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The opening half-hour or so is all Jeanette's and she is vibrant as a swell-headed prima donna whose every thought is of herself. MacDonald seems to really enjoy playing this caricature of a star. David Niven is barely discernible (he's not given one close-up) in his brief appearance as an unrequited suitor. His character goes from city to city to see Marie-- and to propose to her--only to be ushered to the door every time. There's also something deliciously wacky in the way Jeanette enchants everyone with her singing--they cluster around her the same way "100 Men" do around Universal's Deanna Durbin whenever she starts to sing.
But the heart of this romance is in the wilderness scenes, perched above the lakes and hills and beneath the stars, where it seems like time has stopped and all that exists are two lovers singing the echo-like "When I'm Calling You" number to one another. The story in this musical has a wonderful habit of dropping away--while the beautiful singing and orchestration draw these two hearts closer and closer until they finally kiss and profess their love. It doesn't get any cornier than this--but the rhythm of this movie is just right. The last scene with Eddy just standing there finally able to return the "call" he couldn't before is played perfectly--all in song.
The story has once again just dropped away and the two lovers are alone together again. There's a purity to this bonding that is hard to resist...
For those who dismiss Rose Marie as a "saccharine" confection, this is an operetta. Get it? O-p-e-r-e-t-t-a. Light opera. L-i-g-h-t. No more saccharine than a Nicholas Cage vehicle like It Could Happen to You. Yes, the soundtrack for the Indian spectacle sounds, alas, like the hoochee-coochee, demanded by the box office of the time, but even that unfortunate element is an interesting document of contemporary popular taste. If one claims to have the sensitivity to make judgments about a scene, he should first know how to place it in context.
The production values someone complains about - for the first Eddy song - is a process shot, about the same quality as others throughout the film, which were state of the art for the time. So if one can shed silly presentist snobbery, the production values are fine. And the location shots are spectacular.
Perhaps the stupidest criticism is that MacDonald and Eddy were "mediocre" talents. Yes, Eddy is famous for his supposed woodenness, but I think Rose Marie shows that with good direction - like that of W. S. Van Dyke - woodenness could become stolidity and then a buffer for heavy emotions highly prized by all actors. With Eddy it was "stiffness," but the same qualities in Cooper are called "natural" by the snobs. I challenge any other actor to deal with the inner conflict between love and duty as well as Eddy in Rose Marie. The scene when he says, "You'll remember me as just a policeman" is executed with exquisite torment and brittle irony - through that so-called "wooden" countenance.
As for Jeanette MacDonald, of course she wasn't an opera singer. She had a better job! As for her "mediocre" talent, MacDonald was not only beautiful, stable and smart, she was a fine actress and had an E above high C three-octave lyrical soprano voice. That kind of voice is far from mediocre.
As for Eddy's voice, it's a little on the flat side, but it's strong and masculine. In fact, both MacDonald and Eddy had highly successful solo recital careers after their breakup. Movie build-ups last only so long. After that, it's up to talent.
No, Rose Marie wasn't Gone With the Wind, but it wasn't a 1936 Rocky Horror Show either. To call it camp or kitsch is ill-informed and incompetent. So you graduates of the David Thomson (a hack who seems to have callow film snobs in his thrall) school of criticism, get a life. Rose Marie is a fine work of it's genre - a filmed operetta, no more, no less. Watch it as that and enjoy!
Oh yes, a note about the mutual feelings between MacDonald and Eddy, again dismissed by an ill-informed reviewer: documents submitted by their children are more than just "gossip." Also, before speaking about something you know nothing about, why not check out a photo of MacDonald's beloved husband, Gene Raymond. Remind you of anyone you know?
Nelson and Jeannette were one of the great screen teams, and even now, they have fans all over the world. Jeanette was beautiful, a good singer and a fine actress, and Nelson, while not being much of an actor, was an attractive man with a magnificent voice. Their big hit, in fact, their signature song, "Indian Love Call," is from this film, as is, naturally, "Rose-Marie." Because of the recording devices used back then and the way female singers were taught, Jeannette's lyric-coloratura suffers somewhat. Like all female singers of that era, she has a back placement for her high notes, though the middle part of her range is quite beautiful. Her obsession with Tosca - one of the opera scenes shown, and a role she also performed on stage in real life - is a curious one. She had no business singing it, and neither did the tenor, Allan Jones, who was a lyric tenor. It's for a dramatic soprano and a spinto tenor. The Gounod "Romeo et Juliette," which she sings with Jones in the beginning of the movie is much more appropriate for both of them. Eddy, on the other hand, had operatic roots, and his baritone has survived very well. They sounded wonderful together, and there was something about them that just worked, even if he was somewhat wooden. She was spitfire enough for both of them, and it made a nice contrast. My favorite part of the film is when, after her guide steals her money, Marie goes looking for the job as a singer in a honky tonk café and tries to do "Some of these Days," which she sings operatically while attempting to copy the hoochie-coochie movements of the café's resident singer.
Stewart was slowly ascending the scale to stardom, getting better and better roles - he has a couple of big scenes in this film. He's boyish, good-looking and very effective.
Today I suppose these films seem very campy, and they've surely been parodied over and over again. However, the music is enjoyable, Nelson and Jeanette are treasures, and one can't help but marvel, amidst the insanity of today, what a much simpler time it was. People were able to be lifted out of themselves for a little while with fantasy and beauty. These movies must have been doing something right. Seventy-plus years later, we're still enjoying them.
One thing I did object to is that a whole lot of the Rudolf Friml- Otto Harbach-Oscar Hammerstein II score was jettisoned. Some very nice songs were left out. Only The Mountie Song, Rose Marie, and Indian Love Call were retained. Totem Tom Tom which is done as a dance number actually has words. Because Jeanette is an opera singer in this one, arias from Tosca and Romeo and Juliet were included. And Friml and MGM house composer Herbert Stothart wrote a couple of other melodies with Gus Kahn doing lyrics. Nice, but not the real score.
In this version Jeanette is an opera singer who receives word in Montreal that her younger brother is a fugitive after killing a man. She goes to him, but on the way gets sidetracked by Mountie Nelson Eddy. He just happens to be the guy they've assigned to get the brother. I don't think I have to give any more of the plot away.
Jeanette and Nelson are in good voice and MGM splurged a little by going on location and not using any back lot sets to show the Canadian wilderness. I'm willing to bet that Rose Marie may have been the most expensive of their eight films to produce.
Three future stars got exposure in Rose Marie. Allan Jones who Jeanette would co-star with the following year in The Firefly sung the opera numbers with her. David Niven has a brief role as a stage door Johnny ready to declare his undying love for the diva. And James Stewart plays her fugitive younger brother.
Of course Jimmy Stewart was able to do this before he became typecast as all American good guy Jimmy Stewart. Three years later MGM could never have cast him this way. But his performance was definitely a big break for bigger and better roles.
Because of this film Nelson Eddy got his trademark. After he left films and concert singing and did nightclubs towards the end of his life, Nelson would always make a grand entrance replete in white tie, tuxedo, and a Mountie hat. Nelson Eddy was one of the kindest and most generous of performers in giving of himself to his public, but he least of all took his movie career image seriously. In fact he always maintained he was a singer first and film was just a medium to give his singing career more visibility.
But if you want to hear some golden voices doing some classic songs like they don't write any more than I can't recommend Rose Marie strongly enough.
The plot scenario is Jeanette as a spoilt, self-centred prima donna who cares only for her brother but no other man (as shown by her constantly rejecting a very early David Niven!). When this brother (James Stewart) gets into trouble, she leaves her operatic life to go and help him meeting a manly mountie on the way (Nelson Eddy).
Although Jeanette originally is not impressed with Eddy, she starts to thaw to him amongst the Canadian Rockies and the classic Indian Love Call. And who could not fall for Eddy when he sings Rose-Marie whilst canoeing to an Indian reservation? Or when he is the hero of the hour and a gentleman when a very wet Jeanette needs food and a tent for the night? Having seen all of the Eddy/Macdonald films, this rates as one of the best. Eddy's acting talents may not be great but they work in this role perfectly. Jeanette is beautiful with a wonderful sense of humour that shows in her every scene but especially when singing in a rough canteen! Yes - this film is unbelievably corny. Eddy's trousers are terrible and would you really forgive him for arresting your brother? However, it doesn't matter. It is two hours of sheer enjoyment and escapism that has stood, and will continue to stand, the test of time. Watch and enjoy.
There are good supporting roles for Reginal Owens as Myerson,Regas as the guide,and Una O'Connor as Rose Marie's maid. In all this is very good entertainment and beats much that one sees or hears these days.