I was watching film clips from Jeanette Macdonald and Nelson Eddy films, which are some of my favorite musicals. They are so different from the other MGM musicals, and I love that. But it makes me sad that they aren’t on DVD yet. I often check what classic films are coming on to DVD, and I keep feeling that lots of crap movies, or just more of the same kind of classic films are being released onto DVD. Maybe it’s just because some of my favorite films have yet to be released (I demand a Greer Garson Film collection!), but I am so frustrated with the selections of classic films that are becoming DVDs.
His first sound film was The Love Parade, made in 1929, the first truly “talkie” year. His use of camera movement is only slightly constrained in this operetta starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. The following year’s Monte Carlo was another leap forward, with its famous “Beyond the Blue Horizon” number, in which train sounds set the rhythm, leading to Jeanette MacDonald’s vocal and the choral backing of farmers as the train speeds by their fields. The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) is similar in tone and subject to The Love Parade, with an even smoother execution. And One Hour with You (1932) — a remake of The Marriage Circle (1924), one of Lubitsch’s best silents — is arguably the greatest of the four.
The “argument” is largely a matter of casting. Chevalier was known as “the French Jolson,” and, like the American Jolson, his style and persona have (to be kind) dated badly.
In addition to his often impenetrable accent, Chevalier’s repertoire of rolling eyes, raised eyebrows, smug grins and jaunty chuckles make his whole act somewhere between irritating and intolerable. Monte Carlo benefits hugely by having Jack Buchanan (The Band Wagon) in what would otherwise have been “the Chevalier role.”