Archive for the ‘Jeanette MacDonald’ Category

One Hour WithYou

09 May

One Hour With You – directed by Ernst Lubitsch – Musical. Two ladies vie for the bedroom of M. Chevalier, one of them is married to him, one isn’t.  80 minutes Black and White 1932.

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Lubitsch’s perpetual sense-of-humor-cigar is that sex is a jest that people inevitably loose their sense of humor over. The one who loses it here is Jeanette MacDonald just as Florence Vidor lost it in Lubitsch’s 19245 silent version The Marriage Circle. Now, I want you to listen very carefully to what I am about to say, for no matter what you may think of “old” films, especially this old, they possess a quickness of wit and heart to be found no place else. You may adore or despise the hairdos and the decor. You may find the music and the tone to be “Viennese” and dated. You may dismiss the frivolity, but you’d be a suicidal killjoy to miss any movie that begins with a line like this: “She was a brunette when I married her, and now I can’t believe a thing she says.” Again, in this piece we have the light-operetta style so suited to the non-singer. I speak of Maurice Chevalier. Chevalier appeared to sing. Of course he didn’t sing; he never sang a note his whole life long. He simply appeared to. So do we care whether he will jilt his wife and spend the night with that most forward of minxes, Genevieve Tobin? Perhaps not, but that is the entire point. Neither should his wife, Jeanette, care. Sex is a cocktail glass from which anyone may sip, provided there is fresh martini in it. Why not? If sex is not a cocktail, then how can you make a movie about the folly of sex? And what we mean by sex is sexual attraction. The act itself is best left to closed lids. Your drama could never entertain points about that attraction unless your setting was frivolous. For, when the frivolous becomes the essential, you have something worth looking at. And Lubitsch provides you with this. You, with him, have a way of seeing. You have a way of penetrating. With point of view, you have a chance of latitude of view. You have a fixed position around which you may gaze in all directions. With Lubitsch’s films one is complicit. Why in drama and in life does infidelity seem far more momentous than fidelity? It is because we have made what is unimportant important, and it is important to see that we have. Lubitsch gives us that permission. A respect. A distance. A stepping back. Provided, of course, that you are not actually experiencing sexual attraction at the moment. Otherwise you can relax. You can see that sexual attraction is droll and endearing and that infidelity is simply a beguiling possibility. You don’t have to worry about making the rent. You can laugh. And, best of all, you can breathe like a human being once again.



The Love Parade

31 Dec

The Love Parade  — directed by Ernst Lubitsch –A musical comedy in which The Queen of Sylvania is pestered by her people to wed. She’s fed up with the idea. Suddenly in walks The Count, sent home from Paris for his shenanigans. She no sooner claps eyes on him than she marries him. Then, of course, the trouble starts. black and white sound [1929]

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Maurice Chevalier could not say two lines together. But he could say one line together. Each time he is given a second line a pause falls between them and with that pause worlds come to an end. So every two-line speech sounds like a recitation. From the beginning to the end of his performing life, which was long, this was so. But even so, he is delightful. He really likes women as they are. He really likes himself as he is. He really is pleased how much women like him. He is full of good will and kindness towards everyone. And he is a really responsive actor. And occasionally, as here, he will even sing, and we will have to listen to it. However, what we have here, amid stupendously luxurious sets, polished floors, ceiling to floor swags, and scads of servants, is the sexuality of Jeanette MacDonald, who physically resembles no other actress so much as Geraldine Page: the same long graceful arms and hands, the same beautiful legs, the lanky torso, the shape of her head, her rich smile and lickerous eye. But the main resemblance is her sexuality. No, she was not sexy, she was something more profound and rare in women: she was visibly sexual. This is the telling quality against which her domineering behavior over her new husband comes a cropper. This is the, but never stated, visual adventure of this film for us: the comedy between MacDonald’s female sexuality on the one hand and Chevalier’s male sensuality on the other. Will they survive? Will they mesh? Will they last? Is there a plot? Does there need to be? Do you really need to know where the bucket came from in which that champagne bottle was nestled? You’d better say no.


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