Director Henry Koster and writer Daniel Taradash speculate mightily in this historical tableau charting the rise and fall of Napoleon (Marlon Brando), all due to his unrequited love for noblewoman Desiree (Jean Simmons). The film takes a chronological view of Napoleon's reign and posits Napoleon's love of a woman he wanted to marry as a young general but abandoned for the sake of his career. Both Napoleon and Desiree go their separate ways -- he to become Emperor of France and loveless husband to Josephine (Merle Oberon) and she to become Sweden's disinterested Queen. Napoleon and Desiree meet up again in a whimsical confrontation in which Desiree urges the Little Corporal to surrender and go to St. Helena. The film is based on a novel by Annemarie Selinko that, like the film, takes wild liberties with the truth.
by Paul Brenner synopsis