Day 81 of Colourisation Project – July 27
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
Born in Paris this day, July 27 in 1824, Alexandre Dumas Jnr was a popular French writer and dramatist, best known for The Lady of the Camellias or as it became known in the English speaking world, Camille. Dumas was the illegitimate son of Alexandre Dumas, (senior) also a writer and playwright, famous for The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.
The work of the two men could scarcely be more different. Unlike his Freethinker father, Dumas Jnr was a Deist with moments of mysticism and used his plays and novels to proffer his highly moralistic viewpoints of the world.
It was not until 1831 that his father legally recognized him. At that time, French law allowed the elder Dumas to take him away from his mother. This had a profound affect on the young Dumas and it is reflected in a lot of his writing. It was his mother’s pain that inspired Dumas to write about tragic female characters. His play The Illegitimate Son, (Le Fils Naturel) virtually a sermon on the sanctity of the family and of marriage, tackled the issues of fatherhood and the responsibilities that come with it. Le Demi-Monde, first performed in 1855 dealt with the threat to the institution of marriage posed by prostitutes. (Demi-monde is the french term for a prostitute or courtesan, a class of women who have lost their standing in ‘respectable’ society because of indiscreet behavior or sexual promiscuity. The term has lots its currency today but it was commonly used in Europe from the late 18th to the early 20th century)
In 1844, Dumas moved to Saint-Germain-en-Laye to live with his father. There, he met Marie Duplessis, a young courtesan with whom he had an affair and who was the inspiration for Marguerite Gautier, the heroine of his romantic novel, The Lady of the Camellias (La Dame aux Camélias) published in 1848. The novel recounts the story of Marguerite, a fallen girl, who gives up her lover rather than see him become a social outcast.
The novel received immediate success however after he adapted the story into a play it received even greater acclaim. It premiered at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris, France on February 2, 1852, and a year later it became the basis for Giuseppe Verdi’s 1853 opera, La Traviata, with the female protagonist renamed Violetta Valéry.
The story has been filmed numerous times in numerous countries and in a wide variety of languages with the role of ‘Marguerite Gautier’ being played on screen by the likes of Sarah Bernhardt, Theda Bara, Yvonne Printemps, Greta Garbo, Micheline Presle, Francesca Bertini, Isabelle Huppert to name a few.
Marguerite and Armand is a ballet adaptation created in 1963 by renowned choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton specifically for Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.
Even Eric Segal’s 1970 hugely successful novel, Love Story (and the ensuing movie version that reduced every schoolgirl in the world, their mothers and quite a few of my male friends to blubbering messes) has basically the same plot updated to 1970’s New York with the drama centering on the relative economic classes of the main characters.
And that’s not all……Baz Luhrmann’s film, Moulin Rouge!, released in 2001 with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in lead roles, is also loosely based on the The Lady of the Camellias.
Given his reactionary opinions and the sanctimonious nature of his writing, Dumas Jnr’s plays don’t go down too well with modern audiences, however in the late 19th century eminent critics praised his plays for their moral fortitude. In 1874, he was admitted to the Académie Française and in 1894 he was awarded the Légion d’honneur.
Dumas, forever underlining the importance of marriage and the moral purpose of literature, married his mistress of eight years after his wife died in April, 1895. Dumas died seven months later in November of 1895. Ahh… vive l’amour.
Seriously, though…’love means never having to say you’re sorry.’
“I realize that the prime requisites of a play are laughter, tears, passion, emotion, interest, curiosity – to leave life in the cloakroom. But I maintain that, if by means of all these ingredients I can exercise some influence over society – if, for example, while I satirize and describe and dramatize adultery I can find means to force people to discuss the problem, and the lawmakers to revise the law – I shall have done more than my part as a poet. I shall have done my duty as a man.” – Alexandre Dumas (Jnr)