Monthly Archives: January 2019

Madame Bovary (1949) by Vincente Minnelli: the Waltz Scene.

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. Aggravated by her husband (Van Heflin) 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.

“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. 

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.

In reaction to Madame Bovary becoming dizzy while waltzing with a new lover, the stewards smash the ballroom windows to give her air. This extraordinary action is ultimately symbolic of the destruction of Madame Bovary’s romantic illusions.
Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful and equally insightful to the character’s selfish and nervous personality that in the end finds her own death more attractive than living with her shattered romantic illusions.

Madame Bovary Movie Poster.
Publicity photo for Madame Bovary showed the love triangle of Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan, and Van Heflin.
In Vincente Minnelli’s 1949 film Madame Bovary, 30-year-old Jennifer Jones plays Gustave Flaubert’s doomed character from his 1856 serial novel.

Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful and equally insightful to the character’s selfish and nervous personality that in the end finds her own death more attractive than living with her shattered romantic illusions.



©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 shoesPointe shoes.

Marie Rambert (1888-1982), prominent dance teacher in British Ballet, with students in the late 1940’s. She founded Rambert Dance Company, still active today.
Ballet developed mainly in Russia in the late nineteenth century that included the revival of the male role and rise of the pas de deux.

Irving Penn (1917-2009), Ballet Society, New York, 1948.

The Dream, a one act-ballet adapted from Shakespeare, was created in 1964 by Frederick Ashton (1904-1988) for the Royal Ballet. Depicted is elegant Oberon, king of the forest fairies, in a later production. The popular music is by Félix Mendelssohn.

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.

A staple of The Royal Ballet since its premiere in 1978, Mayerling by principal choreographer and former artistic director Kenneth MacMillan (1929-1992) is a tragic story based on the true story of the murder-suicide of the dissolute 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 performing with five different ballerinas, 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.

Considered the greatest Italian ballerina of the late nineteenth century, Pierina Legnani (1868-1930) trained at La Scala Theatre Ballet School in Milan and later danced famously throughout Europe, especially in Italy and Russia. at the Imperial Marinsky Theatre in 1896 for the lead role in La Perle, an original production created for Legnani.

Modern production at The Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. The historic theater of ballet and opera opened in 1860.

Pierina Legnani with Olga Preobrajenska in 1899, two of the greatest ballerinas dancing in the late nineteenth century (1871-1962).

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 immediately 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 already 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 securing Albrecht’s destruction.

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

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

Street Ballet.

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), with libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter (1828-1899). It premiered in May 1870 and, though it later went on to become one of the most popular works of the Paris Opera Ballet, was interrupted by the start of the Franco-Prussian War and the siege of Paris. Italian ballerina Giuseppina Bozzaccchi (1853-1870) first danced the part of Swanilda. Tragically, the 17-year-old ballerina died from malnutrition directly related to the privations of the siege 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.