Conquest is said to have cost $2.6 million. Visually, it bears the mark of extravagant effort.
With Greta Garbo and Charles Boyer teamed as co-stars, in the characters of Marie Walewska, Polish mistress, and Napoleon Bonaparte, lover and soldier, the film is a romantic mixture of fact and fiction. Intensely emotional in spots, it is a moving and satisfying entertainment [from a book by Waclaw Gasiorowski and dramatization by Helen Jerome].
Major credit goes to Clarence Brown for direction. The Walewska episode in itself is a thrilling romance. Dramatic events led to the meeting of the young Polish countess (she was 18 at the time) and Napoleon, when the latter visited Warsaw at the height of his military successes. He was enraptured by her beauty and wooed her ardently. She joined him during his banishment to Elba.
Walewska role would seem to be a natural for Garbo. Part calls for intense feminine feeling, for coquetry and renunciation. It is not due to any shortcomings on her part, however, that the audience interest is more closely held by Boyer’s Napoleon. Boyer plays the love scenes with brusque tenderness, and makes the character understood as a blazing individualist acting under reckless urges for power.
1937: Nominations: Best Actor (Charles Boyer), Art Direction