Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Love Parade (Ernst Lubitsch, 1926)

There isn’t much to this early Ruritanian musical, adapted from some sort of stage play to feature the singing of Maurice Chevalier, the rakish count Alfred Renard, and Jeanette MacDonald as Queen Louise of Sylvania. In the early sections the count is a cheerfully cynical Don Juan, and in the end Petruchio. That is, he is a libertine in Paris and gets sent home, where he marries the queen, but soon tires of being second and uses coolness and distance to teach her a lesson. The refeminization of the dominant woman—that is, stripping her of her power to leave her simpering—is rather unpleasant. MacDonald is earnest but unconvincing as a queen, largely because of her relaxed posture and her accent, though she sings like a good stage monarch. She and Chevalier do have the good grace to be self-parodic—he’s at his best explaining, with a charming grin, why he is the only one in the movie with a French accent. There’s a charming second couple, the count’s valet (Lupino Lane) and the maid Lulu (Lillian Roth), who parallel the queen’s courtship of the count with their own rather cruder antics. Also nice is to hear the rumbling voice of the great character actor Eugene Pallette, who plays a lamentably small part, but plays it well.

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