Alla Nazimova’s version of the venerable Dumas drama is set in modern-day Paris, and is highlighted by art director Natasha Rambova’s Art Nouveau production design.
Armand, fresh from the provinces, discovers a captivating Marguerite in Paris, surrounded by sycophantic leaches. While his devotion rescues Marguerite from her superficial ‘friends,’ it cannot lift her from the increasingly gloomy feeling of impending doom. Armand’s father insists Marguerite give up Armand to save the family from the scandal of her injudicious past. Tragically, she agrees, jettisons her relationship and returns to Paris and her old cohorts. Armand falls into a fast-paced and destructive lifestyle to forget and punish Marguerite. Eventually, gravely ill and in the hands of creditors, Marguerite’s last moments are spent thinking of Armand.
Nazimova is oddly enchanting as a jaded and, of course, tubercular nouveau riche Marguerite. Rudolph Valentino is a subdued yet still passionate Armand. Arthur Hoyt as the count appears in another of his ineffectual characters, for which he was known. Patsy Ruth Miller makes a brief but endearing impression as Nichette. And, while he was not a major director, Ray Smallwood does a good job of bringing in a glossy production worthy of the yet-to-be-formed MGM studio.
There is enough Nazimova posing, to show off her fabulously-designed wardrobe, to satisfy the most lingering of fashion show fleas. Also, Nazimova’s big hair is every bit the inspiration for the look of the Bride of Frankenstein. But, ultimately, the production design and its surprisingly entertaining performances make this film a pleasure to discover and revisit. — Carl Bennett
Warner Home Video
2005 DVD edition
Camille (1937), black & white, 109 minutes, not rated,
with Camille (1921), black & white, 70 minutes, not rated.
Warner Home Video, 65246, UPC 0-12569-52462-0.
One single-sided, dual-layered, Region 1NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, English, Spanish and French language subtitles, chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $19.99.
Release date: 6 September 2005.
Country of origin: USA
Released as an extra feature to the well-known Greta Garbo production, this DVD edition of Camille (1921) has been transferred full-frame from an excellent 35mm print, which is finely detailed and relatively unmarred by print flaws. There is little in the way of speckling, dust and other flaws to distract the viewer, except for a half-dozen or so momentary processing flares.
On high-definition equipment, upscaling to full HD, the standard-resolution picture looks filmlike, but also is a little softer in image detail — due in part to the standard NTSC signal of DVD and in part to the source material. Just remember that many of Nazimova’s close-ups are deliberately a little out-of-focus to soften her features on film.
The film is accompanied by a fine orchestral music score originally composed by Peter Vantine for a Turner Classic Movies television presentation.
We recommend this edition as the best-available on home video — a delicious experience.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2004 DVD edition
Camille (1921), black & white, 77 minutes, not rated.
Grapevine Video, no catalog number, unknown UPC number.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0NTSC DVD-R disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, PCM 2.0 mono? sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $18.95 (reduced to $16.95).
Release date: December 2004.
Country of origin: USA
This DVD-R edition has likely been mastered from a 16mm reduction print.
The film is likely accompanied by a soundtrack compiled from preexisting recordings.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD-R edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.