Friday, May 18, 2018

THE MGM MUSICAL MAGIC BLOGATHON: Sweethearts (1938)



Annette Bochenek of Hometowns to Hollywood is hosting The MGM Musical Magic Blogathon from May 18th to the 20th. Click HERE for the laughter and song from the MGM dream factory.



Jeanette MacDonald jumped from a dues-paying stage actress and singer to a leading lady of motion pictures with her first film, Paramount's The Love Parade in 1929. Many successful films and concert tours followed when she signed with MGM in 1933. It was in that same year that the studio signed a young baritone named Nelson Eddy. After a couple of film roles playing himself, in 1935 Eddy was cast opposite Jeanette Macdonald in Victor Herbert's Naughty Marietta. A hit movie and a new movie team were born. Sweethearts in 1938 was the fifth of the eight movies featuring the popular stars.

Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald
On top of the world.

Jeanette and Nelson star as Gwen Marlowe and Ernest Lane in the movie Sweethearts. In the movie Gwen and Ernest star in a Broadway hit called Sweethearts. Did I say hit? The show is a phenomenon celebrating its 6th anniversary. These Sweethearts of Broadway are also Sweethearts of the airwaves with a weekly radio program. Success is a wonderful thing, but it leaves little time for a personal life or privacy in their marriage. 

Florence Rice, Lucile Watson, Berton Churchill, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart
Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald, Terry Kilburn
Gwen and Ernest enjoy a quiet evening at home.

Gwen Marlowe and Ernest Lane are their generations representatives of the first family of the American Theatre. Confused? Both the Marlowes and the Lanes lay claim to the title. Aunt Amelia Lane (Kathleen Lockhart) is a diva of the old school. Sheridan Lane (Berton Churchill) is an actor given to verbose reminiscences. Mrs. Marlowe (Lucile Watson) still considers herself an ingenue. Augustus Marlowe (Gene Lockhart) is a master of dialects, or he thinks he is, or he used to be.

Orlando Lane (Raymond Walburn) is constantly on the road in one failed production or another and always requires a cash infusion. Gwen's younger brother (Terry Kilburn) is in musical training and keeping a cynical eye on the box office. The "children" love their respective families, but they make financial, emotional and time demands on the couple. The family makes the promises which Gwen and Ernest feel obligated to keep.

Reginald Gardner, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy
Go west, young stars.

A representative (Reginald Gardner) of a Hollywood studio has been trying to get Gwen and Ernest to travel west. He paints a rosy, if unlikely, picture of leisure time and compliant, understanding bosses. It sounds like heaven when yet another crisis of their family's doing arises. They'll do it! Gwen Marlowe and Ernest Lane are going to Hollywood!

Allyn Joslyn, Frank Morgan, Mischa Auer, Olin Howland, Herman Bing
Surely brains like these can come up with a plan.

Producer  Felix Lehman (Frank Morgan) sets himself up as the friend and protector of his "kiddies", but he too takes advantage of their goodwill. It is desirable to all involved that the Sweethearts money train doesn't stop; the publicity man Dink (Allyn Joslyn), the accountant Appleby (Olin Howland), the composer Engel (Herman Bing) and the playwright Kronk (Mischa Auer).

Panic ensues in the production office of Felix Lehman at the news of the kiddies defection. Only one man has a plan whereby they can count on the continuing flow of cash into their coffers. Playwright Kronk has a new play focusing on the one universal truth. What is that truth, you ask? It is, in the author's opinion, that a woman in love can always be made to believe that she has a rival. In other words, Gwen must be made to believe that Ernest has a secret love.

Betty Jaynes, Douglas McPhail
The understudy's lament: "You'd think that in all this time she could have sprained just one ankle."

Gwen, the fathead, falls for the ploy and innocent actions are misinterpreted until she believes that Ernest has been carrying on with their secretary Kay Jordan (Florence Rice) for all the years of their marriage. It is a case of "if you don't know, I'm not going to tell you" when Gwen breaks things off with her totally confused husband.

The Hollywood contract is cancelled because it is for both stars or none. Two tours of Sweethearts goes on the road starring Ernest with Gwen's understudy and Gwen with Ernest's understudy.


While on the road, and miserable without each other, a review of the perfidious playwright's new drama appears in Variety and all becomes clear to Gwen, the fathead, and Ernest, the confused. They angrily confront Felix, who is always able to manipulate "his kiddies". Soon the Sweethearts are back on Broadway, singing the same songs and saying the same lines for perhaps another six years.

Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald
Back together and back with the show.

Victor Herbert's Sweethearts premiered on Broadway in 1913. The plot involved an unaware princess raised by commoners until it is safe for her return. The original run was 136 performances while a 1947 revival ran for 288 shows.

MGMs 1938 Sweethearts changed the plot entirely with MacEddy successfully taking on Screwball Comedy. Nine songs from the original Sweethearts were reworked for the movie with lyrics by Bob Wright and Chet Forrest. A note: do not try to make sense of the scenes you see of Sweethearts, the operetta. It is like trying to follow Pretty Lady while watching 42nd Street. It will never work.

Fay Holden, Jeanette MacDonald, Florence Rice
Backstage. Star is denied chocolate.

Popular composer/arranger/showman Victor Herbert had a string of popular hits which survived his passing, Babes in Toyland, Naughty Marietta and The Red Mill among them. Immortal melodies are found in the songs Italian Street Song, I'm Falling in Love With Someone, A Kiss in the Dark, March of the Toys, Indian Summer, When You're Away, and Kiss Me Again.

Nelson Eddy
Backstage. Star is reminded it has been six years since he went to "the fights".

Sweethearts was produced by Hunt Stromberg, an executive of great taste at MGM who gave us The Thin Man Series, and such classics as Ah, Wilderness, Bombshell, Marie Antoinette, Pride and Prejudice, and later independently gave us Too Late for Tears and Lured. Stromberg produced five of Nelson and Jeanette's most popular movies, Naughty Marietta, Rose-Marie, Maytime, Sweethearts and I Married an Angel.

Featured performer Ray Bolger performs Wooden Shoes with Jeanette MacDonald.

The married team of Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell wrote the screenplay for Sweethearts with an uncredited assist from another couple, Laura and S.J. Perelman. The script is filled with much sardonic humour about relationships and show business. The experienced cast tosses the bon mots with aplomb and, where appropriate, mugs with abandon.

W.S. Van Dyke and Robert Z. Leonard are listed on the IMDb as co-directors while only Van Dyke has a screen credit. Woody Van Dyke directed six of the MacEddy features in total and Mr. Leonard is credited with five. 

One stage, everybody! Plenty of room.

Sweethearts won an honorary Oscar for its 3-strip Technicolor cinematography by Oliver T. March and Allen M. Davey. It was the first such Technicolor feature for the studio and it looks gorgeous. The sets are spectacular with the massive pillar from The Great Ziegfeld reused for the stage show in Sweethearts.

Berton Churchill, Lucile Watson, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart
Terry Kilburn, Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald
A genuine family moment.

The musical numbers are many and incorporated throughout the onstage operetta and radio broadcasts, and in charming interludes at home. Herbert Stothart, MGM's wizard of the baton, received one of his eight Oscar nominations for scoring for this movie. Herbert Stothart collaborated with Jeanette MacDonald on 17 movies, including all eight co-starring Nelson Eddy.

GOWNS BY ADRIAN

The contracts have yet to be signed, but once the decision is made to go to Hollywood Gwen goes shopping! 

Acclaimed stage and film designer Adrian initially came to MGM through a contract with Cecil B. DeMille in 1928 and stayed with the studio until 1942. Lucky Jeanette was gowned by the talented fashion influencer in 13 films from The Cat and the Fiddle to Smilin' Through. In a few years, Adrian would open his own business and not just movie characters, but actual shoppers could buy his designs in department stores.
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Sweethearts is a very funny movie with an extraordinary cast and delightful musical numbers. The Technicolor is as gorgeous as an Adrian gown. In the world of romantic comedies, you know where you are going, so the joy is in the journey. MGM was a top travel guide.















10 comments:

  1. I have to confess that I have never seen Sweethearts! I will definitely have to check it out.

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    1. It is different from the operettas MGM usually put Nelson and Jeanette in, and they showed themselves a versatile team.

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  2. You made my Sunday morning with your delightful review of this wonderful movie and those beautiful screenshots of the Adrian gowns.

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    1. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it. Jeanette and Nelson are wonderful and MGM was the perfect place for them. Especially since Jeanette could wear those Adrian gowns.

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  3. I must admit I have yet to see a "MacEddy" film, but Sweethearts sounds like an amazing place to start. All of your photos were gorgeous and those Adrian creations -- wow! Count me in!

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    1. Sweethearts would be a swell starting point. Backstage machinations, romantic complications, and over-the-top characters combined with gorgeous music. I hope you will soon fall under the spell of "MacEddy".

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  4. Thanks so much for participating in the MGM Musical Magic Blogathon! How I love Jeanette MacDonald! She and Nelson Eddy are always such a joy to watch. Thanks again!

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    1. My pleasure, Annette. Thanks for hosting. I may not have thought about Sweethearts if not for the blogathon.

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  5. I watched only Maytime, a film Jeanette and Eddie made in 1937. With the color stills, you already convinced me to watch Sweethearts. And what can I say about these gowns? I'm still drooling over them!
    Kisses!

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    Replies
    1. I adore Maytime. It makes me cry! Sweethearts, on the other hand, is a movie that only makes you laugh. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Oh, to have a closet full of Adrian gowns.

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