Musical Monday: “Music for Madame” (1937)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Music for Madame” (1948) – Musical #504

music for madame

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
John G. Blystone

Starring:
Joan Fontaine, Nino Martini, Lee Patrick, Alan Mowbray, Alan Hale, Grant Mitchell, Billy Gilbert, Jack Carson

Plot:
Nino Maretti, an aspiring opera singer (Martini) is conned into thinking he is singing for important composer at a Hollywood party. In reality, Nino is singing at a Hollywood party to distract the guests as the two con artists steal priceless pearls. Jean Clemens (Fontaine) is at the same party, trying to get a symphony she wrote noticed. When Nino realizes he was used, he goes into hiding and doesn’t sing so he won’t be recognized—all the while falling in love with Jean.

Nino Martini, Joan Fontaine, and Lee Patrick (left to right) work as Hollywood film extras in "Music for Madame."

Nino Martini, Joan Fontaine, and Lee Patrick (left to right) work as Hollywood film extras in “Music for Madame.”

Trivia:
-“Music for Madame” is Fontaine’s fifth credited role on screen. The movie following “Music” is her only other musical, “Damsel in Distress” (1937) with Fred Astaire.
-Mowbray’s character was spoofing famous conductor Leopold Stokowski.
-According to IMDB, the film lost $375,000 at the box office.
-Martini was an Italian opera singer who sang with the New York City Metropolitan Opera. He made four films from 1935 to 1948. “Music for Madame” was his second to last film.
-Actor Jack Carson has a small role as an assistant director.
-Actor Ward Bond has an uncredited role in the film.

Notable Songs:
-Vesti la giubba from the opera “Pagliacci” (1892)
-“King of the Road” is sung by a truck driver who picks up Fontaine and Martini and accompanied by several car horns played by the two passengers.
-“I Want the World to Know” is the love theme of the film, written by Fontaine’s character and sung several times by Martini.

Highlights:
-Alan Hale. Hale is an excellent character actor in all of his films, but he is the only actor who stands out with humor and charisma in this film. The other actors are all pale in comparison to him.
-The scene with the truck drive singing “King of the Road” is an interesting one. He says he doesn’t have a radio so he makes music himself with all of these horns inside his vehicle. It’s not a musical masterpiece but of all the musicals I have seen, I’ve never seen a number like that.
-Martini’s acting is not the best, but he does have a beautiful singing voice.
-Fontaine looks incredibly young with a page boy bob and a bow in her hair. It’s an interesting way to see her when you are used to the sophisticated roles she played starting in the 1940s.

Jean (Fontaine) is detained by police after the pearls go missing.

Jean (Fontaine) is detained by police after the pearls go missing.

My Review:
I feel like “Music for Madame” is one of those movies that Academy Award winning actress Joan Fontaine looks back at and shudders. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s also one I wouldn’t highly recommend. “Music for Madame” is a simple, entertaining plot but a lot of the acting is lacking. Nino Martini has a beautiful voice, but that can’t carry the film on it’s own. Fontaine is still exercising her acting chops. The most interesting character in my opinion is Alan Hale as a bumbling, music loving detective.

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