|Index||8 reviews in total|
I am told that the original plot of The Firefly has seen on Broadway
back in 1912 had absolutely nothing to do with the Peninsular Campaign
of the Napoleonic Wars. Hard to believe because the plot here seems so
The core of the plot is duty to one's country. Though Allan Jones and Jeanette MacDonald are on opposite sides and love each other, at some point each betrays the other at some point in the movie to gain a tactical advantage for France or Spain.
The Rudolf Friml-Otto Harbach-Oscar Hammerstein II, is mostly retained for the movie. One new song, based on a Friml instrumental composition called Chanson, is given a lyric by Bob Wright and Chet Forrest and arranged by MGM's house composer Herbert Stothart. Their combined efforts yielded The Donkey Serenade and provided Allan Jones a signature song for the rest of his career.
Jeanette was taking a rest from her usual singing partner, Nelson Eddy, and her teaming with Jones was felicitous. They are a pair of winning songbirds. Maybe had Jones stayed with MGM, he and MacDonald might have made some more films together. Maybe he might have played some of the parts that Nelson Eddy did opposite her. But he probably was right in thinking he'd always be number 2 at MGM, so he moved to Universal.
Beautiful singing and a decent plot in this one. Go see it.
is exceptional in this OK Napoleonic War film. Anyone who ever thought MacDoanld was just a bland operatic singer needs to see this film. She plays a spy posing as a camp follower. MacDonald has a sexy dance number that is just a knockout. She is as sultry and sexy as any star of her era. MacDonald was a great singer who was also a great actress and comic. She is superb. Starring here with Allan Jones and Warren William, the film is a tad long, but still eminently watchable. Jones and MacDonald introduced the big hit "Donkey Serenade" in this film. Good support from Billy Gilbert, Henry Daniell, Douglas Dumbrille, and George Zucco. Not as snappy as some of her films with Nelson Eddy, but this is Jones' best film aside from the 1936 Show Boat with Irene Dunne. Give this one a watch and marvel at Jeanette MacDonald!
Wonderful mix of music, romance and comedy but I concede a trifle too long, the length however acceptable with these two. Jeanette MacDonald could do everything; sing beautifully, act as well and surprisingly (I just watched this one after many years) a gifted dancer. MacDonald and Jones are quite compatible and I can see where, had fate taken a hand, it could have been these two and not Nelson Eddy, not to downgrade Nelson's resonant baritone in any way. Allan Jones was a better actor, and was one of the finest tenors in movie history. There was one brief comic bit I found hilarious -- it was so short it may have been overlooked by many. Don Diego (Allan Jones) is singing the famous Donkey Serenade to MacDonald as she rides along in a coach. He sings the line "But try as she may, in her voice there's a flaw", to this jibe at her voice, Jeanette's displeasure shows in a grimace! The expert supporting cast is up to MGM'S standards; Warren William, Billy Gilbert, George Zucco, Douglas Dumbrille, Henry Daniell and even a one-line appearance by Ralph Byrd (a.k.a. Dick Tracy in the 1940's). I highly recommend this film, especially to fans of light operetta. The music is delightful and Jeanette and Allan give it their all. Jones' last appearance was a 1980 role on the Love Boat TV program. Upon retirement from the screen (big screen and little) he became a dentist, quite a surprise. I wonder if he sang for his patients? If he did I'm sure his waiting list was the envy of his fellow dentists.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Instead of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, the "Singing
Sweethearts" it's Jeanette MacDonald and Allan Jones. They are paired
excellently; MacDonald and Jones are incredible easy on the ears, and
have a wonderful chemistry that adds charm and delight to this movie.
The songs are entertaining, especially "Donkey Serenade," which later
became Jones's signature song. The acting in this movie was also
excellent. The plot was captivating, being set in Spain/France during
the Napoleonic wars. The movie kept me entertained throughout. It's too
bad that Jeanette MacDonald and Allan Jones didn't do any other movies
together. Their chemistry is amazing in this movie, very preferable to
Jeanette MacDonald's pairing with Nelson Eddy, (I think) whose singing
voice and acting I never really cared for.
Overall, this is an excellent musical and entertaining movie. 10 out of 10.
Allan Jones has a wonderful voice, but a rather bland personality. He
is no match for Jeannette MacDonald, who here gives her best dramatic
performance on screen with not much to play against. Warren William is
the villain and he has more presence than Jones.
Jones and MacDonald play spies, he for France and she for Spain, during Napoleon's attempt to kidnap the King of Spain and add that country to his fiefdom. There is much intrigue and a few songs along the way, the best known being The Donkey Serenade and Gianina Mia.
The problem lies in the length of the scenes and musical numbers. This film could easily have had half an hour snipped out of it, bringing it closer to conventional playing times of the period. At 2 hours, 10 minutes, it is just too long. And it is heavy-handedly directed and written.
The original operetta from 1912 had a few good tunes. Friml was third in line of talent, behind Romberg and Herbert, as America's trio of operetta composers. The score is just not good enough to mount a major film around.
MacDonald is always worth seeing, as she either matches or outshines her best material. This one, like Broadway Serenade a few years later, was not one of her best films and is recommended for her fans and those of Jones only.
The reviews here that say the movie is too long (or "too long for a
1930s musical") must be written by people from fleet street. The movie
is as long as it needs to be for a nicely complex storyline, nicely
told with lots and lots of beautiful music to entertain, and Jeanette
even gets a lot of dancing and wonderful non-dance choreography through
crowds of men that she tantalizes with her charm.
The love scenes between MacDonald and Jones are funny, sweet, captivating, and the necessary betrayals are handled well and understandably from both sides.
I loved every minute of this film and would not have wanted it shortened. All the songs are hummable and lively/romantic. MacDonald's intelligence and sense of humor underlie everything she does, as when she says to Jones after his beautifully sung love song, "Well, perhaps I shouldn't tell you this, but you know that part where you sing, 'My heart's your throne dear, my heart's your throne dear, There you shall rule alone...' with the music building just before the high note?"
"I was wondering... but, no, perhaps I shouldn't tell you."
"Well, I was wondering ... if you were going to make it."
Or when Jones complains to her, "You're always saying goodbye," and she replies, "All right then, I won't say goodbye. I'll just ... go."
Her comic timing is lovely.
In fact, she has never been lovelier than in this movie, and the two of them together are just a lot of doggone fun and romance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the most problematic and, in the end, unsuccessful 1930s
musicals I have ever seen.
It had everything going for it. The was very clearly a big-budget movie. MacDonald is really in very good form here, as is Jones. And there is wonderful chemistry between them. If this had been a better movie, it could, perhaps, have led to a whole string of good musicals with the two of them.
But things get in the way of this being a success.
The movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long, which is WAY to long for a 1930s musical, especially one with so little music. It starts out in a routine fashion, but there is FAR too much plot, and FAR too complicated - the politics of Spain at the beginning of the 19th century, which would have meant nothing to most 1930s Americans. That takes forever to work out, and who would care? And then, in the end, where the story has become very dramatic and very complicated, suddenly we cut to Jones and MacDonald singing the two hit songs in a carriage, as if nothing else mattered. And it shouldn't have.
The fact that Jones turns out to be a French counterspy makes everything much too serious.
In short, the new plot that MGM came up with for this musical was its undoing.
Given the few musical numbers here, a 90 minute fluff plot would have been fine. 130 minutes of serious drama overwhelms the music, makes us forget the good chemistry between MacDonald and Jones, and basically ruins what could have been an enjoyable romantic comedy with music.
If it wasn't for "Donkey Serenade", this would have been a total loss
as a piece of gaudy MGM entertainment for the masses in the 1930s.
JEANETTE MacDONALD gives her all as a sexy spy who tries getting
potentially harmful information from French officers, but it's all
pretty preposterous and finally much too long for sustained interest.
The only sequence that comes off as completely charming is the "Donkey Serenade" episode with ALLAN JONES singing his heart out as he rides a dusty trail following her carriage. Jones is a fine match for MacDonald but probably left MGM when he realized it was Nelson Eddy's territory.
The score is kind of lackluster, the sets are opulent in typical MGM grand style manner, but the plot is never lively enough to keep one's attention riveted on the plodding story of spies and counter-spies in ye olde Spain. Everyone tries hard, but it just seems to stall somewhere near the middle and never recovers.
Trivia: Did Jeanette MacDonald ever show her real hair in a costume film? She must wear at least 25 wigs and hairdos in this film alone, changing her far from simple hairstyles from scene to scene more often than Lana Turner ever changed her costumes in glamorous roles. There must have been a special Jeanette wig department at Metro just for the occasion.
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