Grace Moore and Melvyn Douglas star in "I'll Take Romance," a 1937 musical film that has good support from Stuart Erwin and Margaret Hamilton.
Moore plays Elsa Terry, an opera star who has two engagements at the same time, one in Paris and one in Buenos Aires. Paris is the more lucrative offer, so she decides to blow off Buenos Aires. An agent (Douglas) has the job of getting her down South America way, so he romances her. They both fall in love for real.
This was Grace Moore's second-last film. She had a lovely voice, fuller than Jeannette MacDonald's. Unfortunately, the way female singers were taught in those days gave them a fluttery, back-sounding quality at the top and, due to not a lot of mixing of middle and chest voice, their middle voices were not as rich as they could have been. To think that a light, lyric voice like either MacDonald's or Moore's would attempt Tosca today is preposterous - yet both these women, with fragile instruments, actually did the role. In this film, Moore also takes on Madame Butterfly, another role that would never go to her today. Moore was a famous Mimi, a straight lyric soprano role, in La Boheme. A good deal of her singing in this film is quite beautiful.
The highlight of "I'll Take Romance" is the beautiful title song performed by Moore. She also sings from Manon, Traviata, and Martha, Martha being an opera no longer in standard repertoire. The character is singing at the old Met. Impressively, the segments from Traviata and Martha are fully staged and costumed and done without cuts. The American tenor Frank Forrest sings with Moore in Butterfly, and he has a beautiful voice.
This is supposed to be a screwball comedy. Moore was an easy, natural actress with no particular gift for comedy or screwball, so it doesn't quite come off. Melvyn Douglas sails through the film as he always did in these light leading man roles, and no one ever realized what an absolutely magnificent actor he was until the 1960s. Stuart Erwin and Margaret Hamilton are both very funny.
The extremely popular Moore had just finished a concert in Demark before 4000 people and was en route to Sweden when the plane crashed and killed her. She was 49 and had been out of films for eight years and concentrating on concert and USO work. She helped to popularize opera in the U.S. and paved the way for later stars like Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson.
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