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Lieutenant Niki of the Austrian royal guard has a new girlfriend, Franzi. He's crazy about her and is smiling at her while on duty in the street. King Adolf and his daughter Princess Anna from the neighboring kingdom of Flausenthurm drive by, and Anna intercepts a wink meant for Franzi. She falls for Niki, marries him (he has no choice in the matter), and whisks him off to Flausenthurm. Franzi follows and enjoys a brief affair with Niki before Anna finds out. Franzi, much more experienced in the ways of the world, gives Anna lessons on how to win the affections of her husband. Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Beat until thick a highly libidinous young officer of the Guards. Sift together and stir in a pompous little king and his dowdy princess daughter. Whip in gradually a lovely female violinist. Gently fold in some beautiful music and a liberal amount of highly suggestive dialogue. Lightly bake in a mythical kingdom for 88 minutes. The results - THE SMILING LIEUTENANT.
Director Ernst Lubitsch created a triumph in this scintillating pre-Code film which is as light and airy now as it was when first released. Replete with wonderful performances & an effervescent script, it is still sophisticated and remarkably frank. Lubitsch relied heavily on the intelligence of his audience. He knew that a delicate touch would be appreciated by those able to anticipate & understand the nuances of his humor. The fact that this worked so beautifully with both his dialogue and the film music - (songs and background music, which serve to move the plot right along) - only one year after Hollywood fully embraced sound pictures shows the genius of the director's craft.
Oozing Gallic charm, Maurice Chevalier lets his musical skills and highly facile face telegraph to the audience exactly what kind of an amorous rogue his character is. Madly in love with the beautiful Claudette Colbert, but forced to wed the (slightly) frumpy Miriam Hopkins, he is highly amusing as he watches his romantic house of cards come crashing down. The ladies also add greatly to the fun, with sleek Colbert advising pouty Hopkins in song to jazz up her lingerie if she wants to win Chevalier's attentions. (The idea that Hopkins must transform into a wanton woman to entice her husband to commence his connubial responsibilities is dubious at best.)
George Barbier plays the easily offended corpulent King of Flausenthurm. Wonderful character actor Charlie Ruggles is hilarious in the small role of the officer who wishes to woo Colbert first. Movie mavens will recognize an uncredited Elizabeth Patterson as the elderly baroness attending on the Princess.
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