Madame X (1966)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Courtroom Drama, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Nov 8, 1966 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Although it gave Lana Turner the chance to show off her range in her last major film role, this weepy melodrama was a bit of an anachronism by the time of its mid-'60s release. Keir Dullea, who plays the title character's son, would appear just a few years later in 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film as forward-looking as Madame X was retrograde. Still, for all of its hand-wringing and improbable plotting, this version of Frenchman Alexandre Bisson's novel successsfully transplants the action to the milieu of blue-blooded New England dynasties and gives plenty of first-rate actors the chance to have a ball. In her final picture, Constance Bennett oozes frosty matriarchal entitlement as the matron who banishes her philandering daughter-in-law. Ricardo Montalban and Burgess Meredith gleefully chew scenery as two of the many men who assist in Madame X's debauchery. Turner herself, meanwhile, visibly ages about five decades in the space of 20 years of screen time, from a Cinderella shopgirl with a dream marriage to a desiccated absinthe addict full of terrible secrets. The courtroom climax is as over the top as the title character's descent into debauchery, but if you can get into this sort of agony-aunt material, Madame X is an unapologetically cautionary tale with the sort of tragic but redemptive ending that has kept hankies wet since Hollywood first developed the formula for the "women's picture."