Musical Monday: Rose Marie (1954)

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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

rose marie2This week’s musical:
Rose Marie (1954) – Musical #349


Mervyn LeRoy

Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Fernando Lamas, Bert Lahr, Ray Collins, Marjorie Main, Joan Taylor, Chief Yowlachie, Thurl Ravenscroft (uncredited)

Rose Marie (Blyth) is living in the Canadian wilderness after her father dies. Mountie Sergeant Mike Malone (Keel) seeks out Rose Marie and takes her into his care, as she was left in his responsibility. After viewing her as a kid, Sergeant Malone realizes she’s not a child and falls in love with her. Then, Rose Marie meets trapper Jim Duvall (Lamas), and Rose Marie falls in love with him.

• One of three film versions of Rose Marie, all released by MGM:
– Rose Marie (1928), starring Joan Crawford
– Rose-Marie (1936) starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.
• Based on the operetta, Rose Marie, with music by Rudolf Friml and Herbert Stothart and book and lyrics by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II. The operetta was on the stage in 1924.
• Film locations included Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada and Mammoth Lakes in California.
• Working title was “Indian Love Call.”
• New songs were added to the film: “Free to Be Free,” “I Have the Love” and “The Right Place for a Girl.”
• MGM’s first Cinemascope film.

rose marie

Ann Blyth and Howard Keel

Notable Songs:
• “Rose Marie” performed by Howard Keel
• “Indian Love Call” performed by Ann Blyth and Fernando Lamas

rose marie3

Ann Blyth and Fernando Lamas

My review:
ROSE MARIE (1954) has gorgeous Technicolor cinematography, excellent songs, a wonderful cast and some beautiful on-location shots in Alberta, Canada. But even with all of that, I find this version of the operetta merely fine.

ROSE MARIE (1954) somehow lacks of the magic of the 1936 version of this story. But perhaps I’m prejudice, because the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

In a plot fairly different than the 1936 version, Rose Marie (Ann Blyth) is an orphaned young woman who is taken in by the Canadian Mounties, specifically Sgt. Malone (Keel). It’s determined that this isn’t a great environment for a young woman, so she’s sent to learn to become a lady with Lady Jane Dunstock (Main). Rose Marie believe she’s in love with Sgt. Malone, who is in love with her, until she meets a trapper, James Severn Duval (Lamas).

I’m always delighted to watch a film where we get to hear Ann Blyth sing with her gorgeous operatic voice. But I wish those musical vehicles were better—this one isn’t great. Howard Keel also sings less than you would think he would, and he and Ann Blyth never sing together, which is a disappointment. Keel does get to sing one of my favorites from this operetta, “Rose Marie.” It’s Fernando Lamas that gets to sing “Indian Love Call” with Ann Blyth. I often forget that Lamas can sing, and he’s excellent.

I love the songs from the original “Rose Marie” operetta, and don’t feel that the film needed the new songs written for the movie. They are the weakest songs of the film.

Bert Lahr has a small role in this film, and also gets a few funny lines and a comedic song.

The thing is, this 1954 version of ROSE MARIE checks off all the boxes. Great cast, beautiful setting, some good songs … but something is lacking. It even feels longer than ROSE MARIE (1936), but they are both around the same length. I also hated the accent Blyth had to use in the film.

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure which leading man I wanted Rose Marie to end up with, and I guess that’s okay. There was just some magic missing from this film.

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