Racketeer Tony Gazotti is thankful that lawyer Jackson Durant helps him beat a murder rap, but Durant just does it for the thrill of it and refuses payment. Durant's defense of mobsters ... See full summary »
W.S. Van Dyke
When Parisienne tailor Maurice Courtelin learns that one of his aristocratic clients, the Viscount Gilbert de Varèze, is a deadbeat who never pays for the merchandise he acquires, he heads off to try and collect what is owed to him. He gets little in the way of cash from the Viscount who is desperate that his uncle, the Duke D'Artelines not learn of his debts. He suggests that Maurice spend a little time at the chateau until the money can be found. The Duke takes an immediate liking to Maurice - who's been introduced as a Baron - but that's not the case for the Princess Jeanette who, after an encounter with him him on the road earlier that day. Over time Jeannette falls in love with him Written by
No, really -- I defy anyone to name a movie musical more exuberant, more creative, more romantic, melodic, hilarious, or escapist; not even "Singin' in the Rain" equals it. From opening shot (a rhythmic ballet-mechanique of Paris coming to life at dawn) to fade-out (a happy-ending finale that also parodies Eisenstein), it's bursting with ingenious ideas.
The pre-Code screenplay, rife with double entendres and social satire, is a princess-and-commoner love story written to the strengths of its two stars: Chevalier, never more charming, and MacDonald, never a subtler comedienne. With one foot in fantasy and the other in reality, it manages to sustain an otherworldly feeling even while grounded in the modern-day Paris of klaxons, tradesmen, and class consciousness. The supporting cast is phenomenal, with Myrna Loy as a man-hungry countess, C. Aubrey Smith doing his old-codger thing, Charles Butterworth priceless as a mild-mannered nobleman ("I fell flat on my flute!"), and Blanche Frederici, Ethel Griffies, and Elizabeth Patterson as a benign version of the Macbeth witches' trio.
All are wonderful, but the real muscle belongs to the director and the songwriters. Mamoulian's camera has a rhythm of its own and many tricks up its lens: note the fox-hunt sequence suddenly going into slow-motion; the Expressionist shadowplay in Chevalier's "Poor Apache" specialty; the sudden cuts in the "Sonofagun is Nothing But a Tailor" production number. As for the Rodgers and Hart score, it's simply the best they ever wrote for a film -- maybe the best anybody wrote for a film. The songs are unforgettable in themselves -- "Isn't It Romantic?", "Mimi," "Lover," etc. -- but, and here is where genius enters, they're superbly integrated and magnificently thought out. Note the famous "Isn't It Romantic" sequences, the camera roaming effortlessly through countless verses from tailor shop to taxi to field to gypsy camp to castle, finally linking the two leads subliminally, though their characters have never met. "A musical," Mamoulian once said, "must float." This sequence may float higher than any other in any musical.
Best of all, you can sense the unbridled enthusiasm the authors must have had for this project: Rodgers and Hart seem positively giddy with the possibilities of cinema, eager to defy time, place, and reason as was never possible for them onstage. What a pity that this magnificent movie isn't available on video, so that future generations can't easily rediscover its brilliance.
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