the greatest Italian ballerina of the late nineteenth century. Legnani trained at La Scala Theatre Ballet School in Milan and danced famously in Europe, especially Italy and Russia. In the photograph she is depicted in 1896 at the Imperial Marinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She is in the lead role in La Perle, an original production created for Legnani.

A production at The Mariinsky Theater of ballet and opera which opened in 1860.

Pierina Legnani and Olga Preobrajenska (1871-1962) in 1899. They were two of the greatest ballerinas in the late nineteenth century.

GISELLE. Choreographer: Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. Music: Adolphe Adam. Story: Théophile Gautier and Vernoy de Saint-Georges.

Natalya Bessmertnova and Mikhail Lavrovsky dance the roles of Giselle and Albrecht in Adam’s ballet Giselle. With its premiere at the Paris Opera (Salle Le Peletier) in June 1841, the ballet Giselle was a triumph and staged across Europe. The music is composed by Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) and became the French composer’s most popular and enduring work. Musically, Adam introduced the leitmotif, that is, a specific theme for a character who appears on stage in the ballet. The libretto was scored by Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges (1799-1875) with choreography by Jean Coralli (1779-1854) and Jules Perrot (1810-1892). The story is about two lovers, Giselle and Albrecht. When Giselle discovers that Albrecht is betrothed to Bathilde she dies of a broken heart at the end of Act I. This leads to the appearance in Act II of a group of otherworldly and potentially mortally dangerous “Wilis,” a type of young female vampire, intent on revenge for Giselle by arranging for Albrecht’s destruction.

Paris Opera (Salle Le Peletier) in 1844 by A. Provost. The print depects the theatre at the time of Adolphe Adam’s triumphant ballet Giselle. The opera building, opened in 1820, was destroyed by fire in 1873 and replaced in a new location by the Palais Garnier.

Opera Le Peletier salle in 1858 by Gustave Janet (1829-1898).

Street ballet.

COPPÉLIA. Choreographer: Arthur Saint-Léon. Music: Léo Delibes. Story: Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter.

Coppélia is based on Der Sandmann by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822). The comic ballet was choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon (1821-1870) to the music of Léo Delibes (1836-1891). The libretto is by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter (1828-1899). The comedy about mischief-making village folk premiered in May 1870 and, though it later went on to become one of the most popular works of the Paris Opera Ballet, was immediately interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War and siege of Paris. Italian ballerina Giuseppina Bozzaccchi (1853-1870) first danced the part of Swanilda. Tragically, the 17-year-old ballerina died from malnutrition related to the war’s privations in November 1870. In this photograph from a 2014 production by the English National Ballet, Shioro Kase dances as Swanilda and Yonah Acosta dances as Franz.

PAQUITA. Choreographer: Joseph Mazilier. Music: Edouard Deldevez. Story: Joseph Mazilier and Paul Foucher.

Natalia Osipova dances as Paquita at the Royal Opera House, London. The two-act ballet is set in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. It tells the love story of a French military officer and a Spanish gypsy woman.

To be continued.