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 ... See full summary »
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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>
The delightful rhythmic underscoring of the film which comments ironically on the mood of the characters may be the first work of the great orchestrator, Conrad Salinger, whose magnificent symphonic arrangements set the style of the MGM musicals of the 1940s and 50s. Salinger was a pupil of Delius. See more »
In the latter part of the movie Chevalier bounds up a grand staircase painted to appear as marble but the loud clomp-clomp-clomp of his shoes reveals it to be just wood. See more »
King Adolf XV:
So that's what she does, eh? Plays the violin?
Yes, papa. And in public! Tell me, papa, be frank do all girls like that play the violin?
King Adolf XV:
Not necessarily, but I'll tell you one thing: they play!
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It must have been that the movie-going public loved seeing Maurice Chevalier in those tight uniforms, he seemed to be in them in most of those early talkies he made for American studios. Only now and again would Chevalier play something as prosaic as a tailor.
He's a guardsman again in The Smiling Lieutenant. But with the Austrian Empire at peace all the men have a lot of idle time on their hands. Maurice is busy planning his latest campaign when a friend played by Charlie Ruggles asks him with that Chevalier charm to intercede for him with a female violinist in Claudette Colbert.
Maurice does, but the sly rogue gets her for himself. And then he's put on duty to greet the visiting royal house of Flausenthurm which includes King George Barbier and Princess Miriam Hopkins.
In one of those priceless Ernst Lubitsch moments, Chevalier while at attention spots Colbert across the street and throws a few knowing smiles and winks. But when the coach carrying Barbier and Hopkins passes, Hopkins intercepts one of those winks and considers it an uncalled for act upon a royal personage.
In fact she likes what she sees and persuades Daddy to get the Emperor who's her uncle to part with Chevalier. Of course Maurice the old campaigner likes the idea of being married to the dowdy Hopkins if he's got Claudette on the side.
I won't go any farther, but as you can see just by what I tell you The Smiling Lieutenant is a film made before the Code was put in place. In fact the naughtiness of films like these is what got Hollywood the Code. But it's what also makes it hold up very well for today's audience.
No big song hits come from The Smiling Lieutenant, but Chevalier delivers what's there with his Gallic charm. Even Hopkins and Colbert grab a chorus or two with Maurice. Music is by Oscar Straus with English lyrics by Clifford Grey.
This is before the Code so you have some freedom as to how this film will end, the parameters the Code put in place are no longer there. I should say however that Miriam Hopkins gets a makeover that Paul Venoit and his team would envy.
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