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The small kingdom of Marshovia has a little problem. The main tax-payer, the wealthy widow Sonia (who pays 52 0f the taxes) has left for Paris So Count Danilo is sent to Paris, to stop her from getting married by a stranger, so that the danger of removing the money is banned. But this is not that easy as the ambassador in Paris has planned. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
As he had done at Paramount, Ernst Lubitsch continued to play practical jokes on Jeanette MacDonald. During one romantic musical number, he had left in her view on the set a Hollywood Reporter story announcing that MGM had imported English soprano Evelyn Laye as a threat to her. The star ran from the soundstage in tears. See more »
The great Ernst Lubitsch clearly understood the material in which "The Merry Widow" was based. Being European himself, he clearly identified with this delightful Franz Lehar operetta that had been charming audiences throughout the years. Mr. Lubitsch places the action in the small country of Marshovia, in central Europe. The director had an eye for the great spectacle he presents for us. Mr. Lubitsch greatest achievement is that he seems to have his camera waltzing all the time. The result is an amazing triumph for MGM.
In fact, the glorious sets one admires in the film are breathtaking. For a film made in 1934, the art directors, Cedric Gibbons and Gabriel Scognamillo recreate the royal palace of Marshovia in amazing detail, as well as the Paris scenes with an elegance and good taste that shows the resources of the studio that didn't spare anything. The black and white cinematography of Oliver Marsh enhances the Lubitsch style. Adrian's gowns look luxurious and the editing of the film by Francis Marsh give the film continuity without ever making the action appear forced or staged.
The pairing of Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald was an match that seems to have been made in haven. Both actors are a delight to see. Mr. Chevalier with his French accent and mannerisms make his Count Danilo the charmer he is. The beautiful Ms. MacDonald is mysterious at first, when we meet her, then as she has fallen in love, changes her attitude and realizes Danilo is the man for her.
The secondary roles are played with great panache by the genial Edward Everett Horton, who as the ambassador to Paris, is under orders to have Sonia, the wealthy woman, accept Danilo and return to Marshovia with all her money. George Barber plays the King Achmed and the incomparable Una Merkel is seen as Queen Dolores.
The Merry Widow waltz received a great production number in which about a hundred couples are seen dancing around Sonia and Danilo, first in white tuxedos and gowns and later in black ones. Later all the couples are mixed together creating such a rich moment. By today's standards that sequence couldn't have been done, or it must have cost a fortune, or perhaps would have digitally mastered in order not to pay dancers to appear dancing in the movie.
Let's just be thankful there was a man with a vision, Ernst Lubitsch, and let's be grateful for his vision and his legacy.
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