Desiree is a visually beautiful film, a genuine feast for the eyes, even if it leaves the heart and mind feeling somewhat less than sated. 20th Century Fox clearly lavished a great deal of money and attention on the physical production (although not to the extent of allowing a great deal of location shooting), and the stunning costumes and sumptuously decorated sets clearly show it. Less attention was paid to Daniel Taradash's screenplay, which was already operating under the constraints of the Annemarie Selinko book upon which it was based and which bore absolutely no relation to historical truth. Unfortunately, both book and film replaced truth with standard issue soap opera, resulting in an unconvincing and uninvolving story with trite situations and clichéd dialogue. Henry Koster, who is capable of bringing a certain amount of charm to films such as The Bishop's Wife, is operating mostly on automatic pilot here; the result is a film that is placid and professional but has little personality of its own. Jean Simmons looks lovely and convincingly portrays her characters rags-to-riches story. Marlon Brando is uneven, bringing flash and excitement to some sequences but coming across as uninvolved in others. Desiree's debits do it damage, but its assets are strong enough to make it worth viewing, at least once.
by Craig Butler review