Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Love Parade (Ernst Lubitsch) ***1/2

Ernst Lubitsch

Cast: Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette McDonald, Lupino Lane, Lillian Roth

Background: Maurice Chavalier was a well known musical performer in Europe. He rejected an offer to come to Hollywood to star in silent films, not having a very good experience with the few French silents he made. With the advent of sound, he now had the confidence and signed a contract with Paramount. The Love Parade was his second film. It was the first film for Broadway star Jeanette MacDonald, who was spotted by director Lubitsch while looking through old screen tests of Broadway stars.

Story: The Queen of Sylvania (Macdonald) meets and falls in love with Count Renard (Chevalier). When they get married, he finds it difficult to adjust to his new life playing second fiddle to his wife.

Thoughts: The first full sound picture (and musical) that I've seen since I started this project, and it's great fun. Ernst Lubitsch always had a unique way of telling what seems like a simple story, and that's evident here. See the way in which a prop is used to cleverly deceive the audience in the film's opening scene. And he knows how to bring actors together that seem perfectly matched. Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette McDonald make a wonderful romantic pair, completely natural playing off each other with Lubitsch's typically witty dialogue. However, the romance between underlings Lupino Lane and Lillian Roth is actually my favorite part of the movie (and seems to have inspired Billy Wilder, whose Sabrina has a very similar romance between two minor characters). The actual songs are not very memorable, but almost all of them are charming, thanks mostly to the ingratiating performances by the cast. It sure says something that this is my least favorite of the five Lubitsch film I've seen to date, and it's still tremendously entertaining.

Postscript: This film received six Oscar nominations, including nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Lead Actor. Lubitsch would reteam with his two leads for 1934's The Merry Widow. All three would continue to have very successful film careers.


phantasma said...

What's with Lubitsch and royalty in love?

Larry McGillicuddy said...

Lubitsch got his start doing serious costume dramas. I guess some elements of that stuck with him once he made his switch to light comedy.

He did make a great movie about regular people, The Shop Around the Corner. But that's 11 years away.