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Minutes before her wedding to Duke Otto Von Seibenheim, Countess Helene Mara flees, on a whim, to Monte Carlo, where she hopes her luck will save her poor financial state. There, Count Rudolph Farriere is taken by her beauty, but she rebuffs him, not even looking at him. Assuming the guise of a hairdresser, he finally succeeds in seeing her, night and morning. Sparks fly, and love ensues - but can she love a lowly hairdresser? As her finances worsen though, the Duke arrives, and his money and social status seem even more enticing. Shunning Rudolph, will her story follow the operatic "unhappy ending", or can she have it all? Written by
The song "Beyond the Blue Horizon," introduced here, became Jeanette MacDonald's theme song for the rest of her life. During World War Ii she changed the line, "Beyond the blue horizon lies the rising sun" to " ... lies the shining sun" because the Rising Sun was the symbol of America's enemy, Japan. See more »
Jeanette MacDonald is referred to as a blonde early on in the dialogue. She was actually a redhead, and no attempt was made to lighten her hair to make her look blonde. Her hair photographed the dark grey red hair usually reproduced as on the black-and-white film used in 1930. See more »
MONTE CARLO (Paramount, 1930), directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starring Jack Buchanan and Jeanette MacDonald, is a witty, sophisticated musical comedy with continental charm, which at times resembles some of the latter films starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for RKO Radio. Lubitsch, who had recently scored a big hit with MacDonald in THE LOVE PARADE (Paramount, 1929), once again uses her to good advantage, presenting this promo dona as not only a good singer, but a fine comedienne. Although MacDonald would be charmed by Chevalier's smile in three more musicals, this would be her only venture opposite the British import of Jack Buchanan, whose career in early Hollywood musicals (1929-1930), would be short-lived. Although debonair, he failed to click with American audiences, and would spend most of his career in his native England on both stage and screen. Maybe his occasional but sometimes annoying laugh in this production might have found 1930s audiences finding that he is no threat to Chevalier's charm and smile, but on and all, he gets by. Today, Buchanan is best known for his latter Hollywood role supporting Fred Astaire and Nanette Fabray in the lavish Technicolor 1953 musical, THE BAND WAGON.
The story begins during a rain storm where a wedding is about to take place. The stuffy Prince Otto Von Leibeneheim (Claude Allister), the husband-to-be, is awaiting at the church for his future bride, Countess Helene Mara. As the choir sings, Otto receives a "Dear John" letter from Vera, making this the third time that he has been stood up by her. The next scene finds Vera, still wearing her wedding gown, accompanied by her maid, Bertha (ZaSu Pitts), running to catch the next train. Because she is down to her last francs, she decides to make her next stop to Monte Carlo and try her luck at the gambling tables, with much success. While there, she encounters Count Rudolph Fallieres (Jack Buchanan), a ladies man who becomes interested in her. Feeling that caressing her hair will bring him luck at the gambling tables, Rudy succeeds in keeping his identity a secret and getting her to hire him as her hairdresser, later promoted to be her personal servant and chauffeur. Eventually love blossoms, until Prince Otto locates her.
Being mainly a production that consists only of singing, with music and lyrics by Richard Whiting, W. Franke Harling and Leo Robin, the tune fest musical program is as follows: "Day by Day" (sung by church choir); "She'll Love Me and Like It" (sung by Claude Allister and wedding guests); "Beyond the Blue Horizon" (sung by Jeanette MacDonald); "Give Me a Moment Please" (sung by Jack Buchanan and Jeanette MacDonald); "Trimmin' the Women" (sung by Buchanan, Tyler Brooke and John Roche); "Whatever It Is, It's Grand" (sung by Buchanan and MacDonald); "She'll Love Me and Like It" (reprise by Claude Allister, sung by MacDonald); "Always in All Ways" (sung by Buchanan and MacDonald); "Give Me a Moment Please" (reprise by Buchanan); "Always in All Ways," "Monsieur Beauclair Opera Sequence" (with selections sung by Donald Novis); and "Beyond the Blue Horizon." In spite of "Beyond the Blue Horizon" being the film's most remembered and admired song, the one that would obviously get an Academy Award nomination had the Best Song category been around in 1930, "Always in All Ways" is also a delightful tune that shouldn't go without mention. It's even the underscore heard during the movie's opening screen credits and closing THE END logo.
MONTE CARLO also includes a running gag throughout the story in which some members of the cast tell each other a riddle: "She comes from a wedding, she has nothing on, she left her husband behind, she has no ticket, she has no idea where she wants to go, and she goes to Monte Carlo. How old is the husband?" Eventually, when this riddle reaches poor Otto, it slowly but finally dawns on him that it's pertaining to Vera and himself when he goes to tell this same riddle to another.
Regardless, MONTE CARLO, looks strictly modern with its lavish sets and advanced camera technique. In fact, it looks even better than the previous Lubitsch/MacDonald collaboration of THE LOVE PARADE or anything else from 1929. The only slow spot is the final ten minutes set during its prolonged opera theater sequence, but otherwise, a grand show not to be missed. If the story and leading man are forgettable, the sequence where MacDonald sings "Beyond the Blue Horizon" from her window of the train while looking at the countryside, with others such as farmers joining in the rendition as the train passes by them, will remain in memory long after the movie is over. Seldom broadcast since New York City's public television showing on WNET's Cinema 13 during the 1980s, MONTE CARLO has turned up on DVD around 2009 before having its long overdue cable television broadcast on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 21, 2012). How fortunate that this, among many films of the early sound era, have not to be among the "lost" movies from that bygone era. (****)
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