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A musical comedy from Paramount featuring one classically trained voice and one popular singer, set in Europe, built around a romance between an impoverished princess and a rich man posing as a waiter to be near her... this sounds to me exactly like the kind of movie that Paramount would have assigned to Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald and director Ernst Lubitsch during the early thirties. I would bet my bottom dollar that this is exactly what Paramount planned to do with this musical remake of the 1926 silent comedy "The Grand Duchess and the Waiter." Unfortunately, none of them were available in 1934, so they gave it to Bing Crosby, Kitty Carlisle and director Frank Tuttle instead. In this case second best isn't good enough. Crosby holds his own reasonably well, making a surprisingly good substitute for Chevalier (or Adolphe Menjou, who played the part in the silent film); like Maurice, he has a breezy, easygoing charm, which fits his character, a common man who made good. But Carlisle is fatally miscast as the Russian princess. Jeanette MacDonald could play these snobbish aristocrats with an undertone of sympathy and humor; Carlisle can't, and she is so haughty that she becomes dislikable. She isn't a bad actress; this part just isn't meant for her. It would be hard for any movie to overcome that handicap. Maybe Lubitsch could have made something out of it, but Tuttle lacks his subtlety and his instinct for a clever gag.
The movie has virtues; the music is good, and the scene in which Bing sings "June in January" is imaginative. The supporting cast is solid, especially Roland Young and Reginald Owen as members of the royal family. The sets and the photography are attractive. I'm glad to see this movie emerge from the closet it had been hiding in for half a century, but it just isn't one of Crosby's best films.
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