Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1936. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Anita Loos, based on the story by Robert E. Hopkins. Cinematography by Oliver T. Marsh. Produced by John Emerson, Bernard H. Hyman. Music by Herbert Stothart, Edward Ward. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Adrian. Film Editing by Tom Held. Academy Awards 1936.
Hilariously campy drama that couldn’t possibly have been taken all that seriously back in its day, let alone now. Jeanette MacDonald plays a beautiful opera singer who can do no better than get a job singing in a tacky saloon run by a notorious gangster (Clark Gable at his moustache-twitching best). When she is discovered and moved up to the world of grand opera, thanks in part to the friendship of a kindly priest (Spencer Tracy), her old boss finds himself missing her and trying his best to become a better person for her (Gable’s role is pretty much the same one he had in Manhattan Melodrama, only this time his lady love shrieks opera tunes at him every ten minutes). The highlight of the film is the famous earthquake of 1906, which serves to shift our characters’ destinies and also showcase some pretty impressive special effects that hold up well even today. MacDonald is at her loveliest, but the story is really old-hat and her male co-stars went on to bigger and better in the years to come.