Apparently a film David lean himself wasn`t entirely pleased with, this is based on the infamous real-life Glasgow murder case of 1857.
“Madeleine” is a very watchable 1950s historical drama which strives for authenticity with only partial success; Ann Todd, despite a good performance, is seriously miscast as Madeleine Smith – at least in the eyes of those of us acquainted with the case; she is too old, blonde and both she and the Smith family as a whole are probably a little too Anglicized in their speech to be completely convincing. I should think most Scottish viewers will have a healthily sceptical regard for the typical “Scottish” clichés that abound elsewhere in the film, but take them in their stride – it is otherwise a decent enough attempt at telling the tale. It is a beautifully lit and atmospheric film, quite noirish and in keeping with the gas-lit setting; the story is well-paced, though perhaps lacking in the intensity of the affair (though a fine musical score by William Alwyn works hard to convey the romantic emotions). What Todd does capture well is the apparently enigmatic nature of Madeleine's character, especially in the closing scene; it is no surprise that many rate this as her finest performance - despite the reservations I've already mentioned.
For those seeking an entertaining, romantic Victorian intrigue this should fit the bill nicely; seekers of a more accurate dramatisation may well be a little disappointed – the case has been the subject of drama/documentaries on TV a couple of times, most recently as an episode of the 4-part “Scotland`s Murder Mysteries” (2014, Series 1, 44 minutes.) but nothing is currently available on DVD as far as I know. This DVD release is beautifully re-mastered with a nice sharp print in the original screen ratio; the mono sound is crisp and clear; there are English subtitles, but the only extra is a picture gallery.
The unmarried daughter (Ann Todd, SEVENTH VEIL) of a wealthy family in 1850's Scotland is carrying on an illicit affair with her penniless French lover (Ivan Desny). But when she attempts to break off the affair, he threatens her with blackmail by revealing her compromising love letters to her father. When the lover dies of arsenic poisoning, she is arrested for his murder. Based on a true story and the sensational murder trial of Madeleine Smith, David Lean doesn't appear to have the talent for suspense or mystery. Perhaps that's not what he was interested in but the film doesn't remains vaguely unsatisfying. The Smith verdict was "not proven", apparently a verdict indigenous only to Scottish law, and Todd's enigmatic performance doesn't reveal anything regarding her guilt or innocence. Todd (who was Lean's wife at the time) at 40 is rather matronly to be playing the young Madeleine who was only 22 at the time of the murder trial. Guy Green did the cinematography, William Alwyn the score and Todd's handsome frocks by Margaret Furse. With Elizabeth Sellars, Norman Wooland, Leslie Banks, Barry Jones, Andre Morell and Anthony Newley.
The ITV DVD from Great Britain is a nicely rendered transfer in the appropraite 1.33 aspect ratio.
Having seen this only once before on Turner Classic Movies over a year ago, I recall being impressed by the velvety black and white cinematography. Considered by many to be one of David Lean's lesser works no doubt, it still rises head and shoulders over most other films of similar ilk. Ann Todd's performance is one of her best, and while most might quibble over the pacing I still find this film highly engaging. Recommended without reservation.
A must for David Lean fans. Wonderfully atmospheric, perfectly detailed and beautifully acted. Ann Todd plays a strangely unsympathetic role but then when you looked at the manner in which she was brought up this was not so unusual. She is anxious for romance but when push comes to shove she is just as cold blooded and unemotional as her parents. I thoroughly enjoyed it though the ending left one looking for something more satisfactory.
I believe David Lean gave this film to his then wife Ann Todd as a present its a well acted and a good story Ann todd gives an Excellent performance as Madeleine Smith whos penniless french lover tries to blackmail her to reveal their affair to her strict respectable father.Its a good classic well worth watching.
Having been brought up in Glasgow and worked around the corner from Madeleine Smith's home in Blythswood Square I found this movie of great interest.Made at the start of David Lean's illustrious career he has taken great care to create the atmosphere of the period, using the actual square and imposing house for his location.
Historically accurate and with a well drawn and worthy cast this makes absorbing viewing.