Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1935. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by John Lee Mahin, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, based on the book of the musical play by Rida Johnson Young. Cinematography by William H. Daniels. Produced by Hunt Stromberg. Music by Victor Herbert, Gus Kahn, Herbert Stothart, Rida Johnson Young. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Adrian. Film Editing by Blanche Sewell. Academy Awards 1935.
Louis B. Mayer trotted out his favourite operetta and cast his favourite actress, Jeanette MacDonald, in the lead. What resulted was an absolutely delightful delicacy that highlights Victor Herbert’s score beautifully and showcases the talents of its stars more than amply. MacDonald stars as a French princess who has been betrothed by her family and against her will to a Spanish nobleman. She escapes her fate by switching places with her maid Marietta and boarding a ship loaded with young women who have been hired by the King to go to Louisiana and marry one of the many eligible bachelors living there. En route to their destination, the ship is taken over by pirates, who land the ladies ashore and are then attacked by mercenary soldiers who save the women and take them to their intended rendezvous with the French settlers. The captain of the soldiers (Nelson Eddy in his starring debut) eventually wins the heart of “Marietta”, who in turn sees him as the answer to her quest for true love. The music is beautiful, the singing lovely, and the overall atmosphere of stardusted romance absolutely irresistible. MacDonald starts the show off with an unforgettable performance of “Chansonette” and from there it just gets better (the “Italian Street Song” number is also a classic).