'Camille' - a flower that never blooms
No one could accuse Alexandre Dumas of writing another ''St. Joan'' when he adapted his novel ''La Dame aux camelias'' for the stage. But at least the fellow came up with a role and a scenario on which actresses from Bernhardt to Duse to Garbo have been able to stamp their own personal archetype. The famed courtesan and her star-crossed love affair with a bourgeois innocent has lived throughout our times in the face and voice of the great Greta Garbo.
CBS and Hallmark Hall of Fame apparently want that face and that film to hold their title to the legend; because these programmers have assembled a fatuous, silly, and ill-cast version of the French classic - Camille (CBS, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 9-11 p.m.) - that promises to leave the memory of Miss Garbo and her co-star , Robert Taylor, completely untouched. In the process, they have squandered the talents of such illustrious actors as Ben Kingsley and Sir John Gielgud and Billie Whitelaw.
Nothing is so wasted here, however, as the viewer's time. This soap-operatic version might well have fit in a single episode of ''Days of Our Lives.'' Instead, it is taffy-pulled into a seemingly endless two hours - while an annoyingly vapid and repetitive sound track keeps insistently reminding us that this is a poignant love story. And a good thing, too. Because neither Greta Scacchi in the title role nor Colin Firth as Armand seems able to raise the proceedings above the romantic fervor to be found in your average Close-Up Toothpaste encounter.
One could ramble on and on about the shot of onionskin domes and 15 seconds of dialogue intended to stand for Armand's trip abroad, and so forth.
But all there is to say, really, is that whatever else you may intend to do with your Tuesday night from 9 to 11 - even if it's to read the Congressional Record - do yourself a big favor:
Stay away from ''Camille.''