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Napoleon needs money to fight his wars in Europe so he wants 20 million dollars for the Louisiana Territory in the United States. To help the negotiations, he sends his brother, Jerome, to the U.S. on a goodwill tour. At a Maryland Horse Track, Jerome shows up without notice and soon wins an afternoon tour with Betsy. He falls for her, but she will have little to do with him. She is currently being courted by Henry, John and Harry. The next day, Jerome gets a job teaching Betsy French and they soon fall in love. The family dissuades this as they believe that he is but a tutor. When they meet again at a reception in Washington, Betsy consents to marriage, but Napoleon wants Jerome to marry into European Royalty and demands that Jerome do what is in the best interests of France. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Like a history lesson taught by a professor who is using LSD!
I should make you aware of one thing that most IMDb users are not aware of but which several other users have also noticed. There is a small and devoted group that has given all of Miss Davies' films scores of 10--even her lesser or bad films. I'm not sure why, but these folks appear to think EVERY Davies film is a classic and I have been attacked for daring to dislike some of her films--such as "Cain and Mable". Speaking of "Mable", it was one of the biggest box office losers of its time yet currently 61% of its votes are 10s. Compare this to "The Godfather" at 56%, "Gone With the Wind" at just under 39%, "The Shawshank Redemption" (currently the highest ranked film on IMDb) at just under 60% and "12 Angry Men" at 39%! Critics over the years have been pretty hard on her films--though she definitely did star in a few classics (such as the wonderful "Show People"). My suggestion is that you don't be swayed by the scores alone...as well as the reviews (including mine). See the films and make your own decision.
From the start, I must admit that for me, at least, the film has a major strike against it. The likable Dick Powell co-stars in the film, however, since it was made during his "singing star" period, he spends lots and lots of time singing...and I don't particularly like it in the film. In fact, Powell himself hated all the singing roles he had through the 1930s and loved when they gave him films where he could concentrate on his acting--which was usually very nice. Why they would have Davies starring opposite a singer like Powell is beyond me--it does not play to her strengths--she was certainly NOT a singer but was more adept at light comedy. Now had the female lead been Jeanette MacDonald, this might have worked better! As for the rest of the cast, Davies got some nice support. Likable and very capable supporting actors like Henry Stephenson, Arthur Treacher (oddly, he's NOT starring as a butler here), Claude Rains, Charlie Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton are on hand--adding a lot of nice color to the film.
Oh, and speaking of color, some might feel rightly put off by the slaves in the film. They are pretty happy folks and the white masters are pretty good to them (especially the sweet Davies) and this is pretty tacky. This "happy slave" stereotype is perhaps worse than just ignoring the plight of blacks during the era in which the film was set.
The setting for the film, incidentally, is both in France and the US during the early years at the beginning of the 19th century. Napoleon (Rains) need funds for his many wars and is trying to sell the Louisiana Territory to the Americans. During these negotiations, a French agent and brother to Napoleon (Powell) is in the States--though you really aren't sure why. In his capacity as an agent, he wants to remain incognito, so he poses as a French language teacher and is engaged by Davies' family to tutor her. Her family is quite wealthy--and happen to hate Napoleon.
Naturally, like romances of the day, you know that eventually the two will be in love. However, where it went from there was hard to predict because, amazingly, this weird and seemingly silly plot is actually based on the real life romance between Elizabeth Patterson and Jerome Bonaparte! And, oddly for a romance of the 1930s, it ends most tragically--not sweetly like the audience probably hoped.
So how true is this film? Well, in many ways it's surprisingly close--at least in the first 2/3 of the film. However, the scene with Napoleon convincing Elizabeth to give him up never occurred--as in real life, she tried and tried in vain to keep her Jerome--even though history shows us that he wasn't worth this loyalty (he was a real chuckle-head). I also cringed a bit with the scene between Napoleon and his mommy--it just came off as false and a bit silly. But worst of all was the tacked on happy ending--that never happened in real life!! In reality, Jerome left his pregnant wife and married a German princess!! Oops! This bit of historical liberty is simply unforgivable. How so many people could give this amiable but patently false film a 10 is beyond me.
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