Musical Monday: The Merry Widow (1952)

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:
The Merry Widow (1952) – Musical #237

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Curtis Bernhardt

Starring:
Lana Turner, Fernando Lamas, Una Merkel, Richard Haydn, Thomas Gomez, John Abbott, King Donovan, Robert Coote, Lisa Ferraday, Sujata Rubener, Joi Lansing (uncredited), Gwen Verdon (uncredited)

Plot:
Crystal Radek (Turner) is a rich widow of a man from the kingdom of Marshovia, who left $80 million to his widow. Now living in America, she is invited to Marshovia under false pretenses. The kingdom is in financial distress and has invited her there with hopes that playboy Count Danilo (Lamas) will woo and marry Crystal for her money so the country won’t be annexed to Austria. However, Crystal switches place with her secretary Kitty (Merkel) to see if people will love her for herself.

Trivia:
– One of several versions of “The Merry Widow” that was made between 1909 and 2005. American versions include The Merry Widow (1925) starring Mae Murray and John Gilbert, and The Merry Widow (1934) Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald
– Una Merkel was in both the 1930s version and this version.
– Trudy Erwin dubbed Lana Turner

Highlights:
– The Technicolor
– The opening credits featuring painted portraits of the leads

Lana Turner and Fernando Lamas in “The Merry Widow” (1952)

Notable Songs:
– “Girls, Girls, Girls” performed by Fernando Lamas
– “The Merry Widow Waltz” performed by Fernando Lamas and Lana Turner (dubbed by Trudy Erwin)
– “Night” performed by Fernando Lamas

My review:
“The Merry Widow” (1952) is just the colorful and light musical comedy you may need to brighten a day.

This MGM musical version may not be the best version of the story that has been told many times from 1909 to 2005. However, it is quite lighthearted, indulgent and entertaining.

Lana Turner is dressed in beautiful costumes designed by Helen Rose. Lana Turner could dance but couldn’t sing, and thought it was ridiculous that she was put in this musical, she wrote in her autobiography. She also wasn’t a fan of being cast in another costume drama. She was dubbed by Trudy Erwin and said all she did was move her mouth and someone filled in the music.

However, making the film also brightened her spirits. Lana was going through a divorce with her husband Bob Topping and tried to commit suicide, according to her autobiography. She still had scars on her wrists so she had to wear gloves and large bracelets to cover the injury during the film. She and Fernando Lamas had a love affair during the film, which was a distraction for her.

Fernando Lamas has a handsome, chiseled look and can sing well. However, with some songs, I feel like he tries to sing in the same manner as Maurice Chevalier in a few songs with that clipped, cheerful way. Many of the songs in “The Merry Widow” (1952) are the same as “The Merry Widow” (1934).

Of the two talkie American films, I do have to say that I prefer 1934’s version directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. However, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. The color MGM version has a different feel altogether.

One similarity between the 1934 and 1952 version of the film is Una Merkel, who performs in different roles in both films. Merkel is humorous in this film, but she is always delightful o see in any film.

“The Merry Widow” (1952) is an indulgent and colorful film, and while it may not be the best version of the film, it is still very enjoyable.

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One thought on “Musical Monday: The Merry Widow (1952)

  1. What a beautiful article JN Pickens! I’ve always wanted to both the 1952 and 1934 of The Merry Widow. Hopefully I will one day.

    Like

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