Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Top Billed Actors: Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Frank Morgan
IMDb Rating: 7.0
*Best Picture Nominee*
Won 1 Oscar:
Best Sound - Douglas Shearer
Nominated for 1 more:
Plot: A French princess sneaks on to a ship headed for New Orleans to escape a prearranged marriage to sing and live among the basic provincials in the colonies. In one of the biggest twists in all of cinema, she finds true love in her rescuer.
It has been interesting to see MacDonald's career progress since her debut in The Love Parade (1929). Chevalier is the focus of the two movies that we have seen her in so far, but she carries Marietta with gusto and is a vocal powerhouse. There is a moment in the film where she suddenly realizes that she is in love with Eddy's New Orleans character. Rather than coming off as an over-the-top romantic, a genuineness is conveyed due to the set up of the two characters' interactions throughout the movie. MacDonald does the heavy lifting by playing coy and hard-to-get at times. She sways from being completely disinterested to falling in love with Eddy and the acting is what drives the credibility of it all. Her singing is also something to note. She displays incredible range and her duets with Eddy are highlights of the picture. A few comedic sequences rise up as well. Frank Morgan, of The Wizard of Oz (1939) fame, is very funny as he submits to his wife while in his governor role. The sequence where the French girls are being courted for marriage is also silly.
It would be nice to be able to praise Eddy as much as MacDonald but his performance is simply not up to par. Eddy is known more as a singer rather than actor and it shows here. His first appearance looks extremely awkward as he belts out a song while marching in the wilderness with his troupe. He doesn't seem to know what to do with his body and facial expressions as he concentrates on the song at hand. Some of the blame has to go to W.S. Van Dyke, who is known for plowing through movies by rarely shooting scenes multiple times. Although the singing is wonderful, it feels strange in a movie musical. The operatic style of song would be fine if the characters did not discuss the singing in the plot whenever a performance was finished. Because the characters are cognizant of songs breaking out (as compared to many musicals in which the songs are representations of plot development), it is strange to think about people having a conversation only to transition to an emotional piece of music that contains notes held out for fifteen seconds at a time.
Overall, the first MacDonald/Eddy film gives us plenty of songs that are catchy, even if they are strangely inserted into the plot. MacDonald shines in both the musical and acting aspects of her performance and there are plenty of laughs to be had. Unfortunately, Eddy is just a little too underwhelming for this to be in the conversation for 1935's Pictures.
My Score: 6/10