Source:The New Democrat
“Directed by David Lowell Rich, Madame X (1966) is one in a long line of frothy soap operas that delivers a good old-fashioned sob story. This film pulls out all the stops and leaves nothing behind in an effort to put its viewers’ emotions through the wringer.
It stars Lana Turner as Holly, later known as Madame X. She starts out as a happy woman, still beaming with that newlywed glow, but over the years her life slowly spirals out of control and she loses everything; her family, her identity and her will to live. Holly is married to Clay Anderson (John Forsythe), an upstart politician with big aspirations for his career.
They live at the Anderson family mansion in Fairfield County, Connecticut with Estelle (Constance Bennett, in her final role), the glamorous matriarch who secretly hates her new daughter-in-law. Holly and Clay have a son, Clay Jr., and as Clay’s work takes him abroad, Holly finds herself alone and neglected. She seeks solace in the arms of playboy Phil Benton (Ricardo Montalban). When tragedy strikes, Estelle finally finds a way to get rid of Holly from the Anderson family’s life for good. Holly is given a new identity and a new life and any semblance of happiness becomes a thing of the past.”
Read more from Raquel Stecher at Out Of The Past
“Lana Turner plays one of the best roles of her career in this stunning and emotional adaptation of Alexandre Bisson’s classic play. Turner is the ill-fated Holly Anderson, blackmailed by her evil mother-in-law (Constance Bennett) into leaving her politician husband (John Forsythe) and their baby. Twenty years later, she finds herself on trial for murder, where she is defended by her own son (Keir Dullea). (Original Title – Madame X) – 1966 Universal Studios.”
I guess I disagree with Raquel Stecher on a couple of points, but I believe she nails the rest of it: I don’t see Madame X as a great movie in a movie sense, I see it as a great soap opera, which is actually very different. Soap operas whether they’re TV or on the big screen are designed to be sensational and made for the tabloids and just not believable for most people who live regular, boring lives, at least in comparison with life in a soap opera, but might be completely happy with their lives and find them to be very interesting.
But compared with a woman who comes from very modest means ( to state the obvious ) and then marries not just up, but hits the jackpot and goes from living in basement one room apartment where she can’t even afford the rent, to now living in a penthouse, with a mansion as a vacation home, ( not saying that any of this happened in the movie, but that’s the type of background that Holly Anderson comes from and then moves into ) if you’re Joe or Mary Jones living on Main Street in blue-collar Smithville, Ohio, ( or some place ) even if you’re completely satisfied with your life and love your two kids John and Sally and live you live together with your family there, your life looks like a cure for insomnia compared with Holly Anderson. ( Played by Lana Turner )
For a movie to be great to me, it first has to be believable. Then it needs a plot that not only is interesting, but makes sense. It needs great, as well as clever writing where you’re thinking you hadn’t heard that kind of writing before, because it’s not cookie-cutter and copied from a popular film. You need a great cast, even if most of the cast is not famous.
Now, under my own standards for a great movie, Madame X is not a great film, but only because it’s not believable at least for most people with their own lives.
I mean the Constance Bennett character essentially buying off and kicking her daughter-in-law out of the country, because she’s about to be arrested for murdering her lover. And the fact that this is basically a political family where the son ( played by John Forsythe, the husband of Holly ) is being groomed to be President of the United States, who doesn’t have much time for either his wife or son, which is why his wife is having an affair with Phil Bennett ( played by Ricardo Montalban ) is a pretty good clue that the movie isn’t very realistic and when a story like that happens, of course it’s going to be a tabloid story like and real-life soap opera. But what the movie is about, the characters in it, the cast, all the sub plots, make Madame X a great soap opera and great soap movie.