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Desiree

Desiree (1954) starring Jean Simmons, Marlon Brando, Michael Rennie,  Merle OberonDesiree (1954) starring Jean Simmons, Marlon Brando, Michael Rennie,  Merle Oberon

Buy Desiree from Amazon.com  Like all Hollywood biographies,  Desiree needs to be taken with a grain of salt, regarding historical accuracy. Having said that, however, it’s a very interesting film, weaving the lives of four people and two countries together.

Marlon Brando as Napoleon Bonaparte in DesireeIn Marseilles, France in 1794, a young Napoleon Bonaparte (played well by Marlon Brando) is engaged to Desiree Clary (Jean Simmons).  She is a young lady who has a sizable dowry due to her family’s  business. Although he is attracted to her, he’s more attracted to how her money can help advance his political career. But while he’s in Paris, he turns his affection to the beautiful  Josephine Beauharnais (Merle Oberon), whose political connections can do more for his career … And so he becomes engaged to Josephine — without bothering to notify Desiree.

Michael Rennie as General Jean-Baptiste BerandotteDesiree tracks down her missing fiancee, and with the help of  General Jean-Baptiste Berandotte (Michael Rennie, who turns in another fine performance), she enters an exclusive party where Napoleon is … And she finds out the hard way that he’s engaged to another woman. After throwing champagne on her rival’s dress, Desiree storms out, weeping inconsolably … although  Berandotte tries to console her.

Napoleon publicly divorces Josephine Merle Oberon)After two years of looking for her,  Berandotte finally finds Desiree again and asks her to marry him …  Before he’s shipped off to one of Napoleon’s wars. Napoleon has risen through the ranks, played the political games, and is becoming Emperor of France.  He marries Josephine … although years later, since she has produced no heirs to the throne, he feels forced to divorce her.

Berandotte is unexpectedly offered the position of (adopted) prince and heir to the throne of Sweden.  This causes friction between the two old friends … and eventually, two wars — and Elba.

In short,  Desiree is a very enjoyable historical drama, elevated by some very good performances by very good actors; strongly recommended, and I grade  it as a B+

SYNOPSIS: In Marseilles, France in 1794, Desiree Clary (Jean Simmons), a young millinery clerk, becomes infatuated with Napoleon Bonaparte (Marlon Brando), but winds up wedding General Jean-Baptiste Berandotte (Michael Rennie), an aid to Napoleon who later joins the forces that bring about the Emperor’s downfall. Josephine Beauharnais (Merle Oberon), a worldly courtesan marries Napoleon and becomes Empress of France, but is then cast aside by her spouse when she proves unable to produce an heir to the throne. …Desirée (1954)