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:
Devil-May-Care (1929) – Musical #536
Ramon Novarro, Dorothy Jordan, Marion Harris, John Miljan, Ann Dvorak (uncredited), John Carroll (uncredited)
Set during the Napoleonic era, Armand de Treville (Novarro) is a soldier for Napoleon and is jailed by the king. He is about to be killed by a firing squad and escapes. He hides in the bedroom of beautiful Leonie de Beaufort (Jordan), who immediately decides she hates Armand because she is a royalist. Armand continues to hide out from the royalists at the home of his friend Countess Louise (Harris), where he hides as a servant. Leonie ends up being the cousin of the Countess and she stays with her and resists the advances of Armand.
-Ramon Novarro’s talking debut.
-Labeled the “first dramatic operetta of talking pictures,” according to Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro
By Andre Soares
-Composer Dimitri Tiomkin wrote the ballet music in the musical score.
-Charming performed by Ramon Novarro
-March of the Guard performed by a chorus
-If He Cared performed by Dorothy Jordan
-Ramon Novarro singing.
-The brief Technicolor portion featuring the Albertina Rasch Dancers
I honestly wasn’t expecting much as I went into “Devil-May-Care.” In fact, I didn’t know it was going to be a musical until I saw the title card which detailed it as a “musical romance.” But as I continued watching, this ended up being a pleasant little film.
I think my biggest take away from “Devil-May-Care” was that I had no idea that Ramon Novarro could sing and with such a pleasant voice! “Devil-May-Care” wasn’t only the first time audiences heard Novarro sing, but also was the first time they ever heard him sing, as this was Novarro’s first talking film.
At one time, Novarro was a top draw in the box offices and was known the “New Valentino.” While this film is noteworthy as his first talkie, like many others, Novarro’s star began to slip with the dawn of talking pictures.
“Devil-May-Care” has a pretty slow moving story, but it flowed better with song and plot line than any other early (1929-1930) movie musical I have seen to date.
The movie was met with positive, but unenthusiastic reviews. The Dec. 23, 1929, review by Mordaut Hall called is “pleasant entertainment.”
“Mr. Novarro is not impressive as a Frenchman. He sings agreeably, but not as freely as one might anticipate after the constant references to his operatic career,” Hall wrote.
Hall also humorously wrote about troubles in the projection room during his “Devil-May-Care” experience: “The reproduction is fairly good, but once or twice last night the mechanics got beyond control of the operators in the projection booth.”
The plot line itself is uninspired and a bit slow, and it’s a bit distracting that Novarro is supposed to be French but speaks with a heavy Mexican accent. However, this little musical is notable for allowing fans to first hear the voice Ramon Novarro.
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