The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

ERNST LUBITSCH

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB

USA, 1931.  .   Screenplay by , , from the operetta Ein Walzertraum by , , based on the novel Nux der Prinzgemahl by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Production Design by Hans Dreier.  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1931/1932.

Maurice Chevalier stars as an ineffably charming Frenchman for Ernst Lubitsch yet again in this delightful romp.  He’s a Viennese soldier standing guard during a parade of visiting dignitaries who throws a wink across the street at his adorable girlfriend (Claudette Colbert), which is then accidentally mistaken for a leer by the homely princess (Miriam Hopkins, as if) who just happens to be crossing his path in her carriage at the same instant.  A national situation nearly erupts until it is quelled by bringing Chevalier in to apologize to Hopkins and, through a series of witty misunderstandings, he is set to marry her.  Colbert naturally believes herself the loser in this trio and so departs, hitting the road with her violin while Chevalier becomes the prince of a fictional European country.  When the two are reunited, the result is the sparking up of a love affair that also sees the two women team up in order to help the unhappy wife, whose husband has been avoiding consummation of their union, go from ugly duckling to glamorous vixen.  The ending is unexpectedly strange (if you can’t have the one you want, at least the one you get is hot), but this first union of Lubitsch with screenwriter Samuel Raphaelson is a delight, its few forgettable songs easily forgotten in light of the sparkling dialogue and delicious performances.

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