Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



This was Greta Garbo’s 13th talking picture. She would only make two more movies, and then vanish from the silver screen forever. It’s a giant, overblown story about Napoleon and his long affair with Polish Countess Marie Walewska. It looks to me as if it were highly fictionalized. She is shown as a Polish patriot, happily married to a much older man, but head-over heels in love with Napoleon. She sticks with him until the end of his exile on Elba, even though he won’t acknowledge his bastard son with her. I suspect all this is hogwash, but I don’t really care. The whole movie is hogwash, and pretty much a yawn. The dialogue is some of the most clichéd I’ve ever heard, with them embracing face to face and proclaiming their undying love. You can anticipate every laughable line. The only good things here are, of course, Garbo, who was always lovely to look at, and the performance by Charles Boyer, who looks born to play this part. Short, brooding, with a thick French accent … what more do you want? Also, the giant sets and pageantry are impressive. So impressive, in fact, that though this film was not a flop, it lost a lot of money for the studio. It was simply too expensive. It is also remarkable in that there is no warfare here at all. Every scene is between battles, and we’re expected to know that when he leaves Elba he will get his ass handed to him at Waterloo and sent off to St. Helena, never to be heard of again. Odd, to make a film about this guy and have no battle scenes. Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a Napoleon film for most of his life, and planned to do a lot of battles. He could never put it all together.