An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm & Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2022): 1939 with… Balalaika (1939)

It’s December now, and with the holidays upon us, it’s time to look at a movie that fits within the season! So, for today, we’re looking at the 1939 musical Balalaika starring Nelson Eddy and Ilona Massey!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Arbor Day (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 39 seconds)

It’s Arbor Day, and the school is putting on a pageant featuring all the kids, which is something that Spanky (George McFarland) wants to avoid. He is caught by the truant officer, along with a pair of midgets from a nearby circus mistaken as kids. This one was, at best, average. My big complaint is how much of the short was taken up by the Arbor Day pageant, with mostly forgettable music (aside from Alfalfa memorably “singing” the poem “Trees”) and dancing. Spanky attempting to play hooky was funny (but not long enough). I was also amused by the antics of the two midgets as they tried to escape their manager, and then later when they tried to perform in the pageant (which they had been dragged to). Plain and simple, this one wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t leave me with a desire to see it again, either.

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1914. The Russian Cossack Guards have just come back from maneuvers, and want to stop at the Cafe Balalaika for wine, music and women. Cafe singer Lydia Pavlovna Marakova (Ilona Massey) quickly catches their eye, and she is ordered to come have a drink with them. Unbeknownst to any of the Cossacks, Lydia and her family are a part of a group of revolutionaries, so, in spite of being blackmailed to go to them by the cafe owner, she finds a way to get out of there in a hurry. She doesn’t meet one of the leaders of the Cossacks, Prince Peter Karagin (Nelson Eddy), but he sees her as she leaves and is impressed. He quickly finds out that she has a thing for students, so he goes undercover as a student named “Peter Illyich Teranda” in order to catch her eye. Due to his singing ability, he is accepted by Lydia’s musician father and brother (although they don’t trust him enough to tell him of their revolutionary activities). When Peter learns of Lydia’s desire to sing in the opera, he gets her an audition with the opera’s director, Ivan Danchenoff (Frank Morgan). Danchenoff is impressed with her ability, and, pressed by Peter, gives her a spot in the opera. Things are starting to look up for them, but Lydia’s brother starts speaking out in a public square. In all that mess, the Cossack guards (including Peter) arrive to break up the gathering (trampling Lydia’s brother in the process). Lydia and Peter see each other in all that mess, and she refuses to see him again. On one of his attempts to see her, he announces that he will be resigning from the Cossacks, which gives her mixed feelings. On the one hand, she’s glad to hear it, but on the other hand, some of her associates had made plans to assassinate Peter and his father, General Karagin (C. Aubrey Smith), at the opening of the opera. Without telling him the real reason why, Lydia convinces Peter to stay away from the opening (and get his father to not come, either). However, Peter’s father does indeed go to the opera, as does Peter, who comes to deliver a message to his father. Before the assassins can do anything, the general announces to everyone in the opera that Germany had declared war on Russia. His announcement leads Lydia’s father to reconsider their plan, but his associate still manages to get a shot off before they are caught (but he only wounds the general). Once the Cossacks learn that Lydia’s father was one of the attempted assassins, she is quickly arrested. Before he goes off to war, Peter manages to get Lydia freed, but she has a hard time of it. In between the war keeping them apart and the brewing revolution, will Peter and Lydia ever get back together, or will they be separated by distance and ideology?

Balalaika was based on a 1936 London stage musical of the same name by Eric Maschwitz, with music by George Posford and Bernard Grun. MGM bought the rights, but it took them nearly two years before production actually started on the film. The studio had hoped to have Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy star in the film together, but the two stars had been demanding solo films. So, Nelson Eddy got Balalaika, with the song “At The Balalaika” being the only one retained from the show, while music director Herbert Stothart adapted other music for the film. With Jeanette MacDonald out of the picture, the role of the leading lady was offered to Miliza Korjus, but she believed it to be a joke (thinking that Jeanette would be teamed with Nelson again) and turned it down. So, the role was given to Ilona Massey (who had worked with Nelson, albeit in a supporting role, in Rosalie two years earlier, and would work with him again for 1947’s Northwest Outpost, his final film).

I first saw this movie just about a decade ago, and I’ve seen it numerous times since (otherwise translated, I like this movie). Nelson Eddy was the reason I first tried the movie, and remains one of the reasons that I like this film as well as I do. As usual, he’s in fine voice and has a few relatively fun tunes in the way of “At the Balalaika” and “Ride, Cossack, Ride.” But the songs that really stick out in my mind (and make the movie memorable) are him singing “The Song of the Volga Boatmen” (“El Ukhnem”), and singing the German version of “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”). The latter song is done during a scene that takes place on the battlefield during the Russian Christmas (this is why I like to watch the movie at this time of the year), with it reminding me strongly of the famous Christmas Truce Of 1914 (even though this scene takes place three years later), as the Austrians (who had already celebrated their Christmas) start singing “Silent Night” to celebrate the Russian Christmas, with Nelson Eddy joining in.

Nelson Eddy is hardly the only reason I like this film. Ilona Massey is very good as his leading lady, with a beautiful voice. I think they have fairly good chemistry (admittedly, it’s hard not to compare her against Jeanette MacDonald, whose chemistry with Nelson was on a whole different level, but she’s not terrible, either). Frank Morgan is good here, too (if a little underutilized) as an opera impresario who is at first put upon by members of the Russian nobility in terms of who he has to cast in the opera, and then again at the end of the film (SPOILER) when he works as a doorman in Paris (END SPOILER). Overall, it’s Charlie Ruggles as Peter’s (Nelson Eddy) Cossack servant who manages to create a strong (and humorous) impression throughout the entire film, while winning our affections. This is not a perfect film by any means, with only a handful of memorable musical moments and (as I mentioned) some cast members being underutilized, plus it’s hard to feel much sympathy for either the Russian nobility (at least, not until the last few scenes of the movie) or the revolutionaries. Still, it’s one I like to watch (especially around Christmastime to hear Nelson singing the German version of “Silent Night”), so I would certainly recommend giving it a chance!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Girl Of The Golden West (1938) – Nelson Eddy – The Chocolate Soldier (1941)

Ilona Massey – International Lady (1941)

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Charles Ruggles – It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947)

Naughty Marietta (1935) – Frank Morgan – The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Ninotchka (1939) – George Tobias – Music In My Heart (1940)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Screen Team (Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy) Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Nelson Eddy in… Phantom Of The Opera (1943)

We’re here now to finish off our month-long celebration of Screen Team Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy by looking at one more of Nelson’s solo outings: the classic 1943 film Phantom Of The Opera, which also stars Susanna Foster and Claude Rains!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Screwball (1943)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker tries to watch a baseball game without paying, but has to deal with a policeman trying to stop him. While the idea of a cartoon character watching a baseball game and getting involved isn’t exactly an original idea, this short was indeed fun! There was a lot of hilarity here, from the policeman dealing with all the people watching through holes in the fence, to Woody dealing with other people in the stand so that he could see the game, to him going out on the diamond! This may not be the best baseball cartoon, but it provided quite a few good laughs, and I certainly want to come back and see this one again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

At the Paris Opera, chorus girl and understudy Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster) finds herself torn between two suitors: Inspector Raoul Daubert (Edgar Barrier) of the French police (who wants her to abandon a career in the opera) and the opera lead Anatole Garron (Nelson Eddy). Unbeknownst to her, she has another admirer: violinist Erique Claudin (Claude Rains), who has been anonymously helping to pay for her expensive singing lessons. However, that is about to come to an end, as he is losing the use of some of his fingers on his left hand, which has affected his playing enough that the orchestra leader Villeneuve (Frank Puglia) has let him go. Besides no longer being able to pay for Christine’s singing lessons, he also faces eviction, so he makes a desperate attempt to sell a concerto that he has written to a music publisher. When the publisher tries to throw Claudin out (while somebody in the other room is playing his music to attempt to help get it published), Claudin assumes that his music is being stolen, and strangles the publisher. The publisher’s assistant throws some etching acid in Claudin’s face to get him to stop, and he runs out of there. With nowhere else to go, Claudin makes his way into the sewers under the Paris Opera. He soon steals some costume pieces (including a mask), some food and the master key of the Paris Opera, an act of thievery that the superstitious stage manager Vercheres (Steven Geray) attributes to a ghost/phantom. At the next opera performance, Christine hears a voice promising to help her advance in her career. During the show, the Phantom drugs opera diva Biancarolli (Jane Farrar) and, as her understudy, Christine goes on in her place. Christine turns out to be a sensation, but afterwards, Biancarolli threatens to charge her and Anatole with attempted murder. She has no evidence to support her charge, but she relents when she blackmails everyone into trying to forget that anything happened that night (particularly where Christine is concerned). At the next show, the Phantom tells Biancarolli to leave Paris, but, when she refuses, he kills her and her maid. Anatole sees the Phantom and tries to give chase, but the Phantom escapes. As a result, the Paris Opera is closed by the orders of Inspector Daubert. When the Phantom sends a note demanding that the opera reopen and Christine be made the lead, the Inspector decides to allow the opera to reopen (but with someone else in the lead to lure the Phantom out of hiding). Meanwhile, Anatole has a plan of his own to get the Phantom out into the open. But will either of their plans succeed, or will more death and destruction occur until or unless the Phantom gets his way?

In 1925, Universal Pictures released a silent film version of the Gaston Leroux novel featuring Lon Chaney as the Phantom. The film was successful enough that Universal started producing a series of horror films, including the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, amongst others. A remake of Phantom was considered in the mid-30s, but it was shelved when the studio’s financial woes resulted in the ousting of Carl Laemmle (Universal’s owner and co-founder) and his son from the studio. Plans were revisited in the early 1940s, with the likes of Deanna Durbin, Boris Karloff and Allan Jones being cast. However, several of those stars became unavailable (Deanna Durbin mostly because of a suspension for several months), and the movie was briefly considered as a vehicle for new comedy team Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. After Deanna’s suspension was over, she was again considered for the role of Christine DuBois, only for her to finally turn it down when Nelson Eddy was cast in the role of Anatole (mostly because she respected his regular screen partner Jeanette MacDonald and didn’t want to be compared to her). With Claude Rains cast as the Phantom, work was begun in earnest, with part of the film’s budget going towards soundproofing the opera stage (which had been used in the 1925 silent film). The film received mixed reviews, but still did well at the box office (well enough that a sequel bringing back Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Claude Rains was considered, but story issues and Claude Rains being unavailable resulted in the film, eventually called The Climax, being changed so that it was not related to Phantom at all, with only Susanna Foster returning, albeit in a different role).

One thing I should say about this movie, now that I’ve seen it, is that it is one that will leave a lot of people divided. For the most part, this movie tends to get lumped in with some of the other Universal horror films, and it really isn’t one. Realistically, you can simplify what most seem to think of it with one quick statement: too much opera, and not enough Phantom. So, due to it being counted as a horror film (a genre that I’m really NOT fond of), I had a lot of hesitation going into this movie. Doing this Screen Team blogathon is what finally pushed me into trying it, and quite simply stated, I really liked this Phantom! The lack of horror worked better for me, as did the almost-musical nature of the film (for the most part, it’s mainly confined to them singing onstage). Nelson Eddy is still in good voice, and he manages to keep his comedic abilities going (which really got their start in The Chocolate Soldier two years earlier). Most of the comedy bits have to do with Eddy’s Anatole and Edgar Barrier’s Inspector Daubert competing for the affections of Susanna Foster’s Christine DuBois, with the two of them frequently trying to come through a doorway at the same time.

Now, is this movie perfect? Certainly not. While I like the lack of horror, I still think it needed to be a bit more present than it was (now, to be fair, I’ve never read the original story, and the only other way I’ve seen this story is a half-hour episode of the TV series Wishbone, so I’m certainly not the best judge on how well the story was actually done). I don’t feel like Claude Rains’ Phantom is as threatening as he should be, and the final sequence where his character kidnaps Christine just doesn’t leave me feeling like she’s really in that much danger. Given that that feels like an overall weaker spot in the film to me, I blame it on the direction (as I feel that none of the actors make you feel the urgency of trying to catch up to the Phantom like they should). I also think that the Phantom’s makeup and costume aren’t as effective as they should be, since what we can see of his face around the mask doesn’t look the same as when we finally see the mask taken off at the end of the film. In spite of these issues, though, I did have a good time with this one, and I look forward to revisiting it periodically (particularly around Halloween, but anytime of the year will work for me). As long as you can live with the opera music/lack of horror, then I think this film is worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Chocolate Soldier (1941)Nelson EddyMake Mine Music (1946)

Now, Voyager (1942) – Claude Rains – Notorious (1946)

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Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy in… The Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

Now that we’ve done one solo film each for Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, our Screen Team Of The Month (and we still have one more solo film for each to finish out the month), it’s time to focus on one of the eight films that they made together! In this instance, it’s their 1938 film The Girl Of The Golden West!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Ace In The Hole (1942)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)

Stable boy Woody Woodpecker longs to fly in the planes, but the bulldog sergeant refuses to let him. My own opinion is that this one is fun, but not quite as good as the previous ones in the set. It’s a wartime short, making it similar to the Disney cartoons featuring Donald Duck in the army (with Pete as a sergeant). I think the humor that comes from Woody trying to deal with the sergeant is fun, especially once he gets in the plane. My biggest problem with this one is the overall concept, since Woody is a bird (and one that can and does fly in other cartoons), so the idea that he wants to fly in the planes (and doesn’t seem to fly on his own, otherwise) just kind of makes this one not work as well. It’s fun, just not as fun and original as it could be.

And Now For The Main Feature…

As a little girl, young Mary Robbins (Jeanne Ellis) loses her parents, and comes west to California on a wagon train with her Uncle Davy (Charley Grapewin). One night, when they are camped, her singing is overheard by a young Gringo (Bill Cody, Jr.), a white boy who has been adopted by the leader of a group of Mexican bandits named Ramerez, who otherwise calls himself the General (Noah Beery, Sr.). When the General decides to ride into the wagon train’s camp, his crew is mistaken for Native Americans, and the General is shot. As the years pass, the young Gringo grows up and takes on the mantle of the Mexican bandit Ramerez (Nelson Eddy), fast gaining the attention of the law. Meanwhile, the now-grown Mary (Jeanette MacDonald) is living near the town of Cloudy Mountain and has taken over the Polka Saloon from her late uncle. She is beloved by all the men in town, but particularly by her friends, Sheriff Jack Rance (Walter Pidgeon) and “Alabama” (Buddy Ebsen). Once, when she takes the stagecoach to Monterey, the stage is stopped by Ramerez, but he is taken by her and allows them to keep going after he takes some of their valuables (well, everyone else’s anyway). Since she seems to be ungrateful for his mercy, he decides to go into Monterey (unmasked) with his friend “Mosquito” (Leo Carrillo) and teach her a lesson. In Monterey, Mary stops to spend some time with her old friend Father Sienna (H. B. Warner), who asks her to sing at Mass. There, she is heard by the Governor (Monty Woolley), who asks her to sing at a ball that he is hosting. Ramerez overhears the Governor sending an army escort to bring Mary to the ball, and he decides to knock out the officer and steal his uniform. Posing as Lieutenant Johnson, he comes to pick up Mary, but drives her out into the country. He tries to kiss her, but she resists, and takes the carriage to the ball without him. However, he still makes it to the ball, and briefly dances with her. When he sees the real lieutenant looking for him, he grabs a horse and gets out of there. When she is back in Cloudy, Sheriff Rance is furious that Ramerez had stopped the coach (and some of his deputies assigned to accompany her to Monterey), and tells Mary that he will spread word that the gold is being stored at the Polka (hoping to catch Ramerez in a trap). Suspicious of a trap, Ramerez has his buddy Mosquito pretend to be him to lead a posse on a wild goose chase, and goes to the Polka. He is surprised to find Mary there (and equally as surprised to find out that she owns the place), and cancels his plan to take the gold, even though the Sheriff and all the other men took the bait from Mosquito. He is invited to come to Mary’s cabin for dinner (much to the chagrin of Ramerez’ girlfriend Nina Martinez, as played by Priscilla Lawson, who decides to turn him in to the Sheriff for the reward money). While Ramerez is at Mary’s cabin, Sheriff Rance and a few men stop by. While Ramerez hides, the Sheriff tells Mary about Ramerez, but, angry though she may be with him, she doesn’t reveal his presence to the Sheriff. However, after the Sheriff and his men leave, she orders him to go away. Upon leaving, shots are fired, and Ramerez comes back into her cabin, wounded. She tries to hide him, but the Sheriff sees his dripping blood and arrests him. Mary tries to play a game of poker against the Sheriff, offering herself in marriage to the Sheriff if she loses. Will she be able to win, or will she have to marry the Sheriff? And will Ramerez survive being shot?

The Girl Of The Golden West came from a 1905 play by David Belasco, and was preceded by three different filmed versions of the tale. Giacomo Puccini had written an opera based around the play that premiered in 1910, but when MGM came around to the 1938 film for Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, that music was jettisoned in favor of a new score by composer Sigmund Romberg and lyricist Gus Kahn. Originally, the intention was to do a Robin Hood operetta, except Jeanette MacDonald didn’t agree to it (not to mention Warner Brothers also came out with their immortal classic The Adventures Of Robin Hood), although some of the idea was retained, with Nelson’s bandit shooting arrows to stop stagecoaches. At the time of filming, Jeanette and Nelson were apparently feuding (resulting in fewer duets in the movie), as Jeanette thought that Allan Jones (her co-star in The Firefly) would have been a better fit as a Mexican bandit than Nelson. As a result, scenes were added at the start to show how he became the “Mexican” bandit Ramerez. Ray Bolger was also to have been in the film, except the film’s length resulted in his scenes being cut for time. In spite of all this, the film still turned out to be profitable for MGM and their screen team.

As I mentioned when I reviewed Deep In My Heart, I didn’t initially care for the music of composer Sigmund Romberg until I finally saw the film Maytime. Once that movie gave me a new appreciation for his music (and Deep In My Heart), the next two Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films that I wanted to see were the other movies with music by Romberg (The Girl Of The Golden West and the 1940 New Moon). Now, given what I said before about the two stars feuding during the making of The Girl Of The Golden West (resulting in barely any duets in the movie), one would think that that would make this film an odd choice to pick for my one team-up in this month’s Screen Team blogathon. But, having reviewed their first three films together (the best movies in the series, in my opinion), I would say that The Girl Of The Golden West is my favorite of the remaining five films (besides being the fourth film in the series). The music is one of the reasons, with the songs “Señorita” and “Mariache” (at least, I think that’s the spelling for this song’s title, according to IMDb and Wikipedia at the time of this writing) being quite memorable from the two leads, plus Buddy Ebsen singing “The West Ain’t Wild Anymore” as well. It’s also quite entertaining watching Jeanette MacDonald tackle a slightly different role in this film, as her character seems less refined than what I’m used to from her, not only in her speech, but in her way of moving around as well. Nelson Eddy may not be quite as good (since he’s playing a character pretending to be Mexican when hiding behind a mask), but he (and Jeanette) are still in fine voice here. The film is certainly far from perfect, as one still can’t help but wish that they had had more duets in this movie. I also sometimes feel like some of the songs are cut short, and I wish that some of them were a bit longer. Regardless, though, this film is still quite entertaining as an entry in the MacDonald/Eddy series of movies, and I have no problems whatsoever in recommending this one, too!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection, either individually or as part of the four-film set Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy Collection: Volume 1.

Film Length: 2 hours, 1 minute

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Maytime (1937)Jeanette MacDonald

Maytime (1937)Nelson EddyBalalaika (1939)

Big Brown Eyes (1936) – Walter Pidgeon – Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

Born To Dance (1936) – Buddy Ebsen

Monty Woolley – The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942)

Maytime (1937) – Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy (screen team)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Screen Team (Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy) Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Nelson Eddy in… The Chocolate Soldier (1941)

Last week, I put the focus on one of Jeanette MacDonald’s solo outings. This week, I’m switching to one from the other half of this month’s Screen Team, Nelson Eddy! For that, we’re going with his 1941 film The Chocolate Soldier, also starring Risë Stevens!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Hollywood Matador (1942)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker takes on the bull Oxnar The Terribull in the bullring. As has been typical of the handful of Woody Woodpecker cartoons I’ve seen so far, this one was quite fun! I’ll admit, the idea of a cartoon character taking on a bull in the bullring is nothing new, with A Bully For Bugs as the standout classic of the type. So, some of the types of jokes here aren’t exactly new, but it’s still done “Woody Woodpecker”-style, which is still good enough! Personally, I like Woody’s take here (much better than the Pink Panther’s bullfight in Bully For Pink). We have yet another voice actor for Woody, with Kent Rogers voicing the character, and doing well enough that I haven’t been able to distinguish his voice from the others yet (again, this may just be my own inexperience with the character at the moment). Regardless, this short provided enough laughs that I’ll come back to see it again at some point!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In Balkany, musical comedy stars Karl Lang (Nelson Eddy) and Maria Lanyi (Risë Stevens) enjoy success onstage. Offstage, however, there is trouble. The two of them have been married for a few months, but both suspect the other of being unfaithful, due to their various admirers. Talking with his friend, theatrical critic Bernard Fischer (Nigel Bruce), Karl tells him about his suspicions that Maria may soon be leaving him for another man. Bernard doesn’t believe him, but suggests Karl try to be romantic towards her. When Karl’s initial attempt at romance fails, he comes up with a different plan. He takes her (and Bernard) out to the Double Eagle Cafe, but has to excuse himself when he receives a telegram from a friend who needed to be bailed out of jail. While he is gone, a Russian guardsman sings for the audience, and is instantly attracted to Maria. He introduces himself as Vassily Vassilievitch,, who flirts with Maria. After he leaves, Karl comes back, but acts nonchalant when Bernard and Maria tell him about their visitor. The next day, some beautiful flowers arrive for Maria while Bernard is visiting, and Karl goes into a jealous rage as he tries to find out who sent them to Maria. Privately (when Maria is out of earshot), he confides to Bernard that HE sent them in his disguise of Vassily, while Maria figures out on her own that Karl and Vassily are one and the same. Since the note that Karl sent with the flowers as “Vassily” asks her to stand by her window as a signal to him that afternoon, Karl make an excuse about needing to go perform elsewhere to get out of the house. As Vassily, Karl is less than thrilled to see Maria at the window, but he still decides to follow through with his plan. When he tries to come on to her forcefully, she turns him away (much to his happiness), only for her to then invite Vassily to come back later. They have several more meetings that go similarly, with her rejecting Vassily’s advances, only for her to then flirt with Vassily some more before Karl has a chance to rejoice at her faithfulness. Will Maria reveal the fact that she knows that Karl is Vassily, or will his jealousy continue to get the better of him?

In 1894, the play Arms And The Man proved to be one of George Bernard Shaw’s first hits as a playwright. He later gave Leopold Jacobson the rights to adapt the play into a musical, with music by Oscar Straus. The musical, now called The Chocolate Soldier, became a hit, but Shaw disliked the results, and decided not to allow any more of his plays to be adapted into musicals (at least, not while he was alive). Once the movies started to become talkies after the success of The Jazz Singer, MGM bought the film rights. At first, their intention was to make the film as a follow-up to their successful 1934 film The Merry Widow with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald, but circumstances didn’t work out that way. With the box office fading for the team of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, the studio was more interested in finding solo films for both of them. They decided to revisit the idea of The Chocolate Singer with Nelson Eddy in the lead, but Shaw still wouldn’t allow them to use the musical version of his play. A few years after The Chocolate Soldier had hit the stage, another playwright, Ferenc Molnár, produced a play called Testör in Europe, where it was a hit. It was translated into English by Phillip Moeller under the title The Guardsman, and became a hit on Broadway. MGM had bought the film rights to that show too, casting the show’s stars Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne for the movie. That film version didn’t do very well with audiences, but MGM decided to repurpose the play for The Chocolate Soldier, using the story of The Guardsman and the score of The Chocolate Soldier. Risë Stevens, who made her film debut here, would later get the chance to do the REAL Chocolate Soldier musical as a TV adaptation in 1955 with Eddie Albert as her co-star.

This movie was new to me, and one that I wanted to see when I made plans to focus on Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy as my Screen Team Of The Month. It certainly did not disappoint! I will definitely say that I enjoyed the music, particularly the songs “My Hero,” “Sympathy,” “Seek the Spy” and “While My Lady Sleeps” (with “My Hero” particularly being a bit of an earworm). But the comedy is what REALLY made this film enjoyable, especially with Nelson Eddy branching out a little more in his performance style to do it! Ok, so the idea of a husband suspecting his wife of infidelity and disguising himself to flirt with her isn’t exactly an original thought, but Nelson Eddy and Risë Stevens make it work! The fun is in seeing how much Nelson’s Karl thinks he is giving a great performance as “Vassily” (even when their dogs recognize him easily), and yet, we see early on that Risë’s Maria has figured him out. And that is the fun, seeing her doing her best not to laugh (at least, not when he can see her), and then, just when he thinks that she is being faithful to him by rejecting his “Vassily” persona, she drives him nuts by flirting with him some more! I’m not sure that I’d say that Risë is as good with Nelson as Jeanette MacDonald, but she certainly proves that she can sing and do comedy here just as well! Plain and simple, I did have fun with this film, and I certainly have no problems in recommending it!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Balalaika (1939)Nelson EddyPhantom Of The Opera (1943)

Risë Stevens – Going My Way (1944)

The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939) – Nigel Bruce – Roxie Hart (1942)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Make Mine Music (1946)

Well, we’re back to start off the new year with a few reviews of some of last year’s new physical media releases. And I’m going to start by branching out into an animated Disney film, something I haven’t done before (mostly because I think everybody has some knowledge of the animated Disney classics and I don’t have much else to say on the subject). I definitely wanted to do today’s film, though, since it features the vocal talents of Nelson Eddy, half of my Screen Team Of The Month! That, of course, makes it the 1946 package film Make Mine Music, which also features the talents of Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, Jerry Colonna, Andy Russell, Sterling Holloway, Tania Riabouchinskaya and David Lichine, the Pied Pipers, the King’s Men and the Ken Darby Chorus. Of course, due to the nature of the film, I’ll throw in a Table of Contents to help get to the various sections quicker, if you so choose!

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… Readin’ And Writin’ (1932)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 21 minutes, 2 seconds)

Brisbane (Kendell McComas) doesn’t want to go to school, so he tries to get himself expelled. This one didn’t have a huge amount of plot to it, but it certainly was fun, with all the antics that Brisbane tried in order to get himself expelled. Admittedly, it’s not too original, sharing some similarities to earlier entries in the series with the kids’ answers and Miss Crabtree’s (June Marlowe) double-takes, plus the attempts to play pranks on her (that end up backfiring). Still, original or not, it’s a lot of fun (even if it is, from everything I’ve read, June Marlowe’s last appearance as Miss Crabtree)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Band Concert (1935)

(Available as an extra on the Make Mine Music Blu-ray from Disney Studios)

(Length: 9 minutes,18 seconds)

Mickey and his friends are trying to hold a band concert in the park, but have to deal with the interruptions of ice cream vendor Donald Duck and a tornado. Essentially the first Mickey Mouse short done in Technicolor, this also helped Donald Duck on his way to becoming a star at Disney. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this one, but I can’t deny that it’s still a good one! Watching Donald as he tries to start playing “Turkey In The Straw” on his flute (and, in the process, dragging the rest of the band away from the William Tell Overture, which is what they were supposed to be playing) is a lot of fun! Of course, the relationship between him and Mickey is a bit more antagonistic, but that provides a lot of the humor here (as does the tornado which wreaks havoc on everything, but can’t stop the band from playing the song even as they get swept away). It’s an oldie, but a goodie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Farmyard Symphony (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Make Mine Music Blu-ray from Disney Studios)

(Length: 8 minutes, 13 seconds)

On the farm, all the animals wake up and start the day when the rooster crows. This Silly Symphony cartoon really has no plot, just an emphasis on music. Honestly, this is one of the few Disney cartoons I’m not overly familiar with. I’ve seen it a handful of times, but I recognize the footage that was reused in the later 1951 Chip ‘n’ Dale short Chicken In The Rough. I much prefer that later short with its humor (and particularly Chip ‘n’ Dale), but this one is fairly entertaining.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Music Land (1935)

(Available as an extra on the Make Mine Music Blu-ray from Disney Studios)

(Length: 9 minutes, 36 seconds)

A war breaks out between the Isle Of Jazz and the Land Of Symphony when a princess violin (from the Land Of Symphony) falls for a saxophone prince (from the Isle Of Jazz). This is a fun cartoon, one that I’ve seen many times over the years. The music certainly helps set the tone here, with the more classical music for one group, and the jazzy music for the other. The methods of “war,” with the rulers essentially leading orchestras that shoot the music at each other is quite memorable. Again, I have a soft spot for this cartoon, and I know I always enjoy seeing it again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Initially, Walt Disney started out with plans for a follow-up to Fantasia, which would have included some of the music that ended up in Make Mine Music. His plans were put on hold due to World War II, as well as much of his staff being drafted into the army/enlisted to help with training and propaganda films. As a result, he found himself with various ideas and stories that were either too long for theatrical shorts, or too short to be full-length features. So he decided to put these various ideas together into a package film of different segments with varying lengths. The movie itself was fairly well-received by audiences, although its initial theatrical run would be its only time in theaters. Some of the different segments were later reissued as individual shorts instead of getting a wide theatrical reissue for the whole film.

Due to the nature of this film, with its shorter sections, I will in some respects be treating them like my normal Coming Up Shorts! comments on theatrical shorts.

The Martins And The Coys

The King’s Men narrate this tale of a pair of feuding hillbilly families, the Martins and the Coys. The feud starts with a member of the Coy family stealing some eggs (and the Martins retaliating), and quickly almost all members of both families are killed off. Only one member of each family remains (Henry Coy and Grace Martin), and they fall in love with each other, much to the consternation of their deceased relatives watching from the clouds above. This one was new to me, and I will admit that I found the music to be fun, as was the story. Maybe not the absolute best part of this movie, but entertaining enough. This one admittedly has fallen prey to being censored by Disney, as they have removed it completely from the movie on home video in recent years. Most of what I read says it is about the gun violence (which is somewhat ridiculous, in my opinion, as I would say that the short’s ending with its domestic violence would seem more objectionable). Still, that does make it harder to see.

Blue Bayou

In this segment, the Ken Darby Chorus sings the song “Blue Bayou” as we watch a pair of egrets in the Everglades. Nothing really happens here, outside of watching one egret walking through (with the water rippling outward where it walks), so this one might be tougher to enjoy for those who prefer an actual plot or something happening. Apparently, this section was originally created to be part of Fantasia (or any of its originally planned future versions), with the Claude Debussy song “Claire de Lune” recorded by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski’s direction. The animation stayed for Make Mine Music, but the recording of “Blue Bayou” was substituted in by the time of the film’s release. Not the most remarkable segment, but the animation is still beautiful to watch.

All The Cats Join In

In this segment, Benny Goodman and his orchestra provide the music for the song “All The Cats Join In.” The story has a group of teens that decide to get together at a malt shop and dance to the music from the jukebox. This one was quite entertaining, especially with some of the various characters, vehicles and places being “drawn” as the story continues to happen (with the kids driving off in their jalopy before the “artist” is even done drawing the car). The song is fun, and this is one of the better segments. Like The Martins And The Coys, it has run afoul of being censored by Disney (although in this case, it’s mainly some mild female nudity that’s been edited out, as opposed to the whole segment).

Without You

This segment features Andy Russell singing a tune as we see nature through a window during and after a rainstorm. Like the earlier Blue Bayou short, this one really doesn’t have any action going on. The animation is interesting, especially as we see nature through the rain falling down the window. That’s honestly the only redeemable part of it, as the song itself is rather forgettable (but mercifully short).

Casey At The Bat

This segment tells the story of “Casey At The Bat” from the poem by Ernest Thayer. Jerry Colonna narrates, as we see the people of Mudville cheer on their baseball star, Casey, hoping he will bring their team victory. I’ve seen this segment separated as a short on TV many times over the years, and it’s one I’ve always found fun (even more so after I saw Jerry Colonna in a few live action movies, like his appearances alongside Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in a few of the Road movies). The story (even if completely true to the original poem) is entertaining and humorous, and as much a warning about being too cocky as anything. One I certainly love to see again and again (and therefore, one of this film’s better segments)!

Two Silhouettes

For this segment, Dinah Shore sings the song “Two Silhouettes.” Onscreen, we have a ballet dance from David Lichine and Tania Riabouchinskaya, who are animated via rotoscoping. It’s fascinating to watch this dance, even if it feels a little too simple compared to what other screen dancers could do with live action. But, I suspect, that is the problem, since the animators would have had to trace over everything, and so, to a degree, the simpler, the better for them. The title song is decent, and the combination of dancing and animation works pretty well. At least this one was more substantial than some of the earlier shorts in the film like Blue Bayou and Without You.

Peter And The Wolf

Sterling Holloway narrates this story of a little boy named Peter who goes out to hunt a wolf with some of his animal friends. I’ve seen this segment many a time (as its own separate short), and it’s always a lot of fun! The way they use the different musical instruments as part of the score to denote the various characters makes this one quite entertaining! Of course, Sterling Holloway’s narration is quite fun, too, especially as he tries to interact with the characters (not that they seem to hear him, anyways). Like I said, this segment is one I know I enjoy, and love to come back to every now and then!

After You’ve Gone

This segment features Benny Goodman and the Goodman Quartet playing the music. Onscreen, we see various musical instruments (led, in particular, by a clarinet) as they go through a musical environment. This is another one without much of a plot, and that’s a bit of a strike against it. The animation is fun to watch, especially when we have a pair of hands (which then turn into a pair of legs) play on piano keys. The music itself is fun, which adds to this segment’s charm. It’s still not a great one, but it’s entertaining enough for a few minutes.

Johnnie Fedora And Alice Bluebonnet

The Andrews Sisters sing a tale about two different hats. Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet are a pair of hats in a department store window who have fallen in love (until Alice is sold to a customer). When Johnnie has been purchased, he tries to find Alice, but keeps managing to miss her. I’ve seen this segment before via some of the various programs containing Disney shorts over the years. Until this viewing, I don’t think it sank in that it was the Andrews Sisters narrating, and their presence makes this fun short even better. It’s an entertaining little love story, with good animation and a lot of heart behind it. I know I still like it after all these years!

The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met

Ah, the moment I’ve been waiting for (and, as it’s the reason I’m including this movie as part of my Screen Team Of The Month blogathon for January 2022, it will take at least two paragraphs to talk about it). A whale is heard singing opera out in the ocean, making the headlines of newspapers and causing a lot of debate over whether it is really possible for a whale to sing. Opera impresario Tetti Tatti thinks that the whale has swallowed an opera singer, and sets out with a schooner and a harpooner to “rescue the opera singer.” The whale, Willie, actually can sing, and tries to audition for Tetti Tatti when he hears that the impresario is seeking him out. The schooner’s harpooners find themselves enjoying Willie’s singing, as he dreams of what it would be like for him to sing at the Met.

This is another segment that I’ve seen many a time since I was a kid (although it was the individual short, which had been retitled Willie The Operatic Whale, which I saw on a VHS). Even though it didn’t exactly have a happy ending, I will admit that I liked it as a child, and, seeing it again as an adult, I have even more respect for it! As a kid, I couldn’t have told you who Nelson Eddy was, and I certainly wouldn’t have known that all the whale’s singing was done by him. Now I know, which is what makes this short even better for me! I find it very impressive how they were able to use technology (some of which Nelson Eddy had been fiddling around with on his own) to allow him to sing in different voices, from bass through soprano. I’ll admit, seeing Willie the Whale as Mephistopheles was somewhat scary as a little kid (albeit not in a traumatic way, thankfully), and still is a little scary, even as an adult. Still, it’s an entertaining short that I’m glad to be able to see again!

My Overall Impression

This is probably one of the few animated Disney classics that I hadn’t really seen in its entirety until recently. Mostly, I had seen a few of the shorts through the likes of VHS and TV programs, but never in this form. For me, it’s easy to say that the shorts I was previously acquainted with are the ones that stick with me, especially Casey At The Bat, Peter And The Wolf, Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, and The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met. In particular, Willie The Whale is the one that I have the fondest memories of (to the extent that, even after many years of not seeing it, the music still easily gets stuck in my head, even after one viewing), and helps raise my opinion of the overall film completely on its own. Amongst those that I hadn’t seen before in their entirety, All The Cats Join In was the most memorable, with its fun little story and music. It’s a very inconsistent film in terms of its quality (hard not to be when it is comprised solely of various shorts not all done by the same people), but I still think it is worth seeing and enjoying!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Disney. The Blu-ray release is available exclusively through the Disney Movie Club (or, for those who can’t become members, it can also be found through other sellers on eBay and other sites). The pros about the Blu-ray: the transfer looks quite good, in my opinion, and, as indicated above, it has three classic shorts included as extras (a new thing for Disney Movie Club exclusives). The con: it’s the edited version of the film, missing the Martins And The Coys segment and the edited out moments from All The Cats Join In. This is particularly frustrating, as being a Disney Movie Club exclusive makes it that much harder to purchase, and is therefore going to appeal mainly to collectors (who would mostly prefer to have the entire, UNCUT film). As a result, the version of the movie included runs about one hour, eight minutes in length. It’s got the main parts that I like and enjoy, but I can’t deny that I would scoop up the full version if the release were fixed (and I hope it does somewhere down the line).

(Full) Film Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collection

Phantom Of The Opera (1943)Nelson Eddy

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – Dinah Shore

Hold That Ghost (1941) – The Andrews Sisters – Road To Rio (1947)

Road To Utopia (1946) – Jerry Colonna – Road To Rio (1947)

Remember The Night (1940) – Sterling Holloway

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TFTMM’s Screen Team Edition Presents “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy

Hey everybody, I’m here to wish you all a Happy New Year! And with the new year, I am resuming my celebrations of various stars and genres for every month. As I announced previously, I will be starting off 2022 with the “Singing Sweethearts” Screen Team of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy for the month of January!

Table Of Contents

Quick Film Career Bio

Jeanette MacDonald

Birth: June 18, 1903

Death: January 14, 1965

Jeannette Anna McDonald was born in Philadelphia to Daniel McDonald and Anna May in 1903. As a child, she took dancing lessons, but took up singing lessons when she joined her older sister Blossom Rock in New York in 1919. She got roles in the chorus and as second female leads in various shows until 1927, when she landed the lead in Yes, Yes, Yvette. She appeared in several more plays, including Angela, where she was spotted by film star Richard Dix. He got her screen-tested for a movie, but the play’s producers wouldn’t let her out of her contract at the time. Director Ernst Lubitsch saw that screen test later, and cast her in his first sound film, The Love Parade (1929), her first of four pairings with Maurice Chevalier. She signed with Paramount Studios, where she made several more movies (including at least one more for Lubitsch). She tried to produce a film on her own (The Lottery Bride in 1930), but it wasn’t successful. She signed with Fox Film Corporation for three movies, before taking a break from Hollywood for a European concert tour. She came back to Paramount for two more movies with Maurice Chevalier (One Hour With You and Love Me Tonight, both from 1932) before going back to Europe.

While there, she signed with MGM, where she made two films in 1934, The Cat And The Fiddle (which wasn’t much of a success) and The Merry Widow (which was a hit with critics and some audiences, but not enough to make a profit). Then she was paired with newcomer Nelson Eddy for Naughty Marietta (1935), which was much more popular with movie audiences. The following year (1936), they were teamed up again for Rose-Marie while she simultaneously proved her acting chops with a more dramatic role in San Francisco opposite Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. Wunderkind producer Irving Thalberg made plans to have Jeanette and Nelson do a film version of the Sigmund Romberg operetta Maytime in Technicolor, but his death altered those plans. Instead, a slightly different cast was assembled for the now black-and-white film, and Maytime (1937) became a big hit with audiences. Jeanette and Nelson made two more films in 1938, The Girl Of The Golden West and MGM’s first Technicolor film, Sweethearts. She also had several solo films, including The Firefly (1937) and Broadway Serenade (1939), but neither were as successful as the films with Nelson. After Broadway Serenade, Jeanette left Hollywood for a concert tour. After some negotiations, she came back for three more films with Nelson, Smilin’ Through (1941) with her husband Gene Raymond and Cairo (1942).

With Nelson Eddy buying out his contract after a falling out with MGM head Louis B. Mayer, Jeanette also left the studio after Cairo (along with several other highly paid actresses let go by Mayer). She followed Nelson to Universal, but she only ended up filming two songs for the all-star movie Follow The Boys (1944). That was the last screen appearance she made for several years. She came back to MGM for two final films, Three Daring Daughters (1948) and the Lassie film The Sun Comes Up (1949). In the 1950s, she appeared in various stage productions (though none on Broadway, to the best of my knowledge) and various TV programs. She wanted to make a comeback on the big screen, but most of the attempts (including several with Nelson Eddy) didn’t manage to get off the ground, particularly not helped by a heart condition that had been increasingly plaguing her. In the 1960s, her health went downhill considerably, despite the attempts by doctors to operate on her. Finally, she passed away due to heart failure at the Houston Methodist Hospital on January 14, 1965.

Nelson Eddy

Birth: June 29, 1901

Death: March 6, 1967

In 1901, Nelson Ackerman Eddy was born to Caroline Isabel and William Darius Eddy in Providence, Rhode Island. His family was quite musical, as his mother was a church soloist, his grandmother was an oratorio singer and his father (who deserted his family when Nelson was fourteen) sang in the church choir, played drums, and worked both on- and off-stage. The family had to move around a lot because his father was unable to keep a steady job due partly to his alcoholism, but, after his father left, Nelson had to abandon school and get work (first at an iron works and then later as a newspaper reporter). Singing was still his love, and he started working at the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company in the 1920s. In 1927, Nelson followed his singing teacher to Dresden in Europe to study. When he was offered a job with a German opera company, he turned it down and returned to America, deciding instead to focus on doing concerts (with a handful of opera roles in between).

When he substituted last minute for diva Lotte Lehman at a sold-out concert in L.A. on February 28, 1933, the audience took to him quite well, and he received many offers to go to Hollywood. Figuring that being in the movies would help his concert career, he signed with MGM. At first, they didn’t quite know what to do with him, relegating him to quick appearances with one song each in Broadway To Hollywood (1933), Dancing Lady (1933) and Student Tour (1934). Movie audiences liked him well enough that he was promoted to the male lead opposite Jeanette MacDonald in Naughty Marietta (1935), and a new star (and screen team) was born. While starring alongside Jeanette in seven more films, he also made films opposite other leading ladies at MGM, including Eleanor Powell (Rosalie from 1937), Virginia Bruce (Let Freedom Ring from 1939), Ilona Massey (Balalaika from 1939) and Risë Stevens (The Chocolate Soldier from 1941). Around the time of what turned out to be his final film with Jeanette (I Married An Angel from 1942), Nelson had a falling out with MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, and bought out his contract. He then signed with Universal Studios for a two-picture deal. His first film there, Phantom Of The Opera (1943), didn’t quite turn out as he had hoped, and he ended things with Universal. He made a few more movies after that, mostly for independent studios, with his final film being Northwest Outpost (1947) for Republic Pictures.

By this time, he was mainly focusing on doing radio shows and making a few television appearances. He had also continued doing concerts, but the rise of television made those less profitable for him. Instead, he adapted by putting together a nightclub act. He still hoped to make some more movies, especially with Jeanette (and even tried to write a few screenplays himself towards that end), but nothing ever came of it, with their only appearances together at that point being on television on various programs. While he was performing at the Sans Souci Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida (in 1967), he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage onstage and later passed away (having been preceded in death by Jeanette nearly two years earlier).

Jeanette MacDonald Filmography

This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from her filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of January, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of her films even beyond this month’s celebration.

Monte Carlo (1930)

Love Me Tonight (1932)

The Cat And The Fiddle (1934)

Naughty Marietta (1935)

Rose-Marie (1936)

San Francisco (1936)

Maytime (1937)

The Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

Nelson Eddy Filmography

This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from his filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of January, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of his films even beyond this month’s celebration.

Dancing Lady (1933)

Naughty Marietta (1935)

Rose-Marie (1936)

Maytime (1937)

The Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

Balalaika (1939)

The Chocolate Soldier (1941)

Phantom Of The Opera (1943)

Make Mine Music (1946)

Entries For This Month

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man –

Monte Carlo (1930)

Make Mine Music (1946)

The Chocolate Soldier (1941)

The Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

The Cat And The Fiddle (1934)

Phantom Of The Opera (1943)

Rules:

Since this blogathon lasts a month, I’ll keep the rules here in case anybody is still interested in joining in:

  1. At this point, I am not putting any restrictions on topics related to the various stars, so you can choose to do one of their films (whether it’s one of their solo movies or one made as a team), or biographies, lists of favorites, etc.
  2. These celebrations are intended as tributes to these stars, so I would ask that any participating posts be respectful of the stars themselves. Obviously, if you don’t care for that specific star, that would probably not be a good month to join in.
  3. I’m requesting that all posts would be new material, and not any previously published ones.
  4. As previously indicated, these celebrations of the stars and genres will last a whole month each, so you will have that whole month to work with. I myself will be publishing about four or five posts per month (depending on the number of Sundays and whether there are any recent disc releases that would fit the bill), so you can decide how many you want to do (within reason).
  5. If you are interested in joining, I would certainly suggest you either comment on this post, email me at astairefan7@gmail.com, or, for the Facebook savvy, contact me at my FB page. And feel free to use the banners I have put together (due to this blogathon focusing on a team instead of one star, I will actually have several to choose from, as opposed to my usual one).

Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon

We’re less than a month away from 2022, so that means that it’s time to announce my first “Star Of The Month” blogathon of the year! Of course, as you can tell from the post title, I’m focusing on two stars instead of one (in this instance, the “Singing Sweethearts” team of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy)! Before I get any further, I would like to mention that I will focus on some other screen teams in 2022, but I will also mostly continue the focus for most months on just one star (with the exception of musical screen teams in September). I will give one hint on which months will focus on screen teams: those with five Sundays (mostly so that I can do two solo films each and one team-up). So be sure to sign up here if you’re interested in doing a film with Jeanette MacDonald and/or Nelson Eddy!

Table Of Contents

My Own Feelings On Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy

For me, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy are a pair that I’ve come around to over the last decade. I had seen some of their films before that, like San Francisco (1936) for Jeanette and Dancing Lady (1933) for Nelson (if you get technical, I’d heard him long before that since he voiced the Disney cartoon “Willie, The Operatic Whale” from the 1946 film Make Mine Music, although I mostly just saw the short on VHS as opposed to that entire movie). I had more or less heard of them through the clips used in the That’s Entertainment series, but their operatic style didn’t appeal to me, and their appearances included in the That’s Entertainment films didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Eventually, as I mentioned in my reviews for Rose-Marie (1936) and Naughty Marietta (1935), I worked my way into their films, and I’ve developed a greater appreciation for them, both together and apart. I definitely feel like their popularity has really faded with time, and that’s one reason I wanted to put the focus on them for a month. I know I look forward to seeing some new films for them, revisiting some yet-unreviewed favorites, and hopefully in the process convince others to check them out!

Roster For The Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Star Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon

Since this is obviously for next month’s blogathon on Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, then that’s all you need to worry about signing up for. As always, here are the rules that we are working with.

  1. At this point, I am not putting any restrictions on topics related to the various stars, so you can choose to do one of their films (whether it’s one of their solo movies or one made as a team), or biographies, lists of favorites, etc.
  2. These celebrations are intended as tributes to these stars, so I would ask that any participating posts be respectful of the stars themselves. Obviously, if you don’t care for that specific star (or stars), that would probably not be a good month to join in.
  3. I’m requesting that all posts would be new material, and not any previously published ones.
  4. As previously indicated, these celebrations of the stars and genres will last a whole month each, so you will have that whole month to work with. I myself will be publishing about four or five posts per month (depending on the number of Sundays and whether there are any recent disc releases that would fit the bill), so you can decide how many you want to do (within reason).
  5. If you are interested in joining, I would certainly suggest you either comment on this post, email me at astairefan7@gmail.com, or, for the Facebook savvy, contact me at my FB page. And feel free to use the banners I have put together (due to this blogathon focusing on a team instead of one star, I will actually have several to choose from, as opposed to my usual one).

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man

  • Monte Carlo (1930), The Cat And The Fiddle (1934), The Girl Of The Golden West (1938), The Chocolate Soldier (1941), Phantom Of The Opera (1943) and Make Mine Music (1946)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… Naughty Marietta (1935)

This year, the Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA) chose the Hidden Classics Blogathon as their Spring Blogathon, in order to feature forgotten films and underrated gems that may need more attention.  For me, one of the first films to come to mind would be the 1935 operetta Naughty Marietta starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy!

Princess Marie de Namours de la Bonfain (Jeanette MacDonald) is beloved by the people, but she has a problem.  Her uncle, the Prince de Namour de la Bonfain (Douglas Dumbrille), has arranged a marriage for her with Spaniard Don Carlos de Braganza (Walter Kingsford), whom she despises.  Sadly for her, the king approves of the marriage.  It looks like there’s no way out, until she learns about the casquette girls (a group of women being sent to the American colonies to marry the men there and raise families) from her scullery maid, Marietta Franini (Helen Shipman).  Since her maid was only going because she was too poor to marry her sweetheart, Marie gives her some money and decides to take her place as a casquette girl.  Her absence is quickly noticed by her uncle, and he sends men out to find her.  She narrowly avoids being noticed right before the ship leaves.  Before the ship can make it to the New World, they are attacked by pirates (who kill the crew and bring all the women with them).  On land (before anything can happen), a group of mercenaries, lead by Captain Richard Warrington (Nelson Eddy), pass by, and, hearing cries for help, fight off the pirates and bring the women to New Orleans.  There, the women are all introduced to the governor, Gaspard d’Annard (Frank Morgan), and his wife (Elsa Lanchester) before they are taken to the convent.  With some of the men vying for her hand in marriage, Marie tries to avoid it by essentially saying that she had lied when she signed her contract (and the only thing she could go with is that she was not a woman of strong morals).  So, she is taken to another house in the village by Richard (before she escapes from him).  He later finds her working in a marionette show, and takes her out for lunch.  However, while they are eating, they hear the town talking about how her uncle had arrived and was seeking her out.  Realizing that she was a fugitive, Richard tries to help her out, but they are quickly found, and she is taken to the governor’s mansion.  There, her furious uncle tells her that she is still to go through with her arranged marriage to Don Carlos, and they will leave as soon as possible.  In the meantime, the governor and his wife host a ball in their honor.  With her uncle threatening to have Richard executed for treason if he helps her, can Marie and Richard get away together, or will she be stuck married to a man that she despises?

Naughty Marietta was based on the stage operetta of the same name by Victor Herbert and Rida Johnson.  Jeanette MacDonald had recently signed with MGM after making a number of movies for Paramount, and Naughty Marietta was originally scheduled to be one of the first she did at MGM.  She wasn’t initially enthusiastic about it, and so the idea was delayed.  When they came back around to doing the movie after her success with The Merry Widow (1934), she wanted Allan Jones as her co-star, but he was busy working opposite the Marx Brothers in A Night At The Opera (1935).  So, Nelson Eddy was cast, and the makings of another famous screen team were born.

Naughty Marietta was once a fairly popular film (after all, it did create a new, popular screen team), but, to me, it seems to have been forgotten more and more as time goes on.  Some of that, I assume, has to do with its genre.  I know movie musicals are nowhere near as popular with audiences as they once were (at least, it certainly doesn’t seem like new films are released anywhere near as much as during the Golden Age of Hollywood).  Even worse, this film is based on an operetta, and I think they are even less popular.  I admit, I myself (a self-professed fan of film musicals) was originally quite hesitant to dig into ANY of the MacDonald-Eddy films for that reason.  After all, most people have enough of a hard time with the idea of people breaking out into song and dance in the movies, never mind people with such highly trained voices like this film’s two stars (no doubt a reflection of the changes in culture as time goes on).

Still, I did eventually come around to trying out the MacDonald-Eddy films.  I started out with their second film, Rose-Marie (1936), after seeing (and enjoying) the later 1954 film version with Howard Keel (a star I was much more familiar with), and that was my gateway into the films of MacDonald and Eddy.  Naughty Marietta ended up being the next film of theirs that I had the opportunity to see, and I enjoyed it quite a bit!  The film is at its best when Jeanette and Nelson are together, whether singing a duet or developing their relationship.  Their chemistry is what makes the whole thing work.  Of course, the film is also helped by another couple, that of Frank Morgan (who admittedly looks different without his mustache, which he had to shave, under protest), and Elsa Lanchester as his perpetually annoyed (and suspicious) wife.  The way they act together says SO MUCH about their character’s relationship, and provides quite a bit of humor in the process.  Of course, the music itself is wonderful, with “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life” being the biggest standout.  If you can push yourself to try an operetta, I would think this movie is indeed a hidden classic, and one that deserves to be seen (and enjoyed)!

This movie is available on DVD either individually or as part of the four film Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy Collection: Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #3 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Cat And The Fiddle (1934)Jeanette MacDonaldRose-Marie (1936)

Dancing Lady (1933)Nelson EddyRose-Marie (1936)

The Good Fairy (1935) – Frank Morgan – Balalaika (1939)

Elsa Lanchester – Murder By Death (1976)

Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy (screen team) – Rose-Marie (1936)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Maytime (1937)

Let’s celebrate the month of May by digging into the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy musical Maytime.

Jeanette MacDonald plays Marcia Mornay, a rising opera star under the tutelage of Nicolai Nazaroff (John Barrymore). When she is presented to the court of emperor Louis Napoleon, Nicolai convinces an important composer to write an opera for her. Later, Nicolai proposes to her, and she accepts out of gratitude. In her excitement, she is unable to sleep and takes a carriage ride. She stops at a tavern when the horse runs away, and she meets Paul Allison (Nelson Eddy), who is instantly smitten with her. She resists, but she still meets him a few more times. Even though she likes Paul, she decides to stay with Nicolai and breaks things off with Paul. However, they meet again a few years later when Nicolai brings her to New York to do an opera there.

Originally, Maytime opened as a Broadway show on August 16, 1917, with music by Sigmund Romberg, and the book and lyrics provided by Rida Johnson Young. It would prove to be quite popular, with a second production running alongside the first, and it would be the second-longest running show of the decade. In 1923, it was made into a silent movie, keeping the story (sadly, this film no longer exists in its entirety, although four out of its seven reels have survived and been restored). It would come back again for the 1937 film, this time being planned as the third film for the then-hot screen team of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. This time, however, they would drop the story (although I get the impression that they kept a few elements of the original story) and most of the score as well, with the exception of the song “Will You Remember,” as they tried to play to the strengths of the two stars.

Of the eight movies starring MacDonald and Eddy, this ended up being the third one I saw, following Rose-Marie and Naughty Marietta (hmm… 2, 1, 3? Sounds like I might have seen the Dudley Do-Right movie too much growing up 😉 ). Anyways, I had no idea going into this one what it would be like. I had some familiarity with the other two, as I had heard some of the music before, and seen a few clips included in the That’s Entertainment films. This one, not so much. The closest I could claim was the song “Will You Remember” being included in the musical biopic on composer Sigmund Romberg, Deep In My Heart, which I didn’t care for after my first viewing (but that’s a story for another time).  With Rose-Marie setting the bar quite high for the series, I found myself feeling disappointed with this movie for the first hour.  Then I got to the May Day section, which included the song “Will You Remember,” and my opinion changed completely. That was the only song retained from the original score, and it was the only one that needed to be. I really enjoyed the song, which so strongly evokes the feeling of spring for me now, and the rest of the movie after that. Especially the finale, which was so wonderful, it gives me chills every time I watch it (but make sure you have a good supply of Kleenex)! And with repeat viewings, this movie just gets better and better! Is it perfect? No, I will admit, it does have some problems with sexism, although how much of that is inherent to the period the movie is set in, I’m not sure. But this is still a wonderful movie, and one I highly recommend!

This movie is available on DVD either individually or as part of the four film Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy Collection: Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 2 hours, 11 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #8 In Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

San Francisco (1936)Jeanette MacDonaldThe Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

Rose-Marie (1936)Nelson EddyThe Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

Dinner At Eight (1933) – John Barrymore – Spawn Of The North (1938)

Rose-Marie (1936) – Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy (screen team) – The Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Rose-Marie (1936)

And now we’re here for the 1936 version of Rose-Marie, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

In this movie, Jeanette MacDonald plays Rose-Marie de Flor, an operatic diva (emphasis on “diva”). When she hears that her brother, John Flower (James Stewart), has broken out of prison and killed a mountie, she decides to come to him in the wilderness. On the way, she runs into Sergeant Bruce (Nelson Eddy), the mountie who has been tasked with finding her brother. Bruce quickly figures out that she is the famous opera diva, but, due to Rose-Marie’s relationship to her brother being kept secret, he doesn’t realize her main reason for being there. After she leaves with her guide, he puts two and two together, and follows her. She loses her guide and is stuck with Bruce (who doesn’t admit that he knows, instead admitting to going a different direction). Of course, on the trip there, they both fall for each other, which makes Bruce’s job that much harder.

What can I say? This is a wonderful movie! This is the second film version of a 1924 stage operetta, following a (now believed to be lost) 1928 silent film and later followed by the 1954 version starring Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Fernando Lamas. In spite of the fact that this version deviates the most from the play as far as the story is concerned, this is the best-known version. This film does make use of some of the music from the stage operetta to wonderful effect. We have songs such as “The Mounties,” sung by Nelson Eddy and the title tune “Rose-Marie,” sung by Nelson Eddy as a serenade for Jeanette MacDonald’s character (which works until he starts to sing it again and accidentally substitutes another lady’s name for Rose-Marie’s, revealing that he’s used the song before). But the best song would have to be “Indian Love Call” (although, if you don’t like the song, it’s very hard to enjoy the last half hour of the movie, as it’s sung about four times within that time frame). But it is such a wonderful song, and I personally have never heard it sung better than either Jeanette MacDonald or Nelson Eddy.

Speaking of the film’s two stars, this is the second of eight movies that they were paired together for. This ended up being the first of their movies together that I saw (I had previously seen maybe one film each for their solo outings). Any knowledge of these films I possessed previously was from clips of some of their movies being included in the That’s Entertainment trilogy, and, as I have never been terribly fond of opera, I was reluctant to try them out. Then I saw the 1954 film with Howard Keel (whom I did like), enjoyed it and wanted to try this one. I was blown away by how much I liked this one, and it became easy for me to try to seek the others out. I still don’t really care for opera, but I am willing to put up with it for these movies. And this movie in particular has always felt like a lesson in great chemistry, because the movie relies quite heavily on just these two for the vast majority of the film. And it works! And we also have James Stewart in an early (and brief) role as the escaped convict brother, which apparently helped to get him noticed (and a few bigger roles, too) after having only done small bit parts. So, yes, I very much recommend this one!!

This movie is available on DVD either individually or as part of the four film Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy Collection: Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection.

“When I’m calling you-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo…”

Film Length: 1 hour, 51 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Naughty Marietta (1935)Jeanette MacDonaldSan Francisco (1936)

Naughty Marietta (1935)Nelson EddyMaytime (1937)

The Good Fairy (1935) – Reginald Owen – A Christmas Carol (1938)

James Stewart – Born To Dance (1936)

Allan Jones – Show Boat (1936)

In Person (1935) – Alan Mowbray – My Man Godfrey (1936)

Naughty Marietta (1935) – Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy (screen team) – Maytime (1937)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!