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  • Ron Oliver11 November 2003
    With their HEARTS DIVIDED by international politics, can a pretty American girl and the brother of the great Napoleon ever find true happiness?

    This good-natured romance film has been rather harshly criticized as being bad history, which it is, instead of being appreciated for its simple aim to provide some escapist amusement in the form of a lavish movie starring Marion Davies. In this it succeeds. William Randolph Hearst, Davies' powerful lover, saw to that, and what Hearst wanted he generally got. Although the plot is exceedingly silly at times, the film is still a pleasant entertainment.

    At 39, Davies was too old for the part (and older than her costar by seven years), but Hearst liked seeing her in the crinoline & lace roles, and she had little control of the matter. However, as was her custom, Marion charms the viewer with her buoyant spirits, willingness to please and genuine acting skills. She's more than able to hold her own with a talented supporting cast and appears quite happy to be in the arms of young Dick Powell. For his part, Powell needs do little more than exude boyish charm and sing a few times to cover his acting requirements quite nicely.

    As Napoleon, the great Claude Rains steals every scene he's in by very quietly underplaying his acting and only hinting at the tremendous power his character wields. Fascinating to watch even under heavy makeup, Rains makes a quality contribution to the film.

    The movie's humor is largely handled by a trio of excellent character actors. Droll Arthur Treacher, suspicious Edward Everett Horton & grumpy Charles Ruggles play Marion's erstwhile suitors. Constantly trying to upstage each other, their dialogue provides plenty of chuckles.

    Even in minor casting the film excels. Dignified Henry Stephenson and sharp-tongued Clara Blandick play Marion's father and aunt. Walter Kingsford & diminutive Etienne Girardot play the French officials assigned to keep an eye on Mr. Powell. Halliwell Hobbes lends gravity to his small role as Napoleon's Second Consul. Beulah Bondi brightens her single scene as the Bonaparte boys' kindhearted mother. And the magnificent Hall Johnson Choir appears to lift its voice in song for a few moments.

    Time has not dealt kindly with Marion Davies. Almost forgotten today, when remembered at all it is usually as a sort of footnote to history or object of scandal. Her life certainly was colorful, and as chatelaine of America's most amazing private estate she did circulate amidst powerful circles. But to remember her as the bimbo blonde mistress of the country's mightiest media baron is patently unfair.

    While much of the blame can go to Orson Welles' spoof of Davies in CITIZEN KANE (which he was to admit he regretted towards the end of his life) it must be stated emphatically that Marion was not a no-talent actress with few friends & even fewer brains, whose career was destroyed by her stammer leaving her to spend lonely years in great, hulking empty castles.

    In reality, Davies was a bright, vivacious lady who charmed & captivated such diverse guests as George Bernard Shaw & Winston Churchill throughout her 33-year liaison with Hearst. Adored by her friends and a fierce cadre of fans, Davies was renowned for her tireless generosity and charitable good works. Her speech impediment never affected her screen acting and her undeniable talent was evident to any who were willing to assess her performances honesty and look past the scandal.

    Davies had to have been embarrassed by the Hearst empire's relentless pushing of her career. She knew this left her open to ridicule & mockery, doubtless contributing to her scarcely concealed alcoholism. But she eventually relinquished her film pursuits in order to care for the aging Hearst, and after his death in 1951 she showed herself to be an astute businesswoman during the remaining ten years of her life.

    It is only now, with the passage of much time & the restoration of her old movies, that it is becoming easier to acknowledge the contributions & cinematic expertise of Marion Davies.


    Jérôme Bonaparte (1784-1860) was only 16 when he entered the service of Napoleon as a member of the Consular Guard. After being wounded in a duel he transferred to the French Navy. Leaving his ship in the West Indies, he entered the United States, (Jérôme was not involved in the sale of the Louisiana Purchase to America) where he fell in love with Elizabeth Patterson of Baltimore, Maryland. They were married on Christmas Eve, 1803. After returning to Europe with his wife in 1805, it was discovered that Napoleon had annulled the marriage and forbade Elizabeth to enter any of his domains. This decision was absolutely determinate. Elizabeth was returned to America and Jérôme was married to Princess Catherine of Württemberg and subsequently proclaimed King of Westphalia in 1807, which included a wide territory east of the Rhine in addition to the former province of Westphalia. He abdicated in 1813 when Napoleon's powers began to decline, but he continued to serve as a loyal officer fighting for his brother until the Battle of Waterloo brought total defeat in 1815. Jérôme then retired into self-exile and did not return to France until 1847, when he entered the service of his nephew Napoleon III, the son of his brother Louis. Jérôme would eventually serve as Governor of the Invalides, Marshal of France & President of the Senate.
  • I wasn't prepared to like this film as much as I did, since I had read the reviews of the people here on the IMD first before commencing to watch it on TCM. It's a good thing I didn't dismiss it, because I liked it much better than Miss Davies' "Page Miss Glory", which preceded it on the broadcast schedule.

    The cast was wonderful, the script was meaty for a romantic picture, with some really funny lines, and I enjoyed the sweet romance between the principals, Miss Davies and Dick Powell. Claude Rains was a joy to watch as Napoleon; loved that bathtub scene with his servants scrubbing his manly hairless chest. Sort of like Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) in "Key Largo", but much funnier.

    Special mention goes to character actors Charlie Ruggles, Arthur Treacher, and Edward Everett Horton as would be suitors to Miss Davies; they helped round out the script and bring even more giggles to the story.

    I also enjoyed the music, including two pretty tunes by songmeister Harry Warren, and the negro spirituals.

    8 out of 10.
  • lugonian2 October 2009
    HEARTS DIVIDED (Warner Brothers, 1936), directed by Frank Borzage, stars Marion Davies (with name above the title) in a costume related story reportedly based on the actual romance of Betsy Patterson and Jerome Bonaparte. Previously filmed by Warners during the silent era as GLORIOUS BETSY (1928) starring Dolores Costello and Conrad Nagel, this newer adaptation, with added score and some comedy, is actually better than anticipated.

    Set during the early 1800s, Napoleon Bonaparte (Claude Rains) assigns his younger brother, Jerome (Dick Powell) to America as representative for the negotiation for the sale of the state of Louisiana for $20,000. Taking up residence at the Baltimore Inn, Jerome, on his resented "good will tour," comes to the horse races where he becomes enamored by the presence of Betsy Patterson (Marion Davies), a society girl. At first Betsy resents this young man until he croons to her, later assuming the role in the guise as her singing tutor. His identity is finally realized at a reception of the Patterson home where Jerome publicly proposes to Betsy, regardless of his telegram from Napoleon, now Emperor of France, ordering his return to marry Princess Catherine of Wurtemberg or face disgrace as a traitor.

    Often categorized as a musical, songs for this production are limited to some degree. While HEARTS DIVIDED might have selected popular songs from the colonial era, an original score by Harry Warren and Al Dubin was used instead. New songs include: "My Kingdom for a Kiss" (sung in French by Dick Powell); "Nobody Knows the Trouble I Have Seen" (traditional Negro folk song performed briefly by The Hall Johnson Choir); "My Kingdon For a Kiss" (reprized in French and English by Powell); "Two Lovely Heart's Divided." and "My Kingdom For a Kiss." "My Kingdom for a Kiss," a nice tune, is underscored numerous times, used effectively during scenes involving Davies and Powell.

    Although Marion Davies is far better suited for comedies than dramas, she makes a lovely presence in this costumer. It's seems unlikely, however, finding resident crooner Dick Powell in early American setting, even more unlikely having him playing a Frenchman. While he does sing a song entirely in French, Powell, along with Rains, make no attempt speaking with French accents. Overall, the Davies and Powell combination, which began with the hit and miss comedy of PAGE MISS GLORY (1935), would come to its conclusion with this historical account and based on fact love story.

    Edward Everett Horton, Charles Ruggles and Arthur Treacher provide amusing moments with their comical support as members of the United States senate and would-be suitors of Glorious Betsy. Straightforward performances go to Henry Stephenson as Betsy's father; Clara Blandick as Betsy's spinster aunt; and Beulah Bondi with only one scene as Bonaparte's mother. Hobart Cavanaugh, Walter Kingsford, Etienne Girardot and Philip Hurlic can be seen in smaller roles.

    Regardless of his British heritage, Claude Rains physically makes a fine Napoleon, a role enacted in more detail by Charles Boyer in CONQUEST (MGM, 1937), earning the born Frenchman an Academy Award nomination. No such honor for Rains here, but although his scenes are somewhat limited, he makes every moment count, especially later in the story where, in the manner of a mother coming between her son and future bride, asking Betsy, for the good of France, to give up his brother, but it is Davies as Betsy, under Borzage's sensitive direction, who nearly overcomes Rains performance in how she handles this situation.

    Reportedly previewed at 88 minutes, circulating prints for available at 76 minutes, making one hope for the discovery of the missing footage. A rarely seen item from the era of Warner Brothers musicals or costume dramas, HEARTS DIVIDED can be seen periodically on Turner Classic Movies. (***)
  • Hearts Divided is a historical romance starring Dick Powell and Marion Davies. The two live during the Napoleonic era when France was trying to sell Louisiana to the Americans and the French Revolution was brewing. Powell and Davies' characters meet accidentally at a horse race and begin a glorious romance almost immediately despite their multiple scuffles. He becomes her tutor for music, French, and fencing. Her family does not approve of their romance because they are distinguished and he is a lowly tutor, but Davies responds to his advances. The two are separated but brought back together and it is discovered that Powell is not an average citizen at all; he is the brother of Napoleon. A wedding is planned but it is Napoleon who does not approve this time.

    This film is typical of Marion Davies for it not only has the ability to show off benefactor William Randolph Hearst's many historical items and costumes, she is able to show her natural spunk and joviality. Powell responds in kind with his lighthearted cracks and beautiful smile. The two work well together and shine in their own rights.

    There are also a few catchy songs sung by the gorgeous tenor voice of Dick Powell.
  • Hearts Divided (1936)

    ** (out of 4)

    Claude Rains masterful performance as Napoleon is wasted in this rather bland mess that was clearly meant to be a showcase for star Marion Davies. In the film, Napoleon sends his brother Bonaparte (Dick Powell) to America where he is to negotiate $20 million for the Louisiana Territory. Once there, he ends up teaching French to the beautiful Elizabeth Patterson (Davies) and eventually falls in love with her, which doesn't sit too well with his brother. It's well known that Davies felt at ease with a good comedy but the costume dramas made her nervous and that's obvious here in this film, which besides a few good things turns out to be a complete mess. Based on true events, the movie changes history around to fit the story so those looking for the truth might want to settle with a book on the subject. Hearst obviously thought Davies could handle the material but she can't and sadly she comes off looking pretty weak her. There wasn't a single scene where I believed her as this character as she didn't look the part nor was she able to act it. Powell, selected by Davies, isn't any better and often just appears to be modeling for the camera. The two of them have absolutely no chemistry together and this really kills the love story trying to be pushed here. The main reason to watch this film is for Rains performance, which is another great one by the character actor. He does a great job at filling the part of Napoleon and one can't help but wish the entire movie be built around him. Rains plays the character quite low but that power (or evilness) is easily viewable just by looking at his eyes. The film isn't helped any by some really silly dialogue or rather lampoonish scenes including one where a group of men follow Davies character up a tree. In the end, there might have been a good story somewhere here but one can't help that the producers didn't find it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Spoilers. Observations. Opinions. 10/10.

    Greek chorus is hilarious. Trio of would-be suitors, all old, vie for Betsy's hand. They are losers, and bicker among each other. The duel of drunkardness is also hilarious, and the insults between them are absurd.

    They lose out to Jerome, who pretends to be a tutor. Jerome is actually the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. Betsy finds this out later.

    Claude Rains knocks the role of Napoleon Bonaparte right out of the park. The resemblance is uncanny. One mistake is that Napoleon was not the Emperor of France, but in reality he was the Emperor of the French People.

    Davies was wonderful. She was radiant. Betsy's family found out that they were not so "high" after all.
  • I should make you aware of one thing that most IMDb users are not aware of but which several other users have also noticed. There is a small and devoted group that has given all of Miss Davies' films scores of 10--even her lesser or bad films. I'm not sure why, but these folks appear to think EVERY Davies film is a classic and I have been attacked for daring to dislike some of her films--such as "Cain and Mable". Speaking of "Mable", it was one of the biggest box office losers of its time yet currently 61% of its votes are 10s. Compare this to "The Godfather" at 56%, "Gone With the Wind" at just under 39%, "The Shawshank Redemption" (currently the highest ranked film on IMDb) at just under 60% and "12 Angry Men" at 39%! Critics over the years have been pretty hard on her films--though she definitely did star in a few classics (such as the wonderful "Show People"). My suggestion is that you don't be swayed by the scores well as the reviews (including mine). See the films and make your own decision.

    From the start, I must admit that for me, at least, the film has a major strike against it. The likable Dick Powell co-stars in the film, however, since it was made during his "singing star" period, he spends lots and lots of time singing...and I don't particularly like it in the film. In fact, Powell himself hated all the singing roles he had through the 1930s and loved when they gave him films where he could concentrate on his acting--which was usually very nice. Why they would have Davies starring opposite a singer like Powell is beyond me--it does not play to her strengths--she was certainly NOT a singer but was more adept at light comedy. Now had the female lead been Jeanette MacDonald, this might have worked better! As for the rest of the cast, Davies got some nice support. Likable and very capable supporting actors like Henry Stephenson, Arthur Treacher (oddly, he's NOT starring as a butler here), Claude Rains, Charlie Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton are on hand--adding a lot of nice color to the film.

    Oh, and speaking of color, some might feel rightly put off by the slaves in the film. They are pretty happy folks and the white masters are pretty good to them (especially the sweet Davies) and this is pretty tacky. This "happy slave" stereotype is perhaps worse than just ignoring the plight of blacks during the era in which the film was set.

    The setting for the film, incidentally, is both in France and the US during the early years at the beginning of the 19th century. Napoleon (Rains) need funds for his many wars and is trying to sell the Louisiana Territory to the Americans. During these negotiations, a French agent and brother to Napoleon (Powell) is in the States--though you really aren't sure why. In his capacity as an agent, he wants to remain incognito, so he poses as a French language teacher and is engaged by Davies' family to tutor her. Her family is quite wealthy--and happen to hate Napoleon.

    Naturally, like romances of the day, you know that eventually the two will be in love. However, where it went from there was hard to predict because, amazingly, this weird and seemingly silly plot is actually based on the real life romance between Elizabeth Patterson and Jerome Bonaparte! And, oddly for a romance of the 1930s, it ends most tragically--not sweetly like the audience probably hoped.

    So how true is this film? Well, in many ways it's surprisingly close--at least in the first 2/3 of the film. However, the scene with Napoleon convincing Elizabeth to give him up never occurred--as in real life, she tried and tried in vain to keep her Jerome--even though history shows us that he wasn't worth this loyalty (he was a real chuckle-head). I also cringed a bit with the scene between Napoleon and his mommy--it just came off as false and a bit silly. But worst of all was the tacked on happy ending--that never happened in real life!! In reality, Jerome left his pregnant wife and married a German princess!! Oops! This bit of historical liberty is simply unforgivable. How so many people could give this amiable but patently false film a 10 is beyond me.
  • Imagine Dick Powell--the all-American charmer--as Napoleon's brother! Have him serenade--didn't you know Jerome Napoleon was a crooner!--Marion Davies, miscast as his beautiful young American sweetheart. Add a romantic score in an attempt to lend credence to their implausible pairing and you end up with this misguided misadventure in movie-making. Everything in this picture rings as false as the fake "Sicilian" nose pasted onto Claude Rains' face. The picture's premise is that Napoleon's brother threw away everything, sacrificing the opportunity to become a King by marriage--thereby extending Napoleon's empire--to marry his true love, sweet Betsy Patterson. Faithful to this vision, the picture ends with star-crossed lovers Powell and Davies--reunited after a "Hearts Divided" separation forced by Napoleon--in each others' arms once again set to live happily ever after in America. But the historical Jerome Bonaparte was in truth an opportunist who actually DIVORCED this first American wife in order to go through with the politically-motivated pairing and become King of Westphalia! The movie is a handsome production, but the script expects everyone to mouth the most ridiculous platitudes about class, duty, patriotism, "true love", etc. ad nauseum--all played straight. In the best Hollywood tradition, Dick Powell courts Marion Davies disguised as her lowly tutor, only to reveal his true "imperial" self after she casts aside all trepidation about marrying below her station. But who really believes that American society would hold the brother of a military dictator in such high esteem? All of the classic elements of a great Hollywood romance are here, only the plot and actors are really just going through the motions against this implausible historical backdrop--and we the audience aren't fooled one bit.
  • Marion Davies was a winsome, whimsical, and very pretty comedienne, with a slyly subversive personality not unlike Carole Lombard's. But her mentor and manager William Randolph Hearst preferred to see her as a clothes horse, in stuffy period romances. And so we have this sleepy costume epic, from a flop play by the author of "Naughty Marietta," where she's a Baltimore society heiress, with hair of a color no 1805 society heiress ever knew, who keeps smiling gallantly while her heart is breaking. It's a Norma Shearer sort of part, and Marion's noble suffering is equally uninvolving. She looks glum and too old for the role, and her romantic interest, Dick Powell as Napoleon's brother (!), looks equally unhappy. Claude Rains is an asset as the Emperor, as are Edward Everett Horton, Charlie Ruggles, and Arthur Treacher as her three other suitors (though the screenwriters might have come up with better dialog for them). But mostly it's Marion being noble--acting condescendingly nice to the slave labor, going from haughty to starry-eyed over Powell in record time, shedding glycerine tears, and advancing to an unlikely, logic-defying happy ending. Frank Borzage directs with his typical moonlight and magnolias, but even he doesn't seem to believe it, and Marion seems to be wishing she were in a screwball comedy.
  • SumBuddy-39 January 2011
    I must preface by saying I'm a big Marion Davies fan, but this was the least appealing of her films that I've seen. Worth watching, just to see Claude Rains playing Napoleon-he pulls it off beautifully. Dick Powell is okay, but he and Davies together looks stiff and miles apart in age and demeanor. Simply bad casting, as Davies looks much older than Powell, but more sadly,seems to move awkwardly in the past and given her, which detracts from the idea they can be romantic together. This spoils Rains performance,and even the great character actors Edward Everett Horton & Arthur Treacher are wasted in characters that seem to be contrived, just to fill in time. Miss Page Glory is a much better film, and really shows Davies at her best. Too bad about this film, but skip it.
  • mke14 June 2003
    I don't generally obsess over the historic errors in films, especially comedies. That may be why I was able to enjoy this picture and the many fine performances. Claude Rains as Napoleon was particularly good. In fact his performance here was the most complex and interesting portrayal of Napoleon I recall seeing which is impressive given the generally humorous tone of the film.

    While far from a classic this is a fine movie with many good lines and a very talented cast.
  • Hearts Divided is based on an Edwardian era play by Rida Johnson Young, who if known at all by today's audiences is known for some of the lyrics she wrote for music by Victor Herbert, Sigmund Romberg, and others. It's an old fashioned costume drama involving the marriage of Napoleon Bonaparte's youngest brother Jerome to Elizabeth Patterson of Baltimore. Sadly in real life that marriage was annulled by Napoleon, and he had the power to do it, and Jerome was placed on the throne of one of his conquered kingdoms.

    By a curious coincidence, Jerome and Bessie Patterson did have a son and through him, a descendant of their's, Charles J. Bonaparte, was the Attorney General of the United States at the time this play was having a limited run on Broadway.

    The best one in this film is Claude Rains. But Rains was so good a player he was a veritable alchemist in films, making gold of some of the worst dross going. He would play another Napoleon, Napoleon III as well in a later Warner Brothers film, Juarez.

    This was one of the last attempts by William Randolph Hearst to put his inamorata Marion Davies before the public as a crinoline heroine in a costume drama. She looked uncomfortable to say the least.

    But that was nothing compared to how Powell felt. The two films from his Warner Brothers period he most detested was this and A Midsummer Night's Dream. He looked ridiculous in period costume in a role that Tyrone Power would have been right at home with.

    However Powell did get to sing a couple of nice songs from the songwriting team of Harry Warren and Al Dubin. Two Hearts Divided and My Kingdom for a Kiss were the titles and I did especially like Powell's rendition of the latter.

    So maybe the reason to see this is to see just how uncomfortable Marion and Dick looked.
  • samhill521525 September 2009
    Once again here's another Marion Davies film totally undeserving of its vote. As of this writing it was an astounding 7.8, a testament to the repetitious fervor of Miss Davies' fans. It appears to me that artificially elevating her scores does her disservice. She was a fine comedian and a commendable person but there were also several turkeys in her career and this is one of them. Leaving aside the utter lack of any historical authenticity apart from names and places this one is a real TURKEY. It tries to be a comedy but the jokes are tired old slapstick delivered by actors who appeared to be there for the paycheck. It tries to be a romance but there's no chemistry between Powell and Davies. There's just nothing there other than Claude Rains who is as always the master. But even he is not enough to save this TURKEY.
  • writers_reign6 February 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    In some ways this resembles Billy Wilder's The Emperor Waltz; period setting, well-known crooner in the lead, light on songs and a general awkward feel. People like Dick Powell, Arthur Treacher, Charlie Butterworth and Edward Everett Horton just don't 'do' tights and it takes a while to get over this. Claude Rains played both Napolean and Julius Caesar in his distinguished career and he does tend to steal the film, putty nose and all. Marion Davies is probably known today, if at all, solely as the mistress of William Randolph Hearst who was pilloried in Citizen Kane but she shows herself as a more than adequate actress. Frank Borzage began his career around 1913 and turned out several fine movies including Three Comrades and The Mortal Storm and he manages to extract several laughs along the way in what is essentially a large screen soap.
  • First thing to do is to forget history (I will not argue with American history,but as far as French history is concerned,well..): No,they did not live happily ever after ,for the marriage was finally broken ,and Jerome had more mistresses than you could count.No,Madame Mère -who briefly appears to sweeten her offspring's relationship- did not probably intervene.

    But it does not matter when you deal with Frank Borzage,my favorite American director of the twenties/thirties.To say he gave it his all is diminish this director ,because there was always more to give,another passion to plumb,another open wound that demanded he raises his voice ;no one depicted love (against the whole world) as he did.In consequence ,the best scenes are to be found in the second part of the film:Marion Davis ,"translating" the letter into English in a voice chocked with emotion;the scene on the ship where the unfortunate lovers raises their glasses before the bell ring -this scene is similar to the ones we find in "Humoresque" before the hero goes to war ,and in "Street angel" when Janet Gaynor says goodbye to his love (who does not know it's a farewell celebration).In "Hearts divided" the sequence is too short ,and somewhat ruined by the final scenes although the song and the wall are romantic stuff.

    As everything Borzage did ,"Hearts Divided" is a movie which deserves to be watched.I will not rate it as highly as Borzage's true masterpieces ("Seventh Heaven" "Street Angel" "Little man what now?" "A farewell to the arms" "Strange Cargo" or the immortal "Mortal storm") though.