I love a good movie about jewelry! If you’re passionate about jewelry, period dramas and romance, The Earrings of Madame de is a must watch movie to add to your viewing list.
Staring Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio De Sica, this 1953 classic black & white French movie is directed by Max Ophuls and follows the story of a single pair of earrings. Those of us who enjoy antique jewelry and often wonder about the past life of the jewelry pieces we have acquired will be entranced to watch how the story unfolds over these diamond earrings.
This beautifully filmed period piece begins with Comtesse Louise, an aristocratic and beautiful woman of the Belle Époque era in Paris. Louise is a spoiled and superficial woman who has amassed debts unbeknownst to her husband, General Andre. The movie begins with Louise examining her jewelry and valuable possessions trying to find something she can secretly sell to pay off her debts before her husband finds out.
She settles on a pair of costly heart-shaped diamond earrings, given to her by her husband as a wedding present. She really doesn’t care about the earrings and they carry no sentimental value to her. She arranges to re-sell them back to the original jeweler, Mr. Remy, whom her husband purchased them from. Louise insists that Mr. Remy keep the transaction a secret from her husband.
That evening at the opera, she creates a ruse that her earrings are missing! Did they fall off? Did she leave them in the carriage? Because of their value, her husband begins a frantic search thru the opera house for the earrings, leaving no stone unturned. Not being able to find them quickly he starts to question if they perhaps have been stolen and not lost. Soon the newspapers get wind of the story and declare “Theft at the Theatre!”. Seeing these headlines causes Mr. Remy, the jeweler, to become concerned for his reputation since he has the “missing” earrings in his possession. Fearing a police visit, he goes to the husband and explains the true story of what happened to the earrings and why they are once again in his possession. Mr. Remy discreetly offers to sell them back, for the 2nd time to Andre. He is happy to make the purchase, but rather than return the earrings to his wife, who so callously sold his special gift to her, he purchases the earrings and then gives them as a departing gift to his mistress who is on a train leaving for Constantinople. He allows Louise to carry on with her charade of having lost the earrings.
Now in Constantinople, the mistress has to sell the earrings to pay off large gambling debts. Once they are displayed in a jeweler’s window, they are seen and admired by Baron Donati who is on his way to Paris as an Italian ambassador.
Once in Paris the ambassador and Louise meet at a series of society balls and soon fall in love. As a token of their secret love, Donati gives Louise the beautiful diamond earrings he recently found in Constantinople (and the very earrings she so casually cast aside before). Suddenly Louise sees the beauty of these special earrings as a sign that they were meant to return to her. She becomes passionate about the earrings and believes they are a symbol of her fate and that she is meant to be with her new love, Donati.
In order to wear the earrings in public, she lies to both men. To her husband she makes a big show of “finding” them in front of him, tucked inside a pair of gloves. Her lost earrings have been found! You can imagine her husband’s surprise when he suddenly sees the earrings again. To explain to Donati how she wears his love token gift in front of her husband, she tells Donati that she told her husband that they were inherited heirlooms from a long lost relative. She thinks she is in the clear with her deceptions, but she does not realize that her husband actually knows the truth of how she sold the earrings to Mr. Remy. It’s not long before her husband puts two and two together and figures out the story of her passionate new love, who has arrived from Constantinople (where his mistress was sent with the earrings) and how the earrings have come back to her.
At the next formal ball, Andrea takes the earrings from her, jealous that she is wearing jewelry, his jewelry, given to her by another man. He then confronts Donati, giving him the earrings back and telling him the history of the earrings and how she deceived both of them with her lies. He instructs Donati to sell them to Mr. Remy so that he may purchase them again, for the third time. He wants to be the man who has given these earrings to Louise. But he also wants to teach her a lesson and to be rid of these earrings once and for all. Especially now that these earrings have become a symbol of love to Louise for Donati.
Upon hearing the level of deception Louise has gone to over the earrings, Donati tells her he must end their affair. Louise sinks into a deep depression having lost her earrings and the man she loves. Her husband Andrea returns to the jewelers and buys the earrings back. On presenting them to Louise she is overcome with happiness but it is short lived. Now that the earrings remind her of her love for another man, she cannot keep them. He tells her she must give away the earrings to his niece who has just given birth. Louise is forced to tearfully agree.
Soon after receiving them, the niece is forced to sell the earrings, yet again to Mr. Remy, to get cash to pay off her husband’s debts. Remy now goes back to Andre for the 4th time to sell him the earrings. By this time, Andre has had enough and angrily refuses. When Louise finds out the earrings are back with the jeweler, she sells everything that she can to purchase the earrings back. Once back in her possession, she is happy and has her memories of her lost love. When she tells her husband what she has done, in his anguish at having lost her love, if he ever had it, Andre goes searching for Donati and confronts him over a slight and demands a pistol duel.
Louise pleads with Donati not to go as her husband is an excellent military shot and will surely kill him. Donati refuses to back out. Louise goes to church to pray to the saints that his life will be spared. She lights a candle and leaves behind her prized earrings along with a card that says they are a gift to the church from her. She races with a servant to the duel location at the top of a hill. As the “offended” party, Andre is allowed the first shot. As Louise races up the hill she hears one shot, but no second shot, implying that one duelist may be dead. She clutches her heart then collapses as the servant runs for help. The viewer is left with the impression that both Donati and Louise have died and can now be together forever.
Such a dramatic story with a pair of earrings as the center focus! It really makes one think about the history behind our own beloved pieces of antique jewelry that came to us from another time and another era. Just imagine the stories waiting to be told within your own jewelry box.
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