The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947)

This is an adaptation of the de Maupassant novel, about the roguish Georges du Roi and his indifferent use of women in Parisian society. Starring George Sanders and a young Angela Lansbury.

I have read the book and am familiar with the modern adaptation of the novel. Also knowing the 1940s prevalence of the Production Code, I knew watching this particular variant would be interesting indeed.

George Sanders looks every bit the foppish cad and plays the role to a T. I’m very surprised he wasn’t twirling his moustache as he went! The ever-present threat of Georges wasn’t truly felt, in my opinion, until about the last half an hour. That being said, the studio sets certainly seemed to exemplify the feeling that all of the expressions and emotions put across by Georges in the guise of Sanders felt all the more artificial. It also showed how disposable women were put across as, even though the romances didn’t really go beyond whispered words and significant glances. Probably because of the production code. Of course a great deal was cut from the film for the sake of the Production Code, with the actual bed hopping nature of Georges is certainly not fully realized. All that is known is that he is a bad man for straying from the correct path of wedlock.

And of course, everyone who knows the story knows that Georges continues to thrive in his dual existence of wedlock and infidelity. For the sake of the Code, this could not happen and when du Roi tries to claim an ancient surname belonging to the aristocracy, someone comes out of the woodwork to contest him. (This, of course, doesn’t happen in the original novel).

But there is something hashed about the whole ending. While of course du Roi could never succeed at his roguish ways, the duel at the end just felt incredibly pointless. The overarching morals felt hammed in as well, as if the audience were being reminded to be content with mediocrity.

MY RATING: ** / *****

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