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Snooty opera singer meets a rough-and-tumble fisherman in the Louisiana bayous, but this fisherman can sing! Her agent lures him away to New Orleans to teach him to sing opera, but comes to regret this rash decision when the singers fall in love. Written by
"The Dreams That You Inspire, With Every Sweet Desire, Be My Love"
With the success that Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson had in That Midnight Kiss, MGM knew it had a box office team of appeal. The following year the two of them moved from contemporary Philadelphia to pre-World War I, New Orleans.
People paid their money to hear Mario sing and really didn't care about the plots of his films. Lanza was cast as an opera singing truck driver in That Midnight Kiss, as an opera singer drafted into the army in Because You're Mine, and the greatest opera singer of all in The Great Caruso. I think we can see a pattern forming here.
In The Toast of New Orleans Lanza plays a shrimp fisherman who works on the boat with his uncle J. Carrol Naish. When opera singer Kathryn Grayson comes to town, Lanza boisterously and impulsively joins her in a duet of Be My Love. Her manager and New Orleans opera kingpin, David Niven is as impressed as everyone else was in 1950 with Mario's voice. He's even willing to overlook to some extent the fact he's moving in on Grayson.
Acting wise The Toast of New Orleans is no strain on anybody. Mario and Kathryn play a pair of singers and Mario as in all of his films, just played himself. It's interesting that the only times he attempted to play a role from classic operetta, The Student Prince and The Vagabond King it didn't work out for him.
As for David Niven, he's as debonair and charming as he always was. Niven carried more films on the strength of his charm than any other star in the sound era.
But no one worried about acting and a plot in this film. Like That Midnight Kiss, The Toast of New Orleans has a nice mixture of classical opera and some good songs by Nicholas Brodzsky and Sammy Cahn to round out a very full score. One of the songs, Be My Love, became Mario Lanza's signature song, his biggest selling record on RCA Victor Red Seal label. You could not go ANYWHERE in 1950 without hearing Be My Love coming out of some radio. Be My Love was nominated for Best Song in 1950, but lost to Mona Lisa.
Norman Taurog directed Mario in this film, he had previously won an Oscar for Skippy and had directed Spencer Tracy to his second Academy Award in Boy's Town. Taurog was an interesting choice for a director to pilot a picture with a personality like Lanza. Later on Taurog would end his career directing nine of Elvis Presley's feature films, another instance of him directing a mega-pop personality successfully.
The Toast of New Orleans is for Mario Lanza fans everywhere and this review is dedicated to my father who was a big fan.
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