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William K. Howard
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The young Countess Wilma is forced to wed by midnight or lose her inheritance. Wilma impulsively chooses gypsy vagabond Latzi, offering him a huge sum of money if he'll consent. Swallowing his pride, Latzi agrees to the marriage, but soon Wilma falls in love with the young Lieutenant Von Tokay who is himself in love with Latzi's gypsy sweetheart Timka. Written by
Erik Charrell had an artistic and financial success with his lively and original CONGRESS DANCES and was imported into the United States. You can see some of the same impulses in this movie, particularly the scene in which the army attacks to restore order -- and the gypsies, led by Charles Boyer on the violin, counter-attack with music and swamp them.
The movie is full of good bits like that. Charles Boyer is great, Phillips Holmes -- he looks like a blonde Kirk Douglas to me -- is good, and the supporting cast, who are all old pros are good. I think, though, that Charrell was having trouble giving directions in English, so that leading lady, Loretta Young, is pretty erratic, even though she is luminously beautiful. And does every shot having to make use of a traveling camera? The result is a failure to produce a good German operetta in Hollywood. It winds up bloated and ill-balanced; the hit song from it was "It's Up to You to Do the Hot-Cha-Cha", for which Gus Kahn probably wrote the lyrics while drunk.
Fox was falling apart, between the lack of a strong front office and troughing ticket sales. Popular star, Will Rogers, would die in a plane crash, Janet Gaynor was struggling to find more adult, modern vehicles and no one seemed sure how to deal with the newly enforced production code. CARAVAN looks like it could have been saved -- cut here, shoot a new scene there, but there was no one to make the decision. Soon the studio would be forcibly merged with Zanuck's 20th Century production and changes would be made.
It wouldn't be soon enough for this movie or Charrell. This would be his last movie as a director, although he would wind up with a decent enough career as a writer. Too bad.
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