Musical Monday: Rosalie (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:
Rosalie” (1937)– Musical #140

rosalie

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke

Starring:
Eleanor Powell, Nelson Eddy, Frank Morgan, Edna May Oliver, Ray Bolger, Ilona Massey, Reginald Owen, Virginia Grey, Billy Gilbert, Jerry Colonna, William Demarest, Tommy Bond, Tom Rutherford

Plot:
Rosalie (Powell) is a student at Vassar and also a princess from the country Romanza. She falls for West Point student Dick Thorpe (Eddy), who will be joining the Army after he graduates. When Rosalie is commanded home, she tells Dick to meet her in Romanza at a spring festival. The only problem is that Rosalie is betrothed to Prince Paul (Rutherford).

Trivia:
• Film adaptation of a 1928 play
• Ilona Massey’s first film in Hollywood
• Music by Cole Porter
• Eleanor Powell is dubbed by Marjorie Lane

Ilona Massey in her first Hollywood film and her only musical performance in it.

Ilona Massey in her first Hollywood film and her only musical performance in it.

Highlights:
• Eleanor Powell dance numbers
• The Drum Dance
• Eleanor Powell drilling West Point cadets
• Frank Morgan’s dummy

Notable Songs:
• “Rosalie” performed by Nelson Eddy
• “Who Knows” performed by Nelson Eddy
• “I’ve a Strange New Rhythm in My Heart” performed by Eleanor Powell, dubbed by Marjorie Lane
• “Spring Love Is in the Air” performed by Ilona Massey

My review:
The story of “Rosalie” first appeared on the stage in 1928 with music by Cole Porter and produced by the great Florenz Ziegfeld. And MGM succeeds in capturing that Ziegfeld glitter in this 1937 film adaptation.

Nelson Eddy as an All-American West Point football star in "Rosalie"

Nelson Eddy as an All-American West Point football star in “Rosalie”

I hadn’t watched this film since I was a freshman in high school in 2003. I remember being home sick and this musical helped keep me company. As life comes full circle, when I recently revisited this film for the first time since then, I was again home sick. And after all these years I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time.

For me, an Eleanor Powell film is always a treat. I believe she’s one of the greatest tap dancers of all-time, as she also mixes ballet steps into her tap numbers. For example, during the Drum Dance Powell does several batteries as she jumps down the huge drums in the dance numbers. Aside from her dancing skills, Powell always is extremely pleasant with an infectious smile. Powell was a magnificent dancer, but she didn’t sing. However, her dubber Marjorie Lane matched Powell’s own voice very well — so much so that I had to look up to see if she had been dubbed.

Nelson Eddy is a capable leading man. Critics often said he was stiff, but I felt he was relaxed and fairly likeable in this film. Of course, it is a bit of a stretch of the imagination to think of Eddy as a West Point All-American football star at age 38. I don’t know if Powell and Eddy were a convincing romantic pairing, but I didn’t find it bothersome either.

This is also Hungarian opera singer Ilona Massey’s first Hollywood film. For someone who is new to MGM, I’m surprised she only had one song in the film.

Frank Morgan and his dummy "Scrappy"

Frank Morgan and his dummy “Scrappy”

Aside from the dance numbers, the real highlight of this film are Edna Mae Oliver and Frank Morgan as the King and Queen and Powell’s parents are hilarious. Inspired by his Americanized daughter’s interests, Morgan carries a ventriloquist dummy (without saying the names, this was inspired by Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy). Their scenes together gave me genuine laughs throughout the movie.

Ray Bolger is also in the film, but I’m not really sure why. Aside from being the comic relief side-kick to Nelson Eddy, he hardly dances. He does a few steps here and there, but no full out tap numbers remained in the film. Virginia Grey also has an oddly small role in the film as Ray Bolger’s on-again-off-again airport

Admittedly, this movie is a little bit long at a few minutes over two hours, but I felt it moved pretty quickly. I’m also always a sucker for a film set at West Point.

Nelson Eddy and Eleanor Powell in a publicity still for "Rosalie"

Nelson Eddy and Eleanor Powell in a publicity still for “Rosalie”

The film was apparently a “smash flop” in box offices, but I enjoyed it. It has its flaws. For example, I’m not sure why the film is so long or why there aren’t more musical numbers. I think that has to do with overly long gags, like a scene in the airport. Or there is a random part where our attention is taken from a conversation to a brief nightclub singer performance.

Ilona Massey and Ray Bolger’s talents weren’t well exhibited, and even Nelson Eddy and Eleanor Powell didn’t have as many dances and songs as they usually do. It could simply be a case of talent overload that they couldn’t fit in two hours.

Regardless, it’s entertaining and any lover of MGM glitter and dance may enjoy “Rosalie.”

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