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Onscreen credits include a written acknowledgment stating that actors Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan and Christopher Kent appeared in the film "by arrangement with David O. Selznick." In the opening credits, James Mason is listed last, and his credit reads "portraying Gustave Flaubert, the author." In the closing credits, however, Mason is listed second. The film also contains the following written epilogue: "Gustave Flaubert's acquittal, almost a century ago, was a triumphant moment in the history of the free mind. His masterpiece, Madame Bovary, became a part of our heritage, to live-like truth itself-forever." Flaubert's novel was first published in installments under the title "Madame Bovary: Moeurs de province," in Revue de Paris magazine (1 October-15 December 1856). Following the first publication of Madame Bovary, the French government charged Flaubert with writing an immoral story. Flaubert stood trial in January and February of 1857, and narrowly escaped conviction. Voice-over narration spoken by James Mason as "Flaubert" is heard intermittently throughout the picture.
According to an October 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M "leased" the screen treatment of Madame Bovary from writer Robert Ardrey for $10,000 a year. An August 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that Lana Turner was originally set for the title role. The film marked the American motion picture debut of Swedish actor Alf Kjellin, who was billed as Christopher Kent. According to modern sources, Selznick agreed to loan out Jones on the condition that M-G-M also use Kjellin and Jourdan for the film. According to memos reprinted in a modern source, Selznick, who married Jones in 1949, sent several memos to M-G-M throughout the course of the production, advising the studio on details ranging from Jones's makeup to the development of her character. Modern sourcess add that Selznick was reportedly instrumental in the firing of Dotty Ponedel, a makeup artist assigned to Jones.
The film received an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Art Direction and Set Decoration. Among the many other screen adaptations of Flaubert's novel are: the 1932 Allied Pictures Corp. film Unholy Love, directed by Albert Ray and starring H. B. Warner and Lila Lee (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films 1931-40; F3.4867); the 1934 French film Madame Bovery, directed by Jean Renoir and starring Valentine Tessier and Pierre Renoir; the 1937 German film directed by Gerhard Lamprecht and starring Pola Negri; the 1969 German-Italian production Madame Bovary (Play the Game or Leave the Bed), directed by John Scott and starring Edwige Fenech; the BBC/Time-Life production televised as part of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre in 1976, directed by Rodney Bennett and starring Francesca Annis and Tom Conti; and the 1991 French film directed by Claude Chabrol and starring Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Francois Balmer. A stage adaptation of Flaubert's novel, written and directed by Benn W. Levy, opened in New York on November 16, 1938 and starred Constance Cummings and Eric Portman.