In September 1928, Warner Bros. Pictures purchased a majority interest in First National Pictures and from that point on, all "First National" productions were actually made under Warner Bros. control, even though the two companies continued to retain separate identities until the mid-1930's, after which time "A Warner Bros.-First National Picture" was often used. See more »
[At the gala, butler Francois applauds the reunited couple as the general harrumphs his disapproval]
General de Villafranc:
Tut, tut! Remember your place.
Oh, I think you're an old meanie.
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It's too bad the two-strip Technicolor print is lost...
... because only the visual drabness of the remaining black and white print drags down this early talkie musical. Walter Pidgeon as Paul and Edward Everett Hornton as Rene are two French soldiers in Paris between foreign assignments. Paul has an arranged marriage in his future in the person of Marie, but Paul doesn't much care for the arrangements as he is in love with shop girl Fifi (Bernice Claire). Likewise Rene and Marie are in love. Fifi works in the high fashion shop of the elegant Madame Cecile, who for some inexplicable reason married, and for some even more inexplicable reason still keeps around after the divorce her ex-husband Francois (Frank McHugh) who keeps her shop in chaos with the kind of antics that will be familiar to you if you've seen McHugh's later comic work at Warners. Claude Gillingham and Albert Gran play the fathers of Paul and Marie, respectively, who would never allow true love to stand in the way of their arranged wedding plans. This is the setup of the very unremarkable plot.
However, plot was never really the point of this early talkie operetta. The point was comedy and good tunes and good fun, and at that it succeeds quite well. Don't let any other possible bad experiences with early talkie musicals deter you from watching this one - it's one of the best of the first generation of musicals. Even Claude Gillingham's talent at cinematic grouchiness is turned into an opportunity for a memorable song, and Edward Everett Hornton, with a song in his heart if not on his lips and underneath all of that ridiculous Technicolor makeup is still Edward Everett Hornton who is always uniquely hilarious as he verbally takes you through whatever predicament he happens to be in. As someone else mentioned, the singer of note here is Bernice Claire as Fifi who inexplicably disappeared from motion pictures in the early 30's. Her voice is right up there with Jeanette McDonald's.
The only bad thing I have to say is that because the Technicolor print is lost and only black and white remains, some of the scenes and shots do not make sense. In Technicolor no doubt the dance numbers and long shots of production numbers would have been a feast for the eyes with their oranges, pinks, blues, and greens. Since film choreography at this time is pretty much non-existent what remains are shots of dancing girls moving about rather slowly, no doubt so you could get a look at their costumes which in black and white are nothing to write home about.
Highly recommended for the early talkie musical enthusiast.
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