Prince Danilo falls in love with dancer Sally O'Hara. His uncle, King Nikita I of Monteblanco forbids the marriage because she is a commoner. Thinking she has been jilted by her prince, Sally marries old, lecherous Baron Sadoja, whose wealth has kept the kingdom afloat. When he dies suddenly, Sally must be wooed all over again by Danilo. Written by
In a videotaped interview conducted in March 2010 at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, dancer Marge Champion noted that her father, dance instructor Ernest Belcher, worked as a choreographer in the ballroom sequence of this film. According to her, he worked extensively with leading lady Mae Murray. When Champion recently watched the film on TCM, however, she was surprised to see that her father received no on-screen credit. See more »
A title card reads "a prince has a duty to his country higher then [sic] his duty to himself," a grammatical error unusual for such a prestigious studio as MGM. See more »
"Manhattan Follies" dancer Mae Murray (as Sally O'Hara) attracts much male attention while touring the "Kingdom of Monteblanco," especially from sexually aggressive John Gilbert (as Danilo Petrovich) and Roy D'Arcy (as Prince Mirko). Soon, Mr. Gilbert's lunging leers turn to love, and Ms. Murray succumbs to his charms. However, Royal rulers Josephine Crowell (as Queen Milena) and George Fawcett (as King Nikita I) are against Gilbert's proposed marriage. Feeling jilted, Murray marries grotesque banker Tully Marshall (as Sixtus Sadoja), who promptly kicks the bucket. Newly rich, Murray becomes "The Merry Widow" of Paris. There, Mr. D'Arcy seems to win her affections, but Gilbert hasn't given up the courtship.
With this film, big-spending director Erich von Stroheim showed he could make an entertaining and innovative crowd-pleaser; his previous "Greed" (1924) had run over-budget (and over eight hours). But, although they had their hoped-for hit, MGM had also had enough of Mr. Stroheim; still, he departed on a high. "The Merry Widow" also helped rejuvenate Murray's fading career, albeit briefly. The cast is superlative, with D'Arcy essaying one of his most memorable roles. Perfectly representing Stroheim's famous foot fetish, Mr. Marshall is one of silent filmdom's forgotten treasures. Most of all, the flicker put Gilbert on the road to superstardom, which he cemented with a winning performance in "The Big Parade" (later in 1925).
Spotting Clark Gable and Joan Crawford as extras isn't as easy as counting Stroheim's foot references.
******** The Merry Widow (8/26/25) Erich von Stroheim ~ Mae Murray, John Gilbert, Roy D'Arcy, Tully Marshall
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