Madeleine | Chicago Reader

Madeleine

An overlooked gem by David Lean, this 1950 British drama recounts the true story of Madeleine Smith (Ann Todd), a young upper-class Glaswegian who became the subject of a notorious murder trial in the late 1850s after her secret French lover died from arsenic poisoning. The picture is compromised by Lean's casting of his wife as the title character; at 40, Todd is visibly too old for the role, and her wooden performance leaves a void at the center of the story that Lean has no choice but to use strategically. As a specimen of classical film grammar, though, this is a wonder; Lean first made his reputation as an editor, and the movie is a constant reminder of how carefully he set up his shots to be cut together. 114 min.

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