Madeleine is based on the true story of a trial that took place in 1857 when Glasgow socialite Madeleine Smith was accused of murdering her lover Pierre Emile L’Angelier.
Actress Ann Todd was so captivated by the story that she suggested to husband David Lean that they should make a film version which he would direct and she would star in.
A well-to-do family in Glasgow move to a new house in the city. Madeleine (Todd), her widowed father, James (Leslie Banks), her little sister, and their servants move in, and Madeleine secretly continues a love affair with impoverished French social climber Emile L’Anglier (Ivan Desnya).
Unaware of the Frenchman, Madeleine’s father arranges a match for her with William Minnoch (Norman Wooland), a respectable young man. Resisting at first, Madeleine eventually succumbs and ends her relationship with Emile.
But the Frenchman doesn’t take it well and threatens to reveal their love letters to her father.
Madeleine panics and tries to poison Emile with a cup of cocoa but the dose is too small. He eventually does die – of arsenic poisoning – and Madeleine is arrested for the crime because she tried to purchase arsenic and the police found her love letters in Emile’s possession.
The movie becomes a courtroom drama for the final half-hour as Madeleine’s defence counsel (André Morell) works overtime to put sufficient doubts in the jurors’ minds to enable Madeleine to escape the executioner.
While most of Madeleine was shot at Pinewood Studios, the opening exteriors were filmed on location in Glasgow.
David Lean regarded this as his worst movie.
Mr James Smith