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Madeleine (1950)

aka Madeleine

Directed By: 
Details: 114 mins · English


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The film dramatises events leading up to the 1857 trial of an otherwise respectable young woman, Madeleine Smith, (Ann Todd), for the murder of her draper's assistant lover, Emile L'Angelier (Ivan Desny). The trial produced the uniquely Scottish verdict of "not proven", which left Madeleine a free woman.

The film begins with the purchase of a house in Glasgow by a wealthy middle class Victorian family. Their eldest daughter, Madeleine, chooses to have for her own the bedroom in the basement. Here she will have easy access to the servants' entrance, and will be able to entertain her lover, Frenchman Emile L'Angelier, without the knowledge of her family.

The relationship continues, and the couple become secretly engaged, but L'Angelier begins to press Madeleine to reveal his existence to her father in order that they can marry. Madeleine, frightened of her authoritarian father, is reluctant to do so and eventually visits L'Angelier in his rooms and says she will run away with him and marry him rather than face telling her father the truth. L'Angelier, however, says that he could never marry her in this way, and Madeleine realises that he does not love her for herself but rather that he sees her as a means to recover his position in society. She tells him that their relationship is at an end and asks him to send her letters back.

During the time that she has been seeing L'Angelier, Madeleine's father has been encouraging her to accept the attentions of a wealthy society gentleman, William Minnoch, (Norman Wooland) and after having broken her engagement with L'Angelier, she tells Mr Minnoch that she will accept his marriage proposal. Her family are delighted, but L'Angelier visits the house again and threatens to show her father the compromising letters in his possession unless she continues to see him. Saying nothing of her new engagement, Madeleine reluctantly agrees.

Some weeks after this, L'Angelier is taken very ill, and although he recovers, he later has another attack of the same illness and this time dies from it.

He is found to have died from arsenic poisoning, and L'Angelier's friend points the finger of suspicion at Madeleine, who is found to have had arsenic in her possession at the time of L'Angelier's death.

The remainder of the film covers the court case, at the end of which the jury bring the verdict of not proven, a uniquely Scottish verdict which releases Madeleine from custody as neither guilty nor not guilty.

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