Madame Dubarry is a Hollywood idea of Versailles. Under William Dieterle’s directorial aegis, the decadent court of Louis XV becomes even more so in its broad well-nigh travesty version of the comtesse’s influence on the doddering Louie.
Script is a chameleon affair. It emphasizes the stupid extravagances of a former street waif who wants to go sleighing in the midst of summer; and in another moment seeks to suggest that perhaps some of her devious ways achieved some good. Such as when the English ambassador opines that getting rid of the French prime minister (caught in Dubarry’s boudoir) has achieved something which his Brittanic majesty and other diplomats in the French court long tried but heretofore couldn’t accomplish.
Dolores Del Rio’s Dubarry is rarely believable. It’s a theatrical conception eclipsed by the performances of Reginald Owen, who is capital as the senile Louie, and Victory Jory as d’Aiguillon. Osgood Perkins’ Richelieu doesn’t register.
Dubarry as a production is very Busby Berkeley. In its tinsel, costuming, and general pretentiousness it’s more musical comedy than history.