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Olivia de Havilland,
Edward Everett Horton
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Marshovia, a small European kingdom, is on the brink of bankruptcy but the country may be saved if the wealthy American Crystal Radek, widow of a Marshovian, can be convinced to part with her money and marry the king's nephew count Danilo. Arriving to Marshovia on a visit, Crystal Radek change places with her secretary Kitty. Following them to Paris, Danilo has a hard time wooing the woman he believes is the widow after falling in love with an attractive young woman at a nightclub, the same Crystal Radek who presents herself as Fifi the chorus girl. Written by
Turner and Lamas were romantically involved during the film and were set to co-star in "Latin Lovers," but had a falling-out, and she had him replaced with Ricardo Montalban a week before shooting was to begin. See more »
Other than identifying the title character as an American now, The Merry Widow pretty much retains the same plot, even some of the same lines from the 1934 Jeanette MacDonald-Maurice Chevalier film.
Lana Turner is the widow of the man who was the richest person in the small kingdom of Mariskova. It's estimated in fact she has part ownership in 52% of the gross national product of the kingdom. She's the big fish in this pond.
Operating under the premise that Lana though she is now living in New York would still like to be a big fish in a small pond than be swallowed by an Austrian whale, King Thomas Gomez dispatches one of his playboy relations, Fernando Lamas too woo and wed the widow. The Hapsburgs are threatening that if they don't make good what's owed them they'll just come in and annex Mariskova. King Tom obviously does not want to spend his declining years in the fleshpots of Baden Baden or Marienbad or the French Riviera, he wants to stay king.
Getting the rich widow to underwrite the kingdom is not as silly a premise as it sounds. Just a bit before the action of The Merry Widow takes place, J. Pierpont Morgan literally underwrote the USA financial structure when asked to by President Cleveland.
Of course with a multi-millionaire fortune, Turner is naturally suspicious of a host of people trying to become friends and lovers.
The Franz Lehar songs which is what makes this operetta a beloved one by many repertoire companies are mostly present. Some are sung, others are relegated to the background. They are divided equally with the leading man and woman, here though Fernando Lamas carries the musical load. Trudy Erwin who dubbed Lana Turner's singing voice joins him briefly in the Merry Widow Waltz. All the other songs are given to Lamas including Vilia which is sung by the leading lady normally. Jeanette MacDonald sang it in the 1934 version and did it well.
Lamas and Turner were quite involved during this film. Esther Williams in her memoirs and this was years before she married Fernando tells that she was visiting the set at MGM one day and heard all kinds of squeals of passion coming from Turner's trailer. Obviously Fernando and Lana getting some rehearsal done.
Look for two nice supporting performances from Richard Haydn and John Abbott as a pair of bumbling Mariskovian diplomats and Una Merkel in her usual role as secretary and gal pal to Turner.
Even with technicolor this one doesn't quite measure to the 1934 version though Fernando Lamas does sing real nice.
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