Madness of the Heart

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Madness of the Heart
"Madness of the Heart".jpg
Original British quad poster
Directed by Charles Bennett
Produced by Richard Wainwright
J. Arthur Rank
Screenplay by Charles Bennett
Based on Madness of the Heart
by Flora Sandström
Starring Margaret Lockwood
Paul Dupuis
Kathleen Byron
Music by Allan Gray
Cinematography Desmond Dickinson
Edited by Helga Cranston
Distributed by Universal Pictures (USA)
Release date
  • 20 September 1950 (1950-09-20)

October 1950 (USA)[1]
Running time
75 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $800,000[2]

Madness of the Heart is a 1949 British drama film directed by Charles Bennett and starring Margaret Lockwood, Paul Dupuis and Kathleen Byron.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

Lydia Garth meets Paul de Vandiere, a French nobleman, but their romance is plagued by Lydia's complaint of recurring spells of blurred vision. Paul leaves for France, promising to return and marry Lydia, but she loses her sight while he is gone. Given no hope of recovery, she enters a convent and quickly finds that she has no vocation for life in a nunnery. She finally marries Paul, but encounters strong opposition from Verite Faimont, a neighbor who is very fond of Paul. The latter constantly plots against Lydia and is successful in temporarily breaking up the marriage, but can a miracle of restored vision be seen?



The film was based on a novel by Flora Sandström published in 1941.[4]

Charles Bennett was meant to make his directorial debut with a story about the murderous Madeleine Smith, Madeleine (1950); however he was replaced on that project by David Lean and given Madness of the Heart instead.[5] Lockwood's casting was announced in August 1948.[6]

Bennett claimed he "didn't even read" the script "until I was on my way back across the Atlantic to direct it, and then I wanted to throw up. But I had to make it. Margaret Lockwood was my star - a very good actress. And I had a fifty-five day shooting schedule. Everything was right about it except the story which was awful."[5]

The film was shot over 12 weeks in early 1949 from January in April. Filming took place at Denham Studios in London and on location in the south of France in Aix-en-Provence at a castle belonging to the de Sabran family.[7] Location filming was completed without the role of Lockwood's male lead being cast.[8][9] Eventually French Canadian actor Paul Dupuis was given the role.

Lockwood reportedly wore 28 different gowns created especially for the film.[10] She also wore a borrowed diamond necklace worth ₤6,000.[11]

Kathleen Byron was cast on the strength of her performance in Black Narcissus. She later recalled enjoying the filming but said it was hard work:

We did a lot of swimming around in a tank in the studio at Denham. I didn't actually do the riding sequences in the south of France; they had a young boy with a wig on them doing them. Margaret Lockwood wasn't very easy to work with. I know from other people she can be very charming and sweet but I'm afraid our relationship was never very cordial. Desmond Dickson was the cameraman.... and he said to me one say, 'You're only allowed close ups in profile or if your face is distorted in anger - but we're getting around it!' Margaret had a great deal of power then and she certainly influenced which takes or prints could be used.[12]

According to Variety filming took place on schedule and under budget.[2]


The film was not given a West End premiere. This was seen as a bad sign as to the film's quality because it meant critics did not review the movie.[13][14] Nonetheless, trade papers called the film a "notable box office attraction" in British cinemas in 1949.[15]

The film was not released in the USA until October 1950.

Critical reception[edit]

  • In the Radio Times, David Parkinson called the film an "unpersuasive melodrama", and wrote, "this hackneyed hokum is worth sticking with for the risible showdown...kudos to the supporting cast for keeping straight faces throughout."[16]
  • Matthew Coniam wrote in the BFI Screenonline, "despite low critical standing (Margaret Lockwood's biographer Hilton Tims calls it "a throwback to the worst excesses of Gainsborough's pulp-fiction days") this is among the star's more interesting post-Gainsborough work...However ripe the plot, writer-director Charles Bennett is subtler in his effects and devices than most critics allow...a remarkable degree of suspense is achieved in the scene in which Veritée attempts to drown Lydia, with its undercurrent of subdued eroticism...Bennett had co-written many of Hitchcock's finest movies, and this film is highly reminiscent of Rebecca (US, 1940) in its settings (an imposing house near a raging coastline), and plot motifs (a commoner's marriage to a wealthy landowner is deliberately strained by a hate-filled third party)."[17]


  1. ^ f Local Origin New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 11 Oct 1950: 41
  2. ^ a b "London Film Notes", Variety March 1949 p 15
  3. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | MADNESS OF THE HEART (1949)". 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2014-06-16. 
  4. ^ TWO NEW NOVELS Beresford, J D. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 18 July 1941: 3.
  5. ^ a b Patrick McGilligan, "Charles Bennett", Backstory, p 40
  6. ^ Bennett Framing Offer to Margaret Lockwood; Cowboy Star Horseless Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 25 Aug 1948: A7.
  7. ^ "Hollywood Movie Men Change Over To England". Truth (3073). New South Wales, Australia. 12 December 1948. p. 11. Retrieved 9 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  8. ^ "FILM NEWS". South Western Advertiser. 43, (2258). Western Australia. 16 December 1948. p. 13. Retrieved 9 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  9. ^ "FEMININE INTEREST". Warwick Daily News (9195). Queensland, Australia. 24 January 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 9 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  10. ^ "ACTRESS SELLING HER HOME TO MAKE ENDS MEET". Truth (3086). New South Wales, Australia. 13 March 1949. p. 44. Retrieved 9 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  11. ^ "FILM FACTS AND FANFARE". Mirror. 26, (1433). Western Australia. 5 November 1949. p. 14. Retrieved 9 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  12. ^ Brian McFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, 1993 p 105-106
  13. ^ "CUSTOMS MEN MADE PROFIT". Truth (3109). New South Wales, Australia. 21 August 1949. p. 35. Retrieved 9 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  14. ^ "British Stars Top the List". The Age (29,541). Victoria, Australia. 31 December 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 9 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  15. ^ Robert Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48 2003 p211
  16. ^ "Madness of the Heart | Film review and movie reviews". Radio Times. 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2014-06-16. 
  17. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Madness of the Heart (1949)". Retrieved 2014-06-16. 

External links[edit]