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Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast
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Marvelous film - romantic, funny, poignant - perfectly realized
This comes close to being a perfect little gem of a film. Adhering closely to Robert Sherwood's play, it takes us back to post-WW I Austria where Elena wistfully recalls her romance with dethroned Hapsburg Prince Rudolf. She was then a young woman of the court - now she is married to a psychiatrist. The fallen of the court decide to stage a reunion, to which the exiled Rudolf,now a taxi driver in Nice, returns. Elena is persuaded to attend by her husband in order to confront the present reality of her adolescent passion and dispel him from her present day obsessions. A mixture of grand comedy and poignant romance follows. The cast are in superb form - Barrymore is outrageously splendid as the extroverted Rudolf and Diana Wynyard, looking for all the world like Norma Shearer, quits herself nobly as the level-headed, yet romantic Elena. (Indeed, one wonders why Thalberg didn't snatch this for his wife). Frank Morgan is kindly and sympathetic as the husband and Henry Travers turns in a humorous performance as Morgan's over curious father. May Robson is a scream as a foul-mouthed former countess, now the owner of a hotel at which the reunion is to be staged. The direction by Sidney Franklin is fluid, full of marvelous bits of action and wildly funny at times, heart-wrenchingly touching at others. The Art Direction is sumptuous and varied, from the 18th century grandeur of the Imperial Palace to the ever so stylishly art deco interiors of Elena's home. The film earned an Oscar nom for its Cinematography - well deserved. It should also have picked up nods for Art Direction and overall Direction as well. A real treasure from the MGM vaults. Watch for it on TCM.
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