Musical Monday: The Cat and the Fiddle (1934)

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.

cat and the fiddleThis week’s musical:
“The Cat and the Fiddle” (1934)– Musical #410

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
William K. Howard, Sam Wood (uncredited)

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro, Frank Morgan, Charles Butterworth, Jean Hersholt, Vivienne Segal, Sterling Holloway (uncredited), Herman Bing (uncredited), Leonid Kinskey (uncredited)

Plot:
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.

Trivia:
-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

cat and fiddle4

Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro and Charles Butterworth in “The Cat and the Fiddle”

Highlights:
-Three strip Technicolor finale

Notable Songs:
-“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

My review:
Ever since I discovered that Ramon Novarro had a beautiful singing voice, I have really enjoyed revisiting and discovering these films.

Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro in "The Cat and the Fiddle"

Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro in “The Cat and the Fiddle”

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.

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Musical Monday: The Night is Young (1935)

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.

night is young2This week’s musical:
The Night is Young (1935)– Musical #543

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Dudley Murphy

Starring:
Ramon Novarro, Evelyn Lane, Charles Butterworth, Una Merkel, Edward Everett Horton, Donald Cook, Henry Stephenson, Rosalind Russell, Herrman Bing, Mitzi the Mare

Plot:
Archduke Paul Gustave (Novarro) is betrothed to a woman he doesn’t wish to marriage. He is in love with Countess Zarika Rafay (Russell), who his uncle Emperor Franz Josef (Stephenson), disapproves of. However, Emperor Josef allows Paul to have an affair before he gets married. Paul lies and says he’s in love with ballerina, Lisl Gluck (Lane). She agrees to live at the castle so he can continue his relationship with the countess and he will provide her clothing and her friends anything she wants. Paul warms towards Lisl and the two fall in love.

Ramon Novarro and Evelyn Laye in "The Night is Young" (1935)

Ramon Novarro and Evelyn Laye in “The Night is Young” (1935)

Trivia:
-Ramon Novarro broke his contract with MGM after this film, according to an April 9, 1938 article, “Ramon Novarro, Handsome Movie Idol, Quit Films to Follow Yoga Philosophy” by Fredrick Othman.
-Music written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein. This was one of four films Romberg wrote original operetta for, according to Sigmund Romberg by William A. Everett.
-Based on a story by Vicki Braum, author of “The Grand Hotel”

Notable Songs:
-My Old Mare performed by Charles Butterworth
-The Night is Young performed by Evelyn Laye
-When I Grow Too Old to Dream performed by Evelyn Laye and Ramon Novarro
-There’s a Riot in Havana performed by Evelyn Laye and Ramon Novarro
-Lift Your Glass performed by Evelyn Laye and Ramon Novarro

Edward Everette Horton and Novarro

Edward Everette Horton and Novarro

My review:
This the second musical I have watched with Ramon Novarro and I’m still pleasantly surprised and delighted at how well he sings.

The Night is Young (1935) is a cute and very funny little film. The laughable lines are largely thanks to actor Una Merkel, Charles Butterworth and Edward Everett Horton. Butterworth is an actor who general gets on my nerves, but he’s very funny in this film.

Rosalind Russell in a small role as the countess.

Rosalind Russell in a small role as the countess.

While Rosalind Russell is in this film, she only has three brief scenes. She does not even mention this brief role in her autobiography.

While Ramon Novarro and Evelyn Laye carry the film well, for me, the comedic character actors are what makes this film. However, the comedy drops off a little more than half way through the film and we focus on the romance of Novarro and Laye.

Laye may not be a familiar name to most film watchers. Popular on the stage in England, she only made six films from 1927 to 1935. She didn’t make another film or television appearance until 1957 and made several appearance in the 1970s and 1980s. She has a beautiful voice and is a lovely prescience on screen, but she isn’t as memorable as her co-stars.

While there were lovely songs throughout the film, my favorite was one Butterworth sang about his horse, Mitzi, called “My Old Mare.”

Charles Butterworth and Una Merkel: The comedic relief of "The Night is Young."

Charles Butterworth and Una Merkel: The comedic relief of “The Night is Young.”

While “The Night is Young” is a fun and charming film, it’s ending fairly sad, realistic that it’s almost startling when “The End” appears. I won’t say what happens, but it’s surprising for musical comedy, when most of them seem to end happily.

If you come across this one, watch it. If nothing else, it will make you laugh and smile.

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Musical Monday: Devil-May-Care (1929)

Image

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.

devilThis week’s musical:
Devil-May-Care (1929) – Musical #536

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Sidney Franklin

Starring:
Ramon Novarro, Dorothy Jordan, Marion Harris, John Miljan, Ann Dvorak (uncredited), John Carroll (uncredited)

Plot:
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.

Trivia:
-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.

Notable Songs:
-Charming performed by Ramon Novarro
-March of the Guard performed by a chorus
-If He Cared performed by Dorothy Jordan

Highlights:
-Ramon Novarro singing.
-The brief Technicolor portion featuring the Albertina Rasch Dancers

My review:
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.

Ramon Novarro and Dorothy Jordan

Ramon Novarro and Dorothy Jordan

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