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Maurice Chevalier Day today on TCM, featuring one of the greatest movie musicals of all time
Last Edit: PlayWiz 12:44 pm EDT 08/24/21
Posted by: PlayWiz 12:31 pm EDT 08/24/21

That would be "Love Me Tonight", directed by Rouben Mamoulian (the original Broadway director of 'Porgy and Bess", "Oklahoma!", etc.), a score written for the screen by Rodgers and Hart featuring the standards "Isn't It Romantic?", "Lover", and "Mimi", starring Chevalier, Jeanette McDonald, a young vampy Myrna Loy, Charlie Ruggles, Charles Butterworth, C. Aubrey Smith and Mrs. Trumbull herself from "I Love Lucy", Elizabeth Patterson. Fabulously inventive film with great use of rhythms in sound, rhyming and/or racy dialogue, a mystical fairy tale element, and a famous opening sequence. The song "Isn't it Romantic" actually links the leading man and woman together before they've even met. It's also very funny and a pre-code (i.e. naughty) film, in Jeanette's negligee/underwear epoch at Paramount before MGM made her more prim and proper with Nelson Eddy. The deer hunt sequence, expertly scored by Rodgers, was an inspiration for things like "Auntie Mame", the musical "Mame", "I Love Lucy" and "Tom Jones", and it is absolutely delightful with the deer getting his own counter underscoring melody.

Another fun film is Jeanette's debut in 1929 opposite Chevalier in "The Love Parade", directed by the great Ernst Lubitsch. McDonald is so strong in her film debut that she totally matched Chevalier's vitality and star quality. She plays a queen who needs a consort. Chevalier's character has a very scandalous reputation, and she is secretly delighted! The famous Lubitsch touch is very much in evidence, especially in the way the film opens with what appears to be a tragic lover's quarrel. Co-starring in the film are Lupino Lane (the original Bill Snibson of "Me and My Girl") and a young, vibrant, strong-voiced Lillian Roth as the servants. Their chemistry together is also wonderful, and Lane offers some incredible acrobatic dancing in the "Let's Be Common" number. This was a very big hit, playing in theaters just around the time of the 1929 stock market crash. It's halfway between an innovative film and plant the camera and film what's on stage, as sound pictures were new, and they were still figuring things out. But very enjoyable still.

There's also "The Merry Widow" another Chevalier-McDonald Lubitsch film, with an elaborate staging, plus a lot of that wonderful score. Plus "The Smiling Lieutenant", another Lubitsch film with Chevalier this time starring opposite Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins. Plus "Can-Can" is on as well.
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