Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Earrings of Madame De... (1953)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Earrings of Madame De... (1953, Fr./It.)

In director Max Ophul's period romantic melodrama - it was about deception and tragic romance as a pair of earrings was passed amongst wealthy aristocrats; the film was remarkable for the director's sweeping and moving camera and B/W cinematography - [Note: The theme of the passage of an object (or animal) as its importance or meaning changed, was similar to other films, such as Tales of Manhattan (1942), Anthony Mann's Winchester '73 (1950), Au Hasard Balthazar (1966, Fr./Swe.), The Red Violin (1998),and War Horse (2011).]:

  • the B/W film opened with a prologue (three title cards): "Madame de ... was a very elegant, distinguished and celebrated woman, seemingly destined to a delightful, uncomplicated existence. Probably nothing would have happened had it not been for those jewels...."
  • in the film's opening scenes, the pretty, flighty, and spoiled Countess Madame Louise de... (Danielle Darrieux) was forced to discreetly sell her pair of heart-shaped diamond earrings, an expensive wedding gift from her cool-headed, stiff, determined and aristocratic, high-ranking military officer husband André (Charles Boyer), to pay off her debts (20,000 francs) due to her lavish spending; she sold them back to the original jeweler Monsieur Rémy (Jean Debucourt) who had earlier sold them to her husband; the Countess and André were in a love-less marriage - she often entertained suitors

First Transactional Sale of the Earrings to Jeweler Mr. Rémy by Louise/The Countess

At the Opera: "My earrings are gone!"
  • when she suspiciously and falsely claimed that the earrings were lost at the Opera, it was publicized in the newspaper ("THEFT AT THE THEATRE"); Mr. Rémy became worried that he might be responsible: ("It could ruin the shop), and awkwardly sold them back to André, without the Countess' knowledge
  • the miffed husband with wounded pride transferred them to his secret heartbroken mistress Lola (Lia Di Leo), who was permanently leaving him and departing on a train from the station for a holiday vacation to Constantinople
  • the estranged and impersonal married couple discussed the loss of the earrings, notably speaking to each other from beds in separate bedrooms, and both knowing that each of them had deceived the other
André and Louise In Separate Bedrooms
  • once Lola arrived at her destination, she traded in the "souvenir" earrings to make up for her casino gambling losses at the roulette table
  • Italian Baron Fabrizio Donati (Vittorio de Sica) purchased the earrings from a Constantinople pawn shop three months before traveling to Paris, France to serve in a high diplomatic position; coincidentally, he later became acquainted with the Countess in France, after first glancing her in a customs office in Basel (Switzerland), and then two weeks after when their horse-drawn carriages crashed into each other in Paris and he told her that they were destined to meet
  • the infatuated Baron pursued her until she reciprocated and they began a romantic affair - the beginnings of a love triangle; Andre was already aware of the Baron and had earlier met him at several embassy functions; the Countess and the Baron happened to be seated together at a state dinner, and during this and other social functions, the two danced together at fancy balls, emboldening their love for each other; masterful camera techniques included the use of several ellipsis that were linked by match cuts and fades to symbolize their growing attraction and affection over time
Dancing (and Circling) Over Time As Their Affections Heated Up
  • over time, André became fully knowledgeable about the flirtatious Countess' dalliances with the Baron, when she announced that she would take a long restful holiday by herself to the Italian Lakes region; to the Countess' complete surprise, Donati presented her with a going-away gift of roses and her own earrings before her departure; she exclaimed to herself: "They had to go to Constantinople to make their way back to me"; they parted without a kiss as she told him facetiously: "I don't love you"
Donati's Gift of Her Own Earrings
  • after visiting seven Italian towns in five weeks, the restless Countess felt the urge to return to Paris; the Baron also missed her during her absence and often wrote letters; although Louise sent flowers, she also wrote reply letters to each one to tell him of her "blossoming love," but then never sent them: "I never had the courage to mail my replies"
  • once she returned, the two surreptitiously met and kissed, and the Countess confessed: "My earrings. Thanks to them, you were always at my side. They were my only comfort. I shall wear them always"; again, she told him: "I don't love you, I don't love you"; however, she attempted to prevent André from seeing that she had her earrings back since they were symbolic of her affair with her lover; she hid them inside her long gloves stashed in her tall dresser drawer in her bedroom, but then pretended that she had found them - to explain their disappearance on the night of the Opera; André feigned surprise ("Incredible indeed"), but knew that she was obviously lying (she later admitted to Donati that she told "a little white lie")

Louise's 'Discovery' of Her Earrings in Her Long Gloves, In Front of Her Husband

At Another Formal Ball, Louise (Wearing the Earrings) Danced with the Baron

The General Confronted Donati, and Ordered Him to Sell the Earrings
  • the telltale earrings continued on their transactional journey at another formal ball, where Louise had been openly wearing them during a waltz-dance with Donati; she told him: "I want to be seen by you and you alone"; after ordering Louise to remove the earrings, General André confronted the womanizing Donati in the smoking room about the earrings given by him to his wife - he explained how they were previously a wedding present - but now they provided evidence of Louise's promiscuous relationship and her constant deceptions and lies
  • the General pressured Donati to sell them back to his jeweler, to facilitate his re-purchase of the earrings for her (it would be their third purchase); Louise fainted knowing about the confrontation due to her utter humiliation, and also became extremely despondent and depressed when she was forced to end her affair with Donati (Donati: "We must never meet again...I'm no longer with you, Louise")
  • Louise was overwhelmed with joy when the earrings were given back to her, but then was dismayed when André compelled her to give her returned earrings to his young niece Elizabeth who had just given birth to a child
  • to save her husband from bankruptcy, the niece sold the earrings back to Monsieur Rémy who again offered to sell them back to André (for the fourth time), but he angrily refused. Desiring the earrings herself, the Countess decided to buy them back from Mr. Rémy (after selling her precious furs and other jewelry), and she told her husband what she had done - to spite him; he responded: "You're trying to turn remorse into memories...Don't escape like this into a world of sickness and silence"
  • André jealously confronted Donati at a gentlemen's club, and challenged him to a pistol duel. The General prepared himself with target practice, putting three shots in the heart on the target (echoing the heart-shaped earrings)
  • the Countess feared that if Donati accepted the duel challenge, he would be shot dead: ("He's an excellent shot. He'll kill you!" It's suicide!"); she begged that he not go through with it: ("How can you fight over a crazy woman like me? I'm not worth it. I'm not even pretty any more"); she stressed that the two of them hadn't even had sex, and their love was dead: "We've given him no further reason...But you don't even love me anymore"
  • she visited the church to pray at St. Geneviève's shrine to save Donati's life: ("Save him, dear saint. You know that we were guilty in thought only. And what are thoughts? Will you save him, my dear Saint?"); she placed her beloved earrings onto the altar - gifting, donating, and bequeathing them to the Saint
  • as she approached the dueling field, she heard only one shot (presumably from André who fired first since he was the "offended party," with the implication that Donati was shot dead) - the outcome remained ambiguous; due to racing up a steep hill (with a weak heart), she fainted and fell against a tree - and died of a heart attack

The General Firing First in the Duel

The Countess Slumping Against a Tree - and Dying
  • the film came full circle in the conclusion - the Countess' earrings were viewed on the church's altar as a "Gift of Madame De..."

Madame Louise's Heart-Shaped Diamond Earrings in a Jewelry Box (right hand corner)

Countess Madame Louise de... (Danielle Darrieux)

High-Ranking Military Officer Husband General André (Charles Boyer)

André's Departing Mistress Lola ( (Lia Di Leo) Was Given the Re-Purchased Earrings as a "Souvenir"

First Encounter in Basel Between the Countess and the Baron

Second Encounter After Their Carriages Crashed

The Flirtatious Countess with the Baron Seated Together at a State Dinner

A Kissless Goodbye with the Baron as the Countess Departed for the Italian Lakes Region

The Countess' Return to Paris for a Passionate Rendezvous with the Baron

Louise's Joy At Receiving Her Earrings Back From Her Husband

Earrings Given by Louise to Niece

Earrings Offered to the General a Fourth Time by Mr. Remy - He Refused

Dueling Pistol Practice for the General - Into a Heart-Shaped Target

The Countess Praying to St. Geneviève to Save Donati's Life

The Film's Final Image: The Countess' Gift to the Saint's Shrine


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