Saturday, January 1, 2022

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR JANUARY ON TCM

 

Sitting atop the 1937 movie season box office we find MGMs adaption of Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth starring Paul Muni and Luise Rainer, MGMs operetta Maytime starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and Paramount's Waikiki Wedding with Bing Crosby. It appears that the audience of that year enjoyed epic drama from best-selling novels, and a variety of music and musical performers.

The operetta Maytime premiered on Broadway in 1917 and ran for 492 performances, cementing Sigmund Romberg as a legendary composer in the field. Romberg collaborated with Rida Johnson Young (Little Old New York) on the book and lyrics which was adapted from the 1913 German operetta Like Once in May.

Noel Langley and Frances Marion wrote the screenplay from Claudine West's treatment for the MGM film. The Broadway play was a generational love story starring Peggy Wood (The Sound of Music) and Charles Purcell wherein the children of thwarted lovers themselves find romance. 

The film Maytime is the story of two singers who find romance while outside forces strive to keep them apart. Only one of the Romberg tunes made it to the screen, the hauntingly beautiful Will You Remember (Sweetheart). The rest of the tunes are classical pieces, opera excerpts, and contributions by Herbert Stothart, the film's musical director, and adaptor.

Nelson Eddy 

Nelson Eddy plays Paul Allison, who is studying voice in Paris. Paul and his teacher August Archipenko played by Herman Bing (Dumbo) live a hand-to-mouth existence with Archipenko constantly complaining about the young man's lack of dedication and ambition. Despite his grumbling, Archipenko couldn't be more fond of his young student if he were his own son. Paul is good-hearted and full of youthful joie de vivre. He has nothing in his pocket but lives life as if the world is his.

Jeanette MacDonald and John Barrymore 

Jeanette MacDonald plays Marcia Mornay, a soprano who is reaching the success for which she has striven and worked so very diligently under the tutelage of Nicolai Nazaroff played by John Barrymore (Counsellor-at-Law). Marcia, as she is constantly reminded, owes everything to Nicolai who has taught her to sing, and how to deport herself like a star. Nicolai loves Marcia, perhaps truly but most definitely as a possession. Marcia is grateful, feels her debt keenly, and is trying to convince herself that these emotions will equate or lead to love.

Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald, Herman Bing

The ebullient Paul falls madly in love with Marcia. Archipenko falls in love with Marcia, whom he sees as the one who will inspire in Paul some of the lacking ambition. Marcia is initially amused by her new suitor and soon learns to return the love that is offered so freely. However, Nicolai is not a power to be ignored and comes between the young lovers.

The passage of time finds both Marcia and Paul enjoying international success and, as will be expected in their world, the star-crossed lover's paths cross when Paul is hired to star opposite Marcia at the Metropolitan Opera. Is this the opportunity for true love to assert itself?

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald

Maytime is a beautiful movie with an epic yet intimate romance, and music that will wash over your soul. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard, who directed the top box office duo of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in five films, Maytime is an example of the best of that dream factory of Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Adrian's sumptuous costumes are time-appropriate and awe-inspiring. Cinematographer Oliver T. Marsh's glorious black and white cinematography bring us a world of sunshine days and dark nights, reminiscent somewhat of his work on The Merry Widow, 1934. His two Oscar nominations were for work in color, and with Nelson and Jeanette for Sweethearts, and Bitter Sweet.

TCM is screening Maytime on Thursday, January 13th at 5:45 PM as the final film in a daytime lineup that appears to be spotlighting movies about opera singers. Look for other MGM stars like Kathryn Grayson, Mario Lanza, and Walter Pidgeon.


Sigmund Romberg
July 29, 1887 - November 9, 1951

Note: MGM also produced a biopic of Sigmund Romberg in 1954 called Deep in My Heart. It may pique your interest in the composer, and your admiration for star Jose Ferrer, along with the opportunity to see many studio stars performing the composer's timeless music. 


Note: Previous titles in the Caftan Woman's Choice series. 












17 comments:

  1. Beautiful write-up of a beautiful movie. "Music that will wash over your soul." Mmm, yes. Love this, Paddy!

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    1. Thank you so much. New beginnings seem to call out for music.

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  2. Lovely to read about one of the MacDonald /Eddy musicals. They are so rarely written about. And thanks for the picture of Romberg, what a composer.

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    1. The only Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald musical I've seen is SWEETHEARTS. Which I enjoyed much much more than I expected to. They are rather neglected aren't they?

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    3. Thank you, Vienna.

      There is a timelessness about the pair in their recordings and their best films.

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    4. Sweethearts is a favourite of mine. A real treat for those who think of Nelson and Jeanette only in costume fare.

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  3. Speaking of JOHN BARRYMORE actress CARA WILLIAMS was once married to his son JOHN DREW BARRYMORE. They were married for a few years until their divorce in 1959. Sadly Cara's passing was on Dec. 9 at the age of 96. I remember Cara from the musical THE GIRL NEXT DOOR with JUNE HAVER and DAN DAILEY. Cara received an OSCAR nomination for supporting actress for THE DEFIANT ONES. P.S. I seem to remember that you mentioned PETE AND GLADYS with HARRY MORGAN. Cara played his wife. Did you see that show and/or DECEMBER BRIDE with Harry? CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. Cara Williams was a very interesting actress. I saw a couple of episodes of Pete and Gladys when I was a 'tween, but we haven't crossed paths since then. I'll have to check YouTube. There is little they don't have available.

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  4. Sadly BETTY WHITE'S passing was on Dec. 31 at the age of 99. Betty was a national treasure to lots of people. She was an actress, a producer and a game show host. She was a guest on lots of game shows. She was the widow of ALLEN LUDDEN, host of PASSWORD. I know Betty from THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE GOLDEN GIRLS and some eps of THE GOLDEN PALACE and HOT IN CLEVELAND. I also know her from THE BETTY WHITE SHOW, the short-lived series that came on in 1977. It co-starred GEORGIA ENGEL and JOHN HILLERMAN. Betty co-hosted parades and had a talk show THE PET SET. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. Betty White's many years on television make her like an old friend to generations of fans.

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  5. I also want to mention that I know BETTY WHITE from her guest-starring roles on THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW and the later series MAMA'S FAMILY. Of course, Betty was also a long time advocate for animal rights as was her late friend DORIS DAY. Betty was also friends with two talented redheads LUCILLE BALL and CAROL BURNETT. Betty was also an author. The GOLDEN GIRLS theme song included the words " your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidante. Thank you for being a friend." CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. On behalf of the fans of Mama's Family and Hot in Cleveland, I resent their being left off of many news reports on Betty's passing.

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  6. This brought back memories! My parents were fans of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald and had several of their albums.

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  7. The Eddy-MacDonald team was much parodied over the decades, but what a powerhouse of talent. And I love Romberg. Once again, you know how to pick 'em.

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    1. Thanks so much. It's a grand way to start the year.

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