Madame du Barry (aka Passion) (1919)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch.
Starring: Pola Negri (Jeanne Vaubernier - later Madame Dubarry), Emil Jannings (KŲnig Louis XV), Harry Liedtke (Armand De Foix), Eduard von Winterstein (Graf Jean Dubarry), Reinhold SchŁnzel (Minister Choiseul), Else Berna (Graefin Gramont), Fred Immler (Richelieu), Gustav Czimeg (Aiguillon), Karl Platen (Guillaume Dubarry), Bernhard Goetzke (Revolutionšr), Magnus Stifter (Don Diego), Paul Biensfeldt (Lebel), Willy Kaiser-Heyl (Oberst der Wache), Alexander Ekert (Paillet).
mistress of King Louis XV of France
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Under the guidance of Louis XV, Paris was the gayest capital in Europe. There is a millinerís apprentice in the Rue díArcy. She came to Paris from the country. Her name is Jeanne Marie Vaubernia. She works at Maison Lubille which was all the rage of Paris fashion at the time.
Her boss tells her for finish up with what she is doing quickly because she has a package for the Marquise de Belfort by 5 p.m. Jeanne finishes up and takes the package. Jeanne, however, is enthralled by her first lover and she figures that even a Marquise could wait for Armand de Foix. She goes inside Armandís place and the couple starts kissing. After awhile, Jeanne notices the time and says she has stayed too long. But Armand keeps delaying her. The next time she looks at the time it is already past 5 p.m. Now she hurries up, but she soon runs into a blockade of sorts. The Spanish envoy Don Diego and his retinue are passing by and everyone has stopped to look. Don Diego, charged with a secret mission to the Court of France, was a popular figure in Paris.
During the pushing and shoving Jeanne drops her package and Don Diegoís horse steps all over it. Jeanne starts crying: "Madame Lubille will have me locked up!" When Jeanne returns to the shop, the Madame is furious with her. She slaps Jeanne across the face.
Don Diego comes into the shop and takes all the blame for the damage. He then pays for the damage. He then invites Jeanne to eat dinner with him on Sunday.
On Sunday Jeanne is trying to decide whether to go visit Armand or Don Diego. She decides for Don Diego. She tells Armand that the Madame has send her to pin a new robe on the wife of the Spanish envoy. Armand walks Jeanne to the door of the Spanish envoy and waits outside for her.
Jeanne dines with Don Diego. Don Diego starts kissing her, but they are interrupted by the Comte Du Barry. Du Barry insists that his business is urgent. Jeanne hides behind a screen, but Du Barry sees her reflection in a large mirror. He is enchanted by the young lady and he brings her out from her hiding place.
The servant goes outside to speak with Armand. Armand tells him what he is doing there, and the servant laughs saying that Don Diego is not married. He has no wife. Armand tries to push by the servant into the house, but the servant stops him. Armand leaves.
Du Barry asks Don Diego for a loan on a royal decree of monetary reimbursement to the Comte, but Don Diego refuses to make the loan. The Comte leaves and Don Diego returns to Jeanne to start kissing her again.
For two days Armand has been both angry and bitter over Jeanneís trying to trick him. Armand receives a letter from Jeanne saying that she is sorry for having played a trick on him. But if he still loves her, she wants him to meet her at the Opera Ball.
At the grand ball Jeanne sits with Don Diego in a theater box. The Opera Ball was very popular in Paris. Du Barry sees Jeanne and rushes over to say hello. As the three talk, Jeanne sees Armand on the dance floor. She rushes over to him, which displeases both Diego and Du Barry. When Jeanne starts kissing Armand, Diego starts fighting with his rival. Armand is able to push Diego off him, but then Diego pulls out his fencing sword. Du Barry gives Armand his sword and now the two men start fencing. Armand wins, but kills Don Diego in the process. The police arrest Armand.
In all the confusion Du Barry picks up Jeanne and carries her out of there. He takes her to his place. Jeanne tries to get away from him, but he keeps stopping her. He assures her that she is safe with him. To make her happy he gives her a huge, very expensive necklace. She lets him kiss her.
Next morning Du Barry awakens Jeanne saying: "Wake up, you lazy baggage." He has work for her. He wants her to collect on his royal note for reimbursement of funds from the Crown of France. Du Barry had equipped an expedition into Corsica. Now he tells Jeanne to go and see Choiseul, the Minister of State and Finance.
Etienne Francois, Due de Choiseul, was a brilliant schemer. He wants to make his sister, the Duchesse de Grammont, Queen of France.
When Choiseul sees the pretty woman Jeanne come into his office he becomes very wary. She might be competition for his sister and King Louis XV was always seeking diversion with young women. His constant extravagance and love affairs were a scandal is France. So Choiseul refuses to accept Du Barryís note.
Feeling upset Jeanne goes into the Kingís Garden and sits down. There the King sees her and definitely takes notice. The Kingís right-hand man Lebel goes over to Jeanne and tells her this is private property. She must leave at once. Jeanne gets up and leaves.
The next time the King turns his head in Jeanneís direction he finds that she is no longer there. He scolds his Chamberlain Lebel for chasing her away and tells him to run after her.
Jeanne returns to Du Barry. He is very angry at her failure with Choiseul. Lebel shows up to play cards at Du Barryís place and Du Barry suddenly gets an idea about a way to get his money. He tells Jeanne to put on some more make-up and straighten her hair. He then has her step out right in front of Lebel.
Lebel definitely sees her. He wants to speak to her in private so Du Barry sets up a private dinner for the two of them. Lebel tells Jeanne that the King wants to see her. Du Barry comes in and puts on an act of how wounded he is. Is the plan to take his darling Jeanne away from him? He says he is absolutely heart broken and that he must be paid!
Lebel shows Jeanne how to curtsy for the King. The King reads a Condemnation of the Student Armand de Foix. The court found him guilty of a capital crime and the death sentence must be signed. Lebel comes in to tell Louis XV: "She is here!"
The King likes what he sees. Jeanne quickly kisses him on the cheek. This takes the King by surprise, but he is certainly not displeased. They talk awhile and then the King notices a roll of paper stuck in her bra. He fishes it out. The document is Du Barryís note for reimbursement. The King quickly signs it and sticks the paper back into Jeanís bra.
Meanwhile, Armand awaits execution. He learns he is to be beheaded and faints.
The King is enthralled by Jeanne, but the Minister of State is outraged! He tells his sister: "It is outrageous that the affairs of France should wait on the whims of a courtesan." The King fawns over Jeanne, even clipping her fingernails. When Choiseul asks to see the King, Jeanne tells the King to let him wait. And so Choiseul has to wait.
After awhile, Jeanne releases the King to go see Choiseul. Choiseul wants the signed death sentence for Armand. Jeanne comes in and makes Choiseul kiss her hand. She and the King have at good laugh over this. Jeanne looks over the Kingís shoulder and sees the death warrant for Armand. She is shocked. She has to delay for time. So she switches the salt to the place for the ink and vice-versa. When the King goes to pour salt on his signature, out spills a huge blob of ink onto his signature.
Jeanne then starts crying. The King comes over to comfort her and she tells him that the unfortunate Armand is actually her cousin. The King immediately arranges for the manís release. Jeanne is so relieved!
A song is composed making fun of the relationship between Jeanne and Comte Du Barry. Choiseul is the one paying the street singers. Jeanne finds out about it when she goes into Paris. She hears the song being sung. And perhaps worse sheets of the lyrics are being handed out. Jeanne goes up to the singers and grabs the stack of lyrics they have. But as soon as she leaves, more copies of the lyrics are brought out. The crowd laughs at Jeanne.
Meanwhile Armand learns that the King has pardoned him. He is very relieved.
When Jeanne returns to Versailles, the King can see that she is very upset. He asks her whatís the matter and she tells him about the situation she finds herself in. She doesnít like being made fun of by the general public. Jeanne gives Louis XV a copy of the lyrics. She then demands that the King put a stop to this at once.
The King calls Choiseul over and tells him to control the filthy rabble. And to put a stop to the wagging tongues at court, Jeanne will certainly be formally received at court! (So Choiseulís little scheme seems to have back-fired.)
Lebel sends Du Barry a letter saying that they must get Jeanne married quickly. He asks if Du Barry knows of someone suitable to marry Jeanne? Of course, a monetary compensation will be made available. Du Barry suddenly thinks of his brother William, who has fallen on hard times.
Du Barry goes to see William. He finds him drunk in a bar flirting with two bar maids. He explains the situation and mentions the money. William quickly goes for the scheme. And so, this is how Jeanne became the Contesse Du Barry.
Armand is so grateful for the King saving him that he becomes a soldier of the Kingís guard.
Now that Jeanneís powerful position is made secure it brings "the fickle nobles flocking" around her. The Minister of War gives her a black servant named Zamor. Indeed, she is told that she can have whatever she wants. Jeanne thinks about it. Suddenly realizing that the Guard outside her window is Armand, she tells the Minister of War to make that guard, Armand, an officer. The Minister shakes his head no, but she insists and he has little choice but to agree.
Armand canít find Jeanne anywhere and he grows very sullen. His comrades find him so sullen that they start making fun of him. The teasing gets so bad that it drives Armand to attack one of the other soldiers.
An officer comes in and tells Armand to report to the Colonel. Armand does so and receives his promotion papers. The new soldier is now an officer.
Itís the day of the formal presentation of Jeanne at the court of Versailles. Choiseulís sister is hoping that the angry, tax-burdened common folk watching at the gates will give the Comtesse a very unpleasant reception.
The King is introduced and then Jeanne is introduced. Jeanne bows before the King. Choiseul sneaks over to a window and opens it wide. Now the peopleís chant can be clearly heard: "Down with Du Barry!" This maddens the King. He takes Jeanne over to a window to look out at the crowd. Out there Jeanne sees Armand bravely trying to calm the crowd down and getting them to move on. The mob suddenly moves away leaving behind some people crushed by the stampede.
And now Choiseul and his sister are snubbed by the other royals. Armand is disillusioned and says: "Louis is mad!"
Jeanne wants to see Armand. She has a note sent to him to that effect. Armand is blindfolded and Zamor walks him out to a building where Jeanne is waiting for him. When she removes his blindfold he is shocked to see her. He says: "Jeanne! You, the Du Barry? Would God I had died unknowing! You have taken my life and broken it to bits!"
Armand rejects Jeanneís advances. This now makes her mad and she tells him he is both ungrateful and unjust. She was the one who got Armand pardoned by the King and it was she who got Armand raised to the rank of an officer. Armand starts to strangle Jeanne, but ends up kissing her instead.
Zamor tells Jeanne that the King is coming! Armand tells her to fly away with him. Jeanne refuses, saying that the king will just find her and have her killed and she doesnít want to die anytime soon. Armand rejects her and jumps out a window.
When the King sees Jeanne he asks her whatís the matter? Jeanne just snaps at the King.
Armand goes to visit his friend Paillet, a cobbler who has been having a hard time making a living. He is deeply in debt and has to give the money he recently earned to the tax collector even though he and his family may have to go hungry. It was either pay or be arrested and placed in debtorsí prison.
Armand tells Paillet about what happened. He tells Paillet that their little Jeanne is now the Comtesse Du Barry! Paillet is shocked. His little daughter tells Armand that she is "so hungry".
"Crazed by passion and indifference to consequences, Armand led the rioters."
Choiseul tells Jeanne that Armand has been arrested for rioting. Then he goes to speak with Armand. He releases his hands from the restraints and tells him: "She is not worth it." He says she has a black heart. And she has ruined Armand just like she is now ruining France!
Jeanne uses Zamor as her spy. She wants him to keep watch on Armand.
Armand says that he could stop Jeanne and her plans. So Choiseul lets him go. Zamor follows Armand. The spy returns to Jeanne to tell her that Armand and his friends are plotting at Gourdanís tonight to arrange her assassination. Jeanne dresses like a male and goes down to Gourdanís. She finds about twenty men plotting her death. Jeanne hears Armand telling the men that Jeanne is looting the royal coffers while the children of France starve to death. The men all shout out: "Down with Du Barry!"
Jeanne confronts Armand when she gets him alone. She asks how can he betray her like this? She then asks: "Am I to blame for Louisís deeds?" Feeling a bit guilty, Armand says he will give her one more chance. He grants her this, but he will not let her kiss him. He leaves.
The next day the plotters wait for Armand. He finally comes in. He tells the men that he has seen Jean and she will intervene on their behalf with King Louis. The men reject this idea and say they will go by themselves and carry out the deed.
The King, Jeanne and others are outside playing Blind Manís Buff. The potential assassins tell Choiseul that they want to see the King. Choiseul tells them that the King cannot be disturbed.
Outside playing, the King suddenly faints. The men pick him up and carry him inside. The last one to come up the stairs is Jeanne. Paillet sees Jeanne and tells his colleagues that this is Madam Du Barry. Jeanne also spotted Paillet and she shouts for the guards to arrest Paillet. The man is put under arrest and thrown in jail.
The King has smallpox!
Learning that Jeanne had Paillet arrested, Armand is very upset with her.
The King asks Lebel to get Madam Du Barry for him. He says: "Jeanne can make me well!" Lebel is a bit hesitant, but the King keeps insisting. Just then the priests come in to visit the King. This makes the King angry. He calls them "croakers" and tells them to get out. Then he dies.
Choiseul now tells Jeanne that she can go in to see the King. She finds the king dead. Now she has no one to protect her against Choiseul. And Choiseul moves against her quickly. He reads her a decree saying that she must leave Paris, but must remain in seclusion within fifty miles of the city. He finishes with: "You will go at once!" As she leaves, she grabs onto the kingís casket as the pallbearers are moving it. Choiseul forces her to let go and get out.
Pailletís little family in now in dire straits. The rebellion against the aristocracy begins. A mob hangs a nobleman in the streets. The mobs loot buildings, put up barricades and fight off soldiers. The mobs become huge.
Armand tells some of his people that they must save Paillet! So itís off to the Bastille prison! Thousands of people descend on the prison and swarm inside. Armand and those with him free Paillet.
King Louis XVI (son of Louis XV) and Marie Antoinette are arrested by the people. "Mob rule wreaked bloody vengeance."
Choiseul is arrested. Zamar tells the Revolutionary Tribunal where they can find Madame Du Barry. Paillet arrests her. Jeanne goes up before judge Armand. Everyone demands her execution saying she is the wickedest woman in all of France. Armand hesitates but then says: "She dies!" Jeanne begs for mercy from Armand, but his answer is no.
Later Armand changes his mind. He visits her in her cell. She faints into his arms and he holds her tight. When she has recovered, he tells her that he has come to save her. But just then Paillet and others come to take Jeanne to be executed. Finding the two of them together and Armand protecting her, Paillet shoots Armand and takes Jeanne away. A little later Armand dies.
Jeanne is taken down to her place of execution. They strap her to a board to be put in place on the guillotine so the blade will cut off her head without creating too much of a mess.
For a movie made in 1919 the film was good. The plot was somewhat complex and not boring. It also show the internal politics in a King's court that goes on all the time as the players jockey for more money, prestige and power. The men and women all looked a bit strange to me in this film that as of 2009 is 90 years old. Pola Negri did not look like our modern heroines. She looked older and quite a bit heavier than our modern Hollywood thin heroines. It was also interesting reading the dialogue. There was a great deal of phrasing that we don't use much, if at all, any more.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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