The first full-length talker in highly improved Technicolor, cinematographically it’s a tribute to the new process and to Robert Edmond Jones’ beautiful splashes of multi-tone visual values. The pastel shades of the interior properties, the faithful reproduction even of the femmes’ makeup, the gay carnival splashes of color such as that in the Brussels waltz-quadrille scene (climaxed by Napoleon’s Waterloo return) impress optically, but the story falls flat dramatically and the dialog is likewise fraught with too much discordant stridency of tone.
Miriam Hopkins at times fairly shrieks her way through the footage [based on Thackeray’s Vanity Fair and the play by Langdon Mitchell]. She’s basically handicapped by a negative characterization. As the calculating Becky, her role of a temptress is neither lurid nor winsome. It’s a wishy-washy compromise of a gamin who annexes a sextet of masculine conquests, with the character not sufficiently definite to impress her as a great siren.
With the exceptions of G.P. Huntley Jr, Nigel Bruce and Cedric Hardwicke, none of the support is particularly distinguished nor has it much opportunity for distinction.
1935: Nomination: Best Actress (Miriam Hopkins)