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.
William K. Howard, Sam Wood (uncredited)
Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro, Frank Morgan, Charles Butterworth, Jean Hersholt, Vivienne Segal, Sterling Holloway (uncredited), Herman Bing (uncredited), Leonid Kinskey (uncredited)
In Brussels, struggling musician Victor (Novarro) meets American singer Shirley (MacDonald). He’s immediately infatuated with her which is very annoying to her. However, Shirley eventually falls for Victor. Both Shirley and Victor audition music they composed to Professor Daudet (Morgan), and Daudet is also immediately smitten with Shirley. Daudet uses his influence to get Shirley by trying to send Victor to Paris to perform his music.
-The final scene was filmed in three strip Technicolor. This was the first use of three-strip Technicolor in a live action film. It previuosly was only used in Walt Disney cartoons.
-Jeanette MacDonald’s first film with MGM, according to The Invisible Art of Film Music: A Comprehensive History by Laurence E. MacDonald
-Based on the 1931 Broadway musical “The Cat and the Fiddle” written in Jerome Kern and Otto A. Harbach
-The film version kept the entire score intact, which is unusual for film adaptations for plays. However, many songs were reassigned to different characters, according to The Jerome Kern Encyclopedia by Thomas S. Hischak
-Three strip Technicolor finale
-“The Night was Made for Love” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Ramon Novarro
-“She Didn’t Say Yes” performed by Jeanette MacDonald
-“The Breeze Kissed Your Hair” performed by Ramon Novarro
-“One Moment Alone” performed by Ramon Novarro
Ever since I discovered that Ramon Novarro had a beautiful singing voice, I have really enjoyed revisiting and discovering these films.
The only problem with “The Cat and the Fiddle” (1934) is Novarro’s leading lady’s voice over powers his. While Novarro has a wonderful voice, it’s not quite strong enough to match the well-trained opera voice of Jeanette MacDonald for their duets.
Aside from our two leads, “The Cat and the Fiddle” has a great supporting cast of Frank Morgan and Charles Butterworth. Though Morgan is supposed to be the bad guy in the film, it’s hard to dislike him because he’s rather friendly and affable.
The plot is fairly light and unimportant. It mainly just revolves around the relationship of Novarro and MacDonald. Regardless, it is filled with wonderful music.
“The Cat and the Fiddle” is also a wonderful pre-code film. Novarro and MacDonald live together “in sin.” At one point she tells him that she had a dream that they were so rich that Novarro was walking around in a gold coat. He asked if that’s all he was wearing and she said yes.
While this isn’t Jeanette MacDoanld’s most memorable film, it’s still a lovely story with the added bonus of Roman Novarro in another musical.