Camille (1921 film)

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Newspaper ad from the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff, Arizona) in the Library of Congress (March 1922)
Directed by Ray C. Smallwood
Produced by Alla Nazimova
Written by June Mathis
Based on La Dame aux Camélias 
by Alexandre Dumas, fils
Starring Rudolph Valentino
Alla Nazimova
Rex Cherryman
Arthur Hoyt
Patsy Ruth Miller
Nazimova Productions
Distributed by Metro Pictures Corporation
Release dates
  • September 26, 1921 (1921-09-26)
Running time
70 minutes (contemporary edit)
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles

Camille is a 1921 silent film starring Rudolph Valentino and Alla Nazimova. It is one of numerous screen adaptations of the book and play La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The original play opened in Paris in 1852.[1][2] The film moves the setting of the story to 1920s Paris, and includes many lavish Art Deco sets, including that of Marguerite's apartment. Natacha Rambova, who would later become Valentino's second wife, was the movie's art director.


A young law student, Armand (Rudolph Valentino) becomes smitten with a courtesan, Marguerite (Alla Nazimova). Marguerite is constantly surrounded by suitors, whom she entertains at her lavish apartment. She also has consumption and is frequently beset by bouts of illness.

Armand sees Marguerite at the opera and, later, pursues her when he attends one of her private parties. She rejects his advances at first, but eventually returns his affection.

The two live happily together until Armand's father, seeking to protect his family's reputation, convinces Marguerite to end the relationship. She finally relents and runs away to a wealthy client, leaving a note for Armand.

When Armand finds the note he is shattered. The sorrow eventually turns to rage, and he decides to plunge into Parisian nightlife, associating himself with Olympe, another courtesan. When he sees Marguerite at a casino, he publicly denounces her.

Marguerite gives up her life as a courtesan and quickly finds herself in massive debt. Her illness also takes a heavy toll. Eventually, as she lies dying in bed, her furniture and belongings are repossessed. She persuades the men taking her belongings to allow her to keep her most precious possession: a book - Manon Lescaut - Armand gave to her.

Marguerite dies lying in bed in her apartment holding the book Armand gave her, wishing to sleep where she is happy dreaming about Armand. Marguerite's maid Nanine, and her newlywed friends Gaston and Nichette are at her bedside as she dies. The viewer is left to believe that Armand never found out about his father forcing Marguerite to leave him, and therefore never saw Marguerite again after the casino scene.


Alla Nazimova and Rudolph Valentino depicted in a lobby card for the film.


Picture-Play Magazine wrote of the film in their August 1921 issue: "The Camille and Armand of tradition are forgotten in the potent lure of the modern characterization of Nazimova and Rudolph Valentino. Bizarre, ephemeral, at moments, and at others, frenzied, their version promises a haunting succession of mesmeric pictures. It does not aim to present the Camille that successive generations have applauded and sniffled over. Because it is Nazimova's presentation of a story that has survived even the buffetings of endless productions—good, bad, and indifferent—it promises to be interesting."[3]


The film has survived and has been made available to the public on DVD and VHS by various film distributors and independent dealers. It is presented as a bonus on the DVD copy of the 1936 version Camille with Greta Garbo.


  1. ^ The AFI Catalog of Feature Films: Camille
  2. ^ Camille at
  3. ^ "Camille". Picture-Play Magazine 14: 76. August 1921. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 

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