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Madame Du Barry (1934 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Madame DuBarry
Promotional poster for the film.
Directed byWilliam Dieterle
Written byEdward Chodorov
Produced byJack L. Warner
Hal B. Wallis
StarringDolores del Río
Reginald Owen
Victor Jory
CinematographySol Polito
Edited byHerbert I. Leeds
Music byHeinz Roemheld
Warner Brothers
Distributed byWarner Brothers
Release date
  • October 13, 1934 (1934-10-13)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States

Madame DuBarry is a 1934 American historical film directed by William Dieterle and starring Dolores del Río, Reginald Owen, Victor Jory and Osgood Perkins. The film portrays the life of Madame Du Barry, the last mistress of King Louis XV of France.[1] While this film does not serve accuracy to Madame Du Barry, it does feature antiques and jewelry that came from the actual days when Madame Du Barry lived. This film was being edited just as the Hollywood Production Code was gaining real power, and faced many problems with censors of the time. A May 27, 1934, New York Times column, “Studio Activities on the Western Front”, focusing on the “cracking down” of censors noted that a reel and a half had already been cut from the film, including a bedroom scene.[2]

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  • Mary Kornman in Madame Du Barry 1934



Louis XV, the pleasure-loving King of France in the mid-eighteenth century, is nearing 60, and, his wife and his important and beloved former mistress Madame de Pompadour both being gone, he yearns for a new woman companion who would treat him as a man rather than as a favour-dispensing king. He fails to find such a woman at the Deer Park, a "school" for ladies in waiting— and would-be royal mistresses— set up in memory of Madame de Pompadour. However, one of his courtiers, the Duc de Richelieu, knows (as a lover or customer, it is strongly suggested) a young woman of the people, Jeanne du Barry, who is an exuberant, free-spirited soul with no agenda except having a good time. He introduces her to Louis, and she makes a hit. She moves into Versailles, where Louis showers her with extravagant gifts, and she keeps him fascinated with changing moods and challenges. Early in their relationship, she demands a sleigh ride with Louis in the summer, and Lebel, the palace steward, has to arrange this by buying all the sugar in Paris to put under the sleigh runners.

Du Barry and Louis have unalloyed fun for a while, but Louis's three grown daughters and their friend the Duchesse de Granmont are scandalized and join with the Prime Minister, Choiseul, to try to freeze her out of court. Richelieu's nephew, the upright official the Duc d'Aiguillon, rebukes Louis and Du Barry for ruining France with their extravagance, and opposes a war with England Choiseul wants to start. When Choiseul spoils Du Barry's formal court presentation by having her dress and wig stolen and the tipsy noblewoman who was to present her abducted, she shows up at the court gathering in her nightgown, and Louis storms out but then turns and beckons her to follow. Du Barry takes revenge on Choiseul by charming him, promising him a reward and luring him into a compromising situation where Louis catches him seemingly trying to take liberties with her. Louis fires Choiseul and makes D’Aiguillon Prime Minister, and the war with England is averted, to the bemusement of the English ambassador at the trivial cause of so major a result.

Louis’ slow, pedantic grandson and heir, Louis the Dauphin, is betrothed to the Austrian princess Marie Antoinette, and Du Barry is among those who drive to the frontier with Louis and the Dauphin to receive her. Marie Antoinette snubs her, which she takes with good humour. After an elaborate wedding party that ends in a thunderstorm, the Dauphin spends his wedding night lecturing Marie Antoinette on the causes of the weather instead of comforting her. Louis asks Du Barry to talk to him about the facts of life for the sake of France; Marie Antoinette and her new allies, Louis’ sisters and the Duchesse de Granmont, are furious when they find Du Barry and the Dauphin behind a closed door, though nothing has happened. As they all shout at each other, Louis collapses.

Du Barry gathers his favourite field flowers and makes her way to his deathbed as his family and the doctors abandon it. They share some happy memories, and he dies. Du Barry is packing to leave when word comes that she is to be deprived of the castle Louis gave her and imprisoned in another chateau. She bids a mocking farewell to Marie Antoinette and the Dauphin, now Louis XVI, and goes off between two officers, ruefully singing the trivial little song she sang to Louis throughout their relationship.



In his October 25, 1934, review of this “ handsomely lacquered historical photoplay”, New York Times critic Andre Sennwald observed that “In the decorative and brunette person of Dolores Del Rio, la comtesse possesses all the visual glamour of a chorus girl… (failing) rather definitely to come alive on the screen as the fascinating courtesan of history… You will not discover…why she has excited the imaginations of the generations which followed her. However, Sennwald praised much of the film, citing Owens' portrayal of the penultimate King of France in particular: “As a comical account of the lecherous Louis and his fetching mistress,… so earnest is it in its efforts to show how the turbulent wench took the French treasury for 100,000,000 livres that, although its intention is to accent her ailure, its effect is to convince the spectator that the guillotine was much too good for her… Although "Madame Du Barry" is not the definitive screen masterpiece on one of the world's most celebrated fancy ladies, it is always pleasant and sometimes it sparkles… It wears its powdered wigs and jeweled rapiers gracefully and it does not suffer from too conscientious a passion for historical truth. While you are mentally requesting the privilege of wringing Miss Del Rio's lovely neck in some of her gushy and quixotic moments, you are also applauding Reginald Owen's excellent performance as the jaded and foolishly profligate Louis Quinze… To support Mr. Owen's priceless Louis, there are a number of excellent players, including Osgood Perkins as Richelieu and Victor Jory as d'Aiguillon—two important rôles which, by the way, are so blurred in the writing as to cause some confusion concerning their precise places in the story.”[3]

The film was considered a box-office disappointment for Warner Bros.[4]


  1. ^ Madame DuBarry details,; accessed June 8, 2016.
  2. ^ "TimesMachine: Sunday May 27, 1934 -". The New York Times. Retrieved 2023-04-05.
  3. ^ Sennwald, Andre (1934-10-25). "Dolores Del Rio as the Royal Courtesan in "Madame Du Barry," the New Photoplay at the Strand". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-04-05.
  4. ^ D. W. (Nov 25, 1934). "TAKING A LOOK AT THE RECORD". New York Times. ProQuest 101193306.

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This page was last edited on 28 April 2023, at 12:03
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