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The Private Affairs of Bel Ami

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami(1947)

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NOTES

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The film's title card reads: "Guy de Maupassant's The Private Affairs of Bel Ami." The film's working titles were Bel Ami and The Affairs of Bel Ami. According to an April 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer David Loew and director Albert Lewin considered changing the title from The Affairs of Bel Ami to Affairs of a Cheat to avoid confusion with two films called Bel Ami that were in release at the time-a Mexican-made, Spanish language version of de Maupassant's novel, and a 1937 Austrian version, directed by and starring Willy Forst.
       Although the film was photographed in black and white, Max Ernst's surrealist painting, "The Temptation of Saint Anthony," was shown in color. As reported in a DN news item, Loew and Lewin sponsored an art competition in which world famous artists were invited to submit a painting of St. Anthony for use in the film. After Ernst's picture was chosen, his and the other artists' paintings were exhibited in New York City. Other participating artists included Salvador Dali, Dorothea Tanning, Eugene Berman, Louis Guglielmi, Leonora Carrington, Abraham Rattner, Horace Pippin, Iva LeLorraine Albright, Paul Delvaux and Stanley Spencer. When the exhibition came to Boston, Mayor James M. Curley banned it, arguing that the paintings were offensive on a religious-moral basis. After Loew and Lewin filed a $200,000 suit against the mayor, the local Stuart galleries showed the exhibit.
       According to the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph I. Breen objected to various elements of the film's preliminary treatment, including the characterization of "Rachel" as a prostitute; a scene of "Rachel" and "Georges" together in her room; a scene in which Georges and "Madame Walter" swear their love inside a church; and the suggestion that "Madeleine" was "Count de Vaudre's" illegitimate daughter. According to the Variety review, Lewin was forced to remove any indication that Georges consorted with prostitutes, as depicted in the novel, and added the fatal duel at the end to uphold the Production Code's edict that crime must not pay in films. In early February 1946, Breen asked Lewin to rewrite the script to eliminate the "flavor of too much emphasis on disrespect for marriage and infidelity." Then, in April 1946, Breen insisted that the relationship between Georges and Clotilde be strictly platonic.
       Contemporary news items add the following information about the film's production: Shooting on the film began at the Enterprise Studios lot, but moved to RKO-Path Studios on July 1, 1946. In November 1946, background footage of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was filmed. The Folies Bergre bar, promenade, boxes and stage sets were authentic period recreations. After Lewin became ill during filming and caused a significant delay in production, several of the crew members left to work on the Lewis Milestone film Arch of Triumph. Among those who were replaced were director of photography Russell Metty, who was replaced by John Mescall, head of makeup Gus Norin, who was replaced by makeup supervisor Ern Westmore, hairdresser Lillian Lashin, who was replaced by Lillian Burkhart, and assistant director Robert Aldrich, who was replaced by Reggie Callow. Hollywood Reporter lists Paramount's Ernest Laszlo as Metty's assistant, but his appearance in the film has not been confirmed. Rudolph Polk was borrowed from Enterprise Studios to score the film. The Pina troupe of acrobats was engaged for the film, but did not appear in the completed film. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Don Borzage, the eighteen-year-old nephew of director Frank Borzage, was scheduled to make his film debut in the film; however, his participation in the released film has not been confirmed. The film marked the screen debut of Susan Douglas.