|Index||5 reviews in total|
I have finally been able to hear the entire 101 minute audio track,
preserved on disc. The film is lethargically paced and the ten Laurel and
Hardy scenes are very short and have nothing to do with the plotting, just
gags tacked onto the film to liven it up after poor preview response. The
sound is not that good and of the ten musical numbers only two songs are
worthy of praise - SWEET WHITE DOVE and WHEN I'M LOOKING AT YOU. In
addition we have a RIDING SONG, SONG OF THE ROGUE, LOVE COMES, SONG OF THE
LAUGHING MAN, NADJA'S SONG. There are two ballets and a
Tibbett comes off well, self-confident and masculine in his bravura and sexy performance and his singing voice here is put to good use. One can see how he garnered a Best Actor nomination that year. There were a number of other performances nominated on the basis of pure charm (Ronald Colman in BULLDOG DRUMMOND, Maurice Chevalier in THE LOVE PARADE and THE BIG POND).
If this is ever found, it probably will be a disappointment for those who waited. The fragment of Laurel and Hardy with the bear (just over a minute) and the ballet (a few minutes) have surfaced as visual fragments and are housed at UCLA.
MGM archives contain the entire film soundtrack on disc (this was before the days of sound on film), but no negative or positive visual materials are known to exist. One can guage Metropolitan Opera star Lawrence Tibbett's Oscar-nominated performance from the sound materials and he does give a sonorous , robust and natural performance. Songs are well done - there is much tongue in cheek - and even a brief appearance by Laurel and Hardy. A 45 minute LP was issued in the 1970s on an obscure label with selections from the film soundtrack for those intrepid collectors out there.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you read the late play by William Shakespeare, THE WINTER'S TALE,
there is a moment when a character has kidnapped a child and dropped it
off in the wilderness of the "seacoast of Bohemia". That error by
itself would be enough to make the scene famous, as there is no
seacoast of Bohemia. But the scene continues with the
kidnapper/abandoner being sighted and chased by a bear (it is an
instruction in the play), and later his death due to the bear is
What's this got to do with ROGUE SONG or with Laurel & Hardy?
Well, as most fans of Laurel & Hardy know ROGUE SONG is the only sound feature film of that pair of comedians that no longer exists. The sound track exists totally, but not the film. Except for two sequences, one (fortunately) including Laurel & Hardy, but also Lawrence Tibbett and his leading lady Catherine Dale Owen, the film is gone. UCLA's film archives includes the two surviving sequences on film from the movie. I am glad to announce that YOU TUBE now seems to have the sequence with Stan and Ollie. I watched it today, and liked what I saw.
Of course one can't judge an entire movie by the one sequence. Tibbett has been giving orders regarding the imprisonment of Owen, but a tempest has hit his Cossack camp, and the tents have to be tied down. While most of the camp is tying down the tents, we see one blow away leaving Stan and Ollie under their covers. Ollie's action at seeing the loss of the tent is to turn over and go back to sleep in that heavy downpour. Soon they spot a cave, and run to it. The cave is totally dark, and no light appears. They are talking and Ollie asks Stan when and where he got the fur coat. Stan explains he has no fur coat. A moment later a bear's roar is heard, and the boys run back out into the soggy night. The bear does not chase them though. As for Tibbett, he tenderly puts Owen (who has fainted) into a tent before the sequence ends.
From what I have read THE ROGUE SONG was a work that really fit the 1920s and 1930s, not the 2000s. Tibbett is a Cossack chieftain who's life gets twisted with Owen's, due to her brother raping his sister, and driving the sister to suicide. Tibbett kills Owen's brother. To further complicate matters, Owen and her brother were Russian aristocrats. Finally, as it was an operetta, Tibbett's and Owen's mutual anger at each other's families is curbed by their gradually falling into love.
The highpoint of the original film was when Tibbett is captured (due to Owen) and whipped by the Tsarist authorities. In this scene Tibbett sang while being whipped. It was a hit in 1930 with audiences, and was one of the reasons that Lawrence Tibbett got an early nomination for an Oscar for best actor.
The operetta was by Franz Lehar, whose best operettas are THE MERRY WIDOW, THE LAND OF SMILES, and THE COUNT OF LUXEMBURG. THE ROGUE SONG (ZIGEURNERLIEBE) is not one of his best works.
I wish more of the Laurel & Hardy scenes were found, as the story had an interesting twist towards the end. Hardy (always overly impressed by his own importance) tells the other Cossacks that Tibbett (whom he claims is dead) wanted them to elect him the new chief. While the Cossacks are laughing at him for this ridiculous demand, Tibbett turns up. It would have been a nice moment to see Hardy's embarrassment, or Laurel's reactions.
The film was directed by Lionel Barrymore, of all people. John McCabe (in the biography MR. LAUREL AND MR. HARDY) mentioned that Barrymore was usually more at home with serious films, rather than operetta. However, it is interesting to note that once one of the first family of the American Theater (in the early 20th Century) was involved with these two leading comics of the 1920s and 1930s in American motion pictures.
For information: There are 8 monochrome production stills, from throughout the film, reproduced as plates in Val Lewton's eponymous novelization of 1930 for the publisher Collins. To repeat, for the sake of the automatic filter: There are 8 monochrome production stills, from throughout the film, reproduced as plates in Val Lewton's eponymous novelization of 1930 for the publisher Collins. To repeat, yet once more, for the sake of the automatic filter: There are 8 monochrome production stills,from throughout the film, reproduced as plates in Val Lewton's eponymous novelization of 1930 for the publisher Collins. Please only refer to the first sentence, as the rest is padding to trigger acceptance. (11 lines of text! At last!)
This is perhaps not a review, but a comment that portions of the movie have been posted on you-tube. If I remember correctly, the scenes/clips together added up to about 20 or so minutes. This means that about 1/5th of The Rogue Song is known to survive today. The clips were actually quite beautiful, although they involve mostly Laurence Tibbett and not Laurel and Hardy. One can also see the original trailer, a ballet sequence of about 5 minutes and a 3 minute clip of Laurel and Hardy rushing into a cave. Hopefully the entire film will turn up someday soon.The 10 rating is for the joy that I think any film lover will have while seeing these tantalizing scenes from an otherwise lost film.
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