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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>
Among some movie buffs, there is a line of thought about Gene Kelly that he comes off as an unlikeable and smug jerk. Those people have never seen a film starring Maurice Chevalier. Kelly might stalk you until you fall for him, and a little more creepily than Fred Astaire would, but at least you know he'd probably stick around afterward. Chevalier, not so much. Behind that gigantic smile lies a snake. His thick French accent may have been sexy back in the day, but hearing it now just ups his jerk percentage higher and higher. Honestly, though, I love the guy. He's such a goofy character. He may be a cad, but he's an entertaining one. I shake my head at how naughty he is, but always with a grin on my lips. Chevalier is at his most delightfully awful in The Smiling Lieutenant, playing a philandering Viennese officer currently courting violinist Claudette Colbert. During a ceremony honoring royalty visiting from postage stamp-sized Flausenthurm, Chevalier smiles, laughs and winks at Colbert. The princess of Flausenthurm (Miriam Hopkins) catches it, thinks its for her, and demands that something be done about it. Queue the shotgun wedding, and Maurice is in hot water, now wedded to a wet blanket and in love with a hot tomato. The movie is pretty raunchy by 1931 standards. Unsurprisingly, the film was considered lost for many years. I'm sure the Hayes Code enforcers would have been quite happy with burning every print. There's a ton of sex being had by the characters, and there's a whole song dedicated to women's underwear. Seriously. Claudette Colbert teaches Miriam Hopkins about modern fashions in "Jazz Up Your Lingerie", easily the best number in the film and, in my mind, one of the weirdest and most entertaining in cinema history. I'd have to do some extensive looking into all the musicals I've ever seen, but I'd estimate that this is top five material. Hopkins completely steals the movie. The liner notes in the Eclipse Lubitsch Musicals set claims that it is her first film, but IMDb lists at least one earlier feature. The plot is very silly; one wouldn't imagine that it could contain any real emotion. But I actually did feel for Hopkins after Chevalier refused to sleep with her on their wedding night. This is where you can't help but hate Maurice. I also liked George Barbier, who plays Hopkins' father. And one of my favorite character actors, Charles Ruggles, appears very briefly at the beginning.
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