Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
Ernst Lubitsch is considered one of the major pioneers of the movie musical thanks in part to this terrific little charmer starring Jeanette MacDonald in a gorgeous film debut. Only two years into the advent of sound (and the dialogue scenes let that show plenty), Lubitsch went a step ahead of the musicals of the time (which were basically easily strung together revues) by having a film where music was interwoven seamlessly into the plot, laying the groundwork for decades of works to come. His famous touch again shows itself in the sparkly bright lights that permeate every gorgeous frame; the musical score isn’t quite as inspiring, full of forgettable songs whose recordings using primitive technology creak quite a bit. Far more delightful is the rapport between MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier, she the queen of a fictional European country and he the returning cultural ambassador who is taking shelter from the scandals he created in Paris thanks to his affairs with married women. MacDonald has thus far been a proudly unwed monarch; when she takes Chevalier as her prince consort, battles of the sexes ensue as he is frustrated by his legal prohibition to contribute to matters of state. When he threatens to leave, she responds by stubbornly refusing to make him happy. Sadly, her eventual fate is what passes for female power in twenties cinema (and is actually more dominant than anything you’d see outside of forties noir for decades), but there’s no denying that this is a delightful experience.