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Prince Peter Karagin, an officer in the Cossack army, sees and hears lovely Lydia Marakova in the cafe Balalaika in St. Petersburg and wants to meet her. When he hears she likes to fraternize with a lower class of people, he gives a student 50 rubles for his clothing. She eventually accepts his persistant presence and they fall in love. Peter uses his influence to get Lydia an audition at the opera house, where she is hired and is scheduled to perform later. The Prince, however, is not aware that she, her father and brother are part of a revolutionary movement. Their mutual deception is quickly shattered when Peter and the Cossacks violently break up a revolutionary rally in the public square, where Lydia's brother is killed. Soon afterwards, she learns that the rebels plan to assassinate Peter and his uncle, General Karagin, at the opera house on opening night, and still in love, she warns Peter not to go to the performance. He cancels the reservations, but General Karagin decides to... Written by
Arthur Hausner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of Nelson Eddy's weakest, but still a nice decent film generally
Balalaika is not the worst of Nelson Eddy's films, that's I Married an Angel and even that for this viewer was not that bad. But it's not even close to the likes of Maytime, New Moon and The Chocolate Soldier. Balalaika is a decent and quite nice film but did come across as very problematic. Eddy has never been the best of actors(his best performances have been in Chocolate Soldier, Maytime and Let Freedom Ring), and Balalaika doesn't really change that perception. He is at least better than he was in The Phantom of the Opera and I Married An Angel and at least he is more convincing as a Russian than he was as an Austrian in Bittersweet. But he is very stiff and wooden here, he has charming moments but he never looks comfortable. The story is also very predictable, cumbersome and even silly(at times), and the pacing can be rather dull. The script fares little better, often awkward sounding and lifeless- the film was strongly censored at the risk of offending so that could be why- while the humour is mild and unfortunately not very funny. Charles Ruggles fares the best in the supporting cast, but excepting the last fifteen minutes where he's affecting Frank Morgan's comic talents are not really put to good use and his performance is somewhat indifferent. The costumes and sets are beautiful, and the crisp black and white photography is especially striking in the Ride Cossack Ride and Stille Nacht (Silent Night) sequences, ones that is stirring for the former and poignant for the latter. The score and songs are a treat to listen to, At the Balalika, Ride Cossack Ride, Song of the Volga Boatmen and Toreador Song are particularly great. Frank Morgan's song in the last fifteen minutes is also very moving, as is the ending itself. Even if his acting is not up to snuff, Eddy still produces some magnificent singing in Balalaika(the best thing about the film), always robust and beautiful and at its best in Ride Cossack Ride and Song of the Volga Boatmen. And extra credit for singing in four languages in one film, you don't hear that very often. Ilona Massey looks absolutely stunning- even that doesn't do justice to her beauty actually- and a worthy leading lady for Eddy. They work well together and blend nicely(if not quite as much as Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald). In conclusion, a nice decent film but a long way from one of Nelson Eddy's finest hours. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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