Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 1938. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, based on the musical book by Fred De Gresac, Harry B. Smith, Robert B. Smith. Cinematography by Allen M. Davey, Oliver T. Marsh. Produced by Hunt Stromberg. Music by Fred De Gresac, Harry B. Smith, Robert B. Smith, Herbert Stothart. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Adrian. Film Editing by Robert Kern. Academy Awards 1938.
No expense was spared for this lavish, early Technicolour musical starring MGM’s stellar sweethearts Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald (studio boss Louis B. Mayer’s favourite actress). Victor Herbert’s celebrated operetta becomes a play within the play in Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell’s screenplay as married couple Eddy and Macdonald celebrate their sixth year performing the show night after night. The routine they’ve gotten into, with the show and their family, has become so constricting that the offers coming from the west coast to star in musical movies are starting to gain more and more appeal. The various bits of dialogue concerning the need to avoid the cultural wasteland of California and stay in thriving New York City have Parker’s stamp all over them in this otherwise lifeless and stilted production. Eddy and Macdonald never really had much chemistry except as the perfect vanilla couple for audiences with no imagination (or someone like Mayer, who saw them as the cure for his own ethnic shame). The photography, which won a special Academy Award for colour, is stunning throughout, and the film has been kept in pristine condition since then.