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DVD Review

DVD cover

Désirée (1954)


Starring: Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Merle Oberon and Michael Rennie
Distributor: Spirit Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: U
Release Date: 10 June 2013

Désirée is a young, free spirited woman, growing up in revolutionary France. When a gentleman comes to call on her sister, he brings his brother, Napoleon, a young general in the army. As Napoleon rises to power and throws his country into war his progress is seen through her eyes...

Désirée (Colour - 1954 - 1 hr, 45 min, 32 sec) is a historical costume drama, based on real events. The film was directed by Henry Koster, who had previously directed the excellent Harvey (1950). The film was a remake of La sposa dei re (1938) and nominated for two Oscars.

Désirée (Jean Simmons) falls for the dashing Napoleon (Marlon Brandon) and the two become engaged. As Désirée waits at home for her love to return, she hears the startling news that Napoleon has become engaged to the wealthy Josephine (Merle Oberon). Distraught and contemplating suicide Désirée’s life is rescued by one of Napoleon's lieutenants, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (Michael Rennie). Bernadotte finally rises to the station of Charles XIV John of Sweden with Désirée as queen of Sweden and Norway.

Jean Simmonds gives the film her all, with Brandon seemingly walking through his part, ironic then that the film outstripped A Streetcar Named Desire, in the same year.

On the plus side the sets are lavish as are the costumes; the score by Alex North is sumptuous. The print is good with no evident faults. If the film has a fault it is that, given that the film covers so much of the tempestuous times of the post French revolution, much of the history is bypassed in favour of the main characters love lives. The script can be a bit ponderous at times, with some unintentional clunky lines. Ultimately, the film is wonderful to look at but a bit vacuous.


Charles Packer

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