Good Golly! What was IN that Waltz?!

The Baron ( DeSica ) spots Madame de… and instantly falls for her. Sometimes love happens like that. He falls like a ton of bricks. He pursues her, woos her on the dance floor. He waits for her. He doesn’t rush things or pressure her. It’s all very polite. He 


attends a conference but fondles a flower she sent him that he has pressed inside his portfolio. He has gentlemen outside his office door clamoring to see him about big political matters of the day. Yet he sits in his office, writing letters to her, trying to find… just…the…right…words ( with the help of a dictionary ). He lets affairs of state lapse a little. Wreckless? Unserious? Immoral? Others can make those judgments. To me…aaaah, he’s a man in love. They dance.

Ahh…the dance. It really was a dance of love wasn’t it. During the dance we can see Madame de… fall in love. Not with some MTV heavily edited montage. Simply, through one waltz… they fall in love.


We watch love bloom before our very eyes. The days between them meeting again on the dance floor shorten – from four days to two days, down to one day – perhaps time stands still. Who knows < Sigh! > when one is in love. Great way Ophüls chooses to show time passing via this dance.

The movie is not all tragic romantic romance though. Ophüls manages to stick in a couple of bits of comic business that were just plain cute:

Those darned earrings…again!

  • the opening and closing of the box seats doors at the Opera as the General looks for the earrings
  • the General repeatedly opening the door ajar as he tries to usher the Jeweler quickly out of his office
  • the Pawnbroker/Jeweler’s son sent up and down the spiral staircase with last minute requests from his father
  • the Jeweler’s son even asks about her ( oooh, that was sooooo cute )

But the main thrust of the story is the romance and the choices the triangle makes. 

Helpless in how one feels…

Poor poor Madame de…. I feel sorry for her. She fell in love probably for the first time in her life and didnt know WHAT hit her. She probably never had a self-reflexive thought in her pretty little French head. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character as lovesick as she. Love-sick. Laying in bed, prostrate, pale, listless, uncajoled by her husband…not eating. She literally was sick from Love ( or its lack thereof ). I don’t think she disliked her husband. Their arrangement looks amicable. I don’t know we’ve been given enough evidence to speculate WHAT her marriage was based on. Judging by the Grand Canyon distance of their bedrooms…you can draw your own conclusions. I think she tries her best to run away from this Love and the Baron with one eensy teensy weensy bit of warning: 


“I’d hate to see you caught up in my game.”

Yet she did keep those earrings close to her. 


Suppressed tears burn my throat when the General takes Madame de… to the railway station for her “Assessment Journey.” In that close little train compartment their silence is deafening. The chasm between them is as claustrophobic as that compartment. He leaves words unspoken…not daring to speak, ‘less it tip the delicate balance against him. That was the most poignant scene to me. I felt the sorriest for him here. He had to let her go, and that killed me. Who hasn’t been there. Who hasn’t had a party shutdown around them when you’re the only two left because you don’t want to say goodbye; saying goodbye when you’re dying to say ANYTHING but. Poor poor general.

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25 thoughts on “THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE… ( 1953 )

  1. Just brilliant, T! This is by far my favorite Ophuls film. To even attempt a review of its intricacies is a brave thing, but you’ve done the movie justice. Thanks for posting about it, and even better, GETTING it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Wendy ~ thank you for braving the Couch and reading my thoughts on Maxie boy. I know it was an eyeful to read. ( Whew!! ) We’ve rambled about him over at our old ‘stomping grounds’ and you’re most likely one of the “ramblers” that got me to pay attention to this movie in the first place. Then you guys introduced me to Tag Gallagher who showed us there’s more to movies than meets the eye, and I was a goner for “Madame de…”


  2. Great review of the film. I have a real soft spot for this one, as I took my wife to see it at a rep theatre (despite 60 year old French movies not really being her wheelhouse) and she adored it, swooning away at the Madame’s passion. We recently watched it again in preparation for the Criterion Blogathon and she discovered she had remembered an entirely different ending! Oh well…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The France on Film Blogathon is here, FINALLY!!!! | Serendipitous Anachronisms

  4. Pingback: The France on Film Blogathon is here, FINALLY!!!! | Serendipitous Anachronisms

    • THANK YOU RUTH! Whew! You’ve swollen my head so much I don’t know what to do now. But my Momma didn’t raise no chickens so I’ll just say again, Thank You! Guess I can’t take full credit. Max Ophüls gave me sooooo much to work with. I feel a little sheepish about the length of this essay ( Egads! Three pages. ) But I really wanted to do the movie justice. I hope you did get a chance to watch “The Earrings of Madame de…” and hopefully you’ll weigh in with your own thoughts about it here, or on your own blog at Silver Screenings. Thank you for reading!

      And folks, our beloved Lucy ( Lucille Ball ) gets ‘frenched’ by Silver Screenings in her contribution to the France On France blogathon. Uh…wait a second, let me re-phrase that.

      Please go to Silver Screenings’ blog and read her contribution to the France On France Blogathon with her essay on “DuBarry Was A Lady.” Whew!! Clean up on Aisle 5!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry, I did not comment sooner, I am catching up slowly. This is truly a lovely article it reminded me of a great play it hit many emotional notes simultaneously being hysterical and moving. Thank you for such a lovely addition to the France on Film Blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve just hosted a blogathon with a myriad of bloggers…I should say it would be slow-going with you diligently trying to read all the entries. Thank you for your kind words on my contribution to your very first blogathon. If I’m going to play with the smart kids…I’ve just got to step up my game, which I hopefully did with my wacky piece for you. This is truly an amazing movie and while it’s not one I just put on to pass the time, when I do see it…I’m taken on a dizzying roller coaster ride thanks to the great Max Ophüls. Thank you again, Summer, for including my blog in your event.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Day One #France On Film Recap | Serendipitous Anachronisms

  7. Amazing review CineMaven, I can’t wait to watch this! Based on the stills you selected it looks so glittering and dazzling, but I love the idea that there’s so much emotion underneath that. Too often films that look good don’t move me, but this seems like exactly the opposite.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there Miss V.!! 🙂 Thanks so much for reading my rather lengthy musings on this fantastic film by Ophüls. If I’m amazing ( Heh Heh! ) it’s only because Ophüls gave us an amazing story of love, death and the whole damn thing. I would love to hear from you about what you think of “The Earrings of Madame de…”. I hope I haven’t hyped it up too much and I made a concerted effort not to give anything away. See it. Come back and tell me about it. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Marsha, thank you. Thank you so much for the ego-boosting compliment and confidence builder. Thank you! I owe this post to Max Ophüls; he does a blogger good!! Such a rich, good movie. ( Hey Marsha…why don’t you join my blogathon? There’s room. )


  8. This sounds like a fascinating film. A romantic film has to be amazing for me to go for it, and this one sounds like it fits the bill. Your own affection for this film came through, so I want to hunt it down and watch it. It also sounds beautiful simply to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there Tracey! “The Earrings of Madame de…” is a fascinating film. It’s one I didn’t think I would like because it’s very frou-frou. By that I mean lots of costuming and bustles and frilly frou-frou stuff. ( Not my “go-to” genre for me. ) But it is captivating and dizzying and heartbreaking. Look, I don’t want to hype it up any more than I have. But I hope you find it, see it, and let us know what you think. Thanks for reading…and hey, that was a nice ( personal ) job you did with your write-up on “An Affair To Remember” over at your blog! And if your husband is as romantic as Cary Grant, how do you even let him out of the house?!!!

      Can’t wait to share your post on the Dynamic Duo of Cary Grant ( again ) and Howard Hawks for my own blogathon on the 23rd. ( Stay tuned for my very own “promotional campaign.” L0L! ) Cary Grant—>(( Sigh! ))<—Can anyone go wrong working with THAT guy?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! Isn’t it interesting: “The Earring of Madame de…” wasn’t your go-to, and “District B13” wasn’t mine, but we both found something we truly enjoyed outside our usual comfort zones for the France on Film Blogathon. I wonder if it’s the fact that American films have a tendency to be one-dimensional. I mean, I can’t think of many US action pictures that had much besides lots of explosions going for them. And don’t so many American dramas tend to somehow go “too far” without anything to balance out any frou-frou elements? I’m looking forward to watching “Earrings”; don’t fear the hype! It’s not coming through as hype just enthusiasm.

        My Carl is quite the Cary Grant! He brought me lunch at work today. (He’s one of the last of a dying breed, I fear.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with your about one-dimensionality.This sort of is what disappointed me about the recent “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Yes, please have the special effects with some really top-notch writing. Too much to ask? I’m afraid so. Now…your husband brought you lunch at work today. Tell me, does he have a brother?! ( And does he like classic films? )

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thinking of Boyer on the day he passed away ( 8/26/ 1978 ) … One of my favorite lines in “Earrings…” is this one:

    “You know Louise, I’ve never particularly liked the role you gave me to play. But I played along to avoid displeasing you. It’s not what I would have chosen.”


    • I LOVE that line!! That scene is sooo sad. At the start of the movie, you hate Boyer… a serial philanderer, a pompous military man who treats his wife like a child…in complete control of everything. Then somehow, the movie winds you around through the plot, until you are staring at a complete mirror image of him – how hurt and human he is.

      Each in the triangle have selfish qualities, and yet, through the course of events, they all become something that they never were before. Both General Andre and Madame de… become more sympathetic, in fact, deeply sympathetic, and Baron Donati, who seems the kindest of the characters, becomes less so. They all turn out to be just ….. people. Like you and me, but in a most beautiful and romantic movie setting. Movies aren’t supposed to be like this. Not in the fifties!

      When I first saw The Earrings, I was blown away by its circularity, the kind only Ophuls can create. The plot is serpentine, folding in on itself with amazing coincidences, and yet it is completely believable. The coincidences are cosmic, karmic, fate filled happenings. If one small lie had not been told, if one moments’ action had been put off, their whole lives would have been different.

      Contrarian Ophuls made a movie about the lack of love keeping a marriage happy, and inversely, the injection of love into the main characters lives destroying EVERYTHING. What a rebel Ophuls was! More so than many of the directors who are known for their rebellious natures. He took every Hollywood trope and pulled it inside out and backwards. And as far as I’m concerned, only Boyer and Walbrook were fully able to realize Ophuls’ complexity fully.


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