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Rosalie marked Nelson Eddy's first starring film without Jeanette
MacDonald. That being the case MGM certainly didn't want Mr. Eddy to
wander too far afield. If Nelson couldn't swap high notes with his
co-star Eleanor Powell than at least all the kittenish banter that also
characterized the Eddy-MacDonald movies was certainly left in tact.
MGM obviously bought this property after looking at the success Warner Brothers was having with Dick Powell in Flirtation Walk and Shipmates Forever. Powell was in his mid 30s when he did those roles as a cadet and midshipman respectively. Nelson Eddy was also in his 30s, in fact three years older than Dick Powell. But he looks like a man in his 30s and doesn't quite come off believably as a cadet.
That being said, movie audiences came to hear Nelson Eddy sing and MGM which scrapped the original score which was done by both Sigmund Romberg and George Gershwin, got Cole Porter to write a new one. And it's a good one. The title song Rosalie became a big hit, recorded by a number of artists and the classic In the Still of the Night is from this film. Oddly enough, probably because Nelson Eddy was so identified with operetta, these two Cole Porter songs never became identified with him per se.
Nelson also got the infinitely more talented Eleanor Powell as a co-star where Powell had Ruby Keeler for both his movies. MGM went whole hog on glamour with her numbers, probably the most spectacular she ever did on screen. She's also far more believable as a princess than Eddy as a cadet.
Supporting Eddy as his best friend and fellow cadet was Ray Bolger who has one dance number near a crate of fireworks which he accidentally sets off and sets off an revolution. Movies never knew quite what to do with Bolger. He certainly didn't have the look of a hero and most of his film roles were comedic supporting parts. On Broadway he was a big star and was the lead in such great hits as On Your Toes, By Jupiter, Charley's Aunt and The All American, only Charley's Aunt of which he did on screen.
Of course no one can talk about the supporting cast without mentioning two of the great players in studio era Hollywood. Frank Morgan and Edna May Oliver played off each other beautifully as Eleanor Powell's parents, the King and Queen of Romanza. Horsefaced faced Edna May Oliver played so many harridans in her career she practically took a patent out on those parts. That was one formidable lady on screen.
Complementing her completely was Frank Morgan's also copyrighted picture of befuddlement. Having read enough history to know that a whole lot of monarchs WERE as confused and befuddled as Morgan, lends a ring of authenticity to his role. He appeared almost exclusively for MGM in his career and was never bad in anything he did.
Rosalie was a prime example of the delightful nonsense that Hollywood used to do so well.
The first half of this classic movie musical is good. The second half
was a big disappointment.
The first half is interesting with likable characters and a couple of good song- and-dance numbers. The second half features a sappy romance and drags on too long.
Frank Morgan doesn't help things. His "bumbling king" character simply gets irritating after awhile. Eleanor Powell is miscast as a romantic "princess" lead. She just isn't that pretty or convincing as an actress. As everyone knows, she was a far better dancer than an actor
Nelson Eddy's singing is okay but, boy, does it sound corny and dated nowadays. Ray Bolger's comedy isn't funny; it's stupid.
On the positive side, some of the elaborate Busby Berkeley-type dance sets are elaborate and astounding. It's amazing to view. Powell's tap dancing is always entertaining, although I've seen better numbers from her in the Broadway Melody series.
The film has two Cole Porter songs -- "Rosalie" and "In the Still of the Night." For several bars of the latter, we see the back of Nelson Eddy as he sings to the back of Eleanor Powell. This daring shot is superb, because we can feel the effect of the song on both. Eddy is stiff, except when he sings. That stiffness is partly in the role as West Point cadet, but it's mostly Nelson. Powell has a great production number in her native Romanza, to which the unsuspecting Eddy has pursued her. Powell's best moments, though, occur as she commands a crack West Point drill team to the strains of "The Stars and Stripes Forever." The Souza march changes from 4/4 to waltz time for a Powell solo. The drill is an imaginative sequence that takes advantage of Powell's incredible skills. After all these years, you still say "Wow!" Frank Morgan is endearing as a king with an eye for the girls, while Edna May Oliver is completely convincing as his forever-angry wife. A couple of good moments occur when Morgan's puppet insults the Queen, speaking, as it were, for its puppeteer. Ray Bolger is completely wasted as Eddy's friend and Billy Gilbert's scenes, in which he sneezes over all bystanders, should have tasted the cutting room floor. But for its several great moments, this one is worth watching.
Writing comments about a movie like this one is difficult. The plot and
dialogue are atrocious, but the score and visuals are first rate. So
one splits the difference and gives it a "5." As some of the few
comments thus far have implied, it is a formulaic comedy with loads of
prominent character actors of the time reprising roles already played
in other movies and on the radio. Audiences in 1937 were for the most
part captive to that sort of thing. Diversity of tastes like that of
today just did not exist, and everyone going to the movies in
small-town America was inclined to go along with the gag mainly because
it was literally the only show in town.
When as a lad I paid my 9 cents admission at the box office, I knew I was going to sit through anything they threw at me, including the newsreel at the beginning, the same old cartoons, a dumb serial episode with someone falling off a moving train at the end -- to be continued -- and a main feature in black-and-white that depended more on stock characters and situations than on anything new or scandalous.
Now I watch these same features on Turner Classic Movies with moody nostalgia and total suspension of disbelief. So what if Nelson Eddy at nearly 40 was playing a cadet of half that age? And what about my now knowing that his off-screen person was 180 degrees off the roles he played? His singing is still mesmerizing, an operetta voice the likes of which disappeared ages ago -- indeed a relic of the Nineteenth Century. Even an uncharacteristically inferior Porter tune like "Rosalie" gets a high-class treatment.
Sure, there are better musicals from the 30's, but this one is a piece of history as well as a minor work of art.
I'm not much of a fan of Eleanor Powell even though she's a marvelous tap
dancer. She always struck me as a cold fish - and there's very little
chemistry between her and Nelson Eddy (who is in fine voice) so the romance
between them seems totally artificial. So is the plot, which involves her
being an incognito princess of a small European country, falling in love
with football player Eddy, who follows her to her country when she leaves
the States to marry a prince. If it weren't for the score by Cole Porter,
it would have been a total bust for me. Although the film is vaguely based
on the 1928 show of the same name, MGM head Louis B. Mayer opted to have
Porter write a completely new score, supplanting the Sigmond Romberg-George
Gershwin score of the original. The music is the best part of the movie,
with the hauntingly beautiful "In the Still of the Night" a standout. There
is some enjoyable comedy provided by Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger and Billy
Gilbert, all of whom I enjoyed more than the leads. A bit long at 123
minutes, but worth a look mostly for the music.
Cole Porter reportedly hated the title song, but Louis B. Mayer loved it, and he was the man with the money, so it stayed. With its opulent sets and numerous extras, this was one of the most expensive films made up to that time, but it was also a huge hit.
Take a major studio studio (MGM) celebrated for its musicals. Take a top
director (Woody Van Dyke) known for his breezy direction of films like THE
THIN MAN, SAN FRANCISCO and NAUGHTY MARIETTA, among many others. Take a
handsome singing star (Nelson Eddy) who was the studio's biggest matinee
idol at the time, getting more fan mail than Clark Gable. Take a charming
young tap-dancing star (Eleanor Powell). Take a score by Cole Porter
especially for the picture, including `In the Still of the Night.' Add
popular supporting actors like Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, and Edna May
Oliver, and, for those few who find a professional sneezer amusing, Billy
Take all these elements, spend a small fortune on sets and costumes, and turn out a picture which is among the worst ever made. It's inexplicable. The full-throated Eddy has been turned into a crooner, playing the world's oldest (36) West Point Cadet. Powell's dancing is sprightly but the big centerpiece number, danced on a series of huge drums, can only be called bizarre, Poor Frank Morgan is forced to do most of his performing with a ventriloquist's dummy. There are one or two cute scenes---Powell and Eddy obviously like each other---but mainly this picture is simply awful. What a waste.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Music historians have indicated that the title song from "Rosalie" was
not a favorite of Indiana born Cole Porter. It is reported that the
head of the studio had Mr. Porter rewrite the lyrics a half dozen times
before finally accepting the submitted version for production. It has
also been reported that the polish which characterized the composer's
work seemed to lose its luster with each rewrite. A comparison of the
final product with other gems from his repertoire would seem to prove
the point. Nevertheless, with the haunting "In The Still Of The Night",
Cole Porter performed the magic of producing a classic standard in
consecutive years in consecutive films having given us "I've Got You
Under My Skin" in "Born To Dance" in 1936.
Although it has been seven decades since MGM produced this musical, memory has not dimmed the vision of the Hungarian beauty Illona Massey in a debut appearance on the Hollywood screen. The soundtrack listing credits her with a performance of a number entitled "Spring Love Is In The Air". Alas, the copy of the movie which I viewed did not include this number. She did co-star with Nelson Eddy in a subsequent movie called "Balalaika" and her voice was pleasant although not memorable.
The excellence of the supporting cast with all their comedic skills could not lift this movie to the level of 'blockbuster' but no self respecting Eleanor Powell nor Nelson Eddy fan would dare skip this movie.
A film with the likes of Frank Morgan in support, a wonderful tap dancer such as Eleanor Powell and Nelson Eddy who possessed perhaps the most beautiful baritone voice on film does promise a fair bit. Sadly this promise is not exactly lived up to and it is one of those films that is difficult to rate. There are some definite good things. It is a very sumptuous film in the costumes and sets and it's beautifully shot. The music features a pleasant score from Cole Porter and the song In the Still of the Night is a catchy and beautiful song, while the choreography dazzles in energy(very like how Ilona Massey dazzles in her beauty)- especially in the title number- providing the film's best moments. Eddy sings divinely and Powell's tap dancing is equally a wonder, in support Frank Morgan is amusingly bumbling and Edna May Oliver is her usual solid self. Ray Bolger is however wasted and not funny at all, agreed that stupid is more like it, and Billy Gilbert's shtick here comes across as crass. While Eddy is on top form vocally, he is stiff and looks miserable, not showing much chemistry with Powell excepting some cute moments. The script is lacking in wit, sometimes soppy, sometimes crass and veers on bizarre. And while the story has great song and dance numbers and nice likable moments in the first half, it is mostly dull, predictable and the second half(not helped by an overly-sappy and underdeveloped romance) just doesn't engage. All in all, a mixture of good and bad, not easy to rate. 5/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rosalie has to be the most zany musical ever produced!!! The Plot was all right but the chemistry between Eleanor and Nelson is just bland. Eleanor Powell's dancing in this musical was as best as ever. It was a routine which was performed on a tier of giant drums taking Eleanor Powell 2 weeks to rehearse it. It was a very different routine with its desperation in both the music and movements of Eleanor but the end result was a beautiful yet powerful performance by the Queen of Taps!!!!! Ray Bolger and Frank Morgan manage to supply the film with some great humour. Eleanor Powell's West Point Cadet Routine is very likable.
"Rosalie" is possibly the movie people are thinking of when they
remark, "I hate musicals." This 1937 MGM extravaganza has the stars,
the music, the costumes, the over-the-top sets, the silly filmscript
and the giddy, romantic settings that have become synonymous with the
big, Hollywood musicals of the 1930's and '40's. So... why doesn't it
work? Director W.S. Van Dyke (also credited with box office musical
hits such as "Naughty Marietta") certainly knew how to pace his
material; he's ably assisted here by a Cole Porter score, two big
box-office stars (Nelson Eddy and Eleanor Powell), a rafter of comedic
supporting players (including Frank Morgan and Edna May Oliver doing
their best Frank Morgan and Edna May Oliver imitations) and a gazillion
dancing, singing extras.
Perhaps the movie's failure lies in the fact that there's very little romantic heat generated between Eddy and Powell. If you're making a foolish (and "Rosalie" is nothing if not foolish) boy-meets-girl movie musical, you'd better have sparks flying between your boy and girl. Golden-throated Nelson Eddy does his moon-calf best to gaze adoringly at Eleanor Powell, but the only time you believe Eleanor Powell's character is when she's telling Eddy that she hates him. Which she does repeatedly during the course of the movie's two hours. In a movie like "Rosalie," the lack of chemistry between the two stars is a death sentence. All of a sudden, the viewer notices the threadbare plot, the formulaic comedy, the ridiculous settings (from West Point and Vassar to a mythic, Balkan kingdom named 'Romanza' which is apparently so small that Eddy and sidekick Ray Bolger have trouble finding it on a map but which is still large enough to be able to turn out ten million gorgeously arrayed peasants for big musical numbers) and the basic silliness of it all. In a romantic musical where there is chemistry between the stars, the audience forgives and accepts all; where chemistry is lacking, the audience suddenly realizes the movie hasn't a brain in its head.
Still, there are moments in "Rosalie" that make it worth watching. Does it matter that all those moments are music and dance numbers? Nope. That's what a musical is for.
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