In August 1952 Mario Lanza recorded the soundtrack. The whole recording was done in single takes. Every phrase in it was Lanza magic at its best. However, on the film set things were not to go well at all. The first scene to be shot was the song "Beloved" on the terrace. Director Curtis Bernhardt did not like the way the song was sung and corrected Lanza, telling him that he was putting too much emotion in his singing instead of sounding more stuffy and rigid like a Prussian prince. Lanza informed Bernhardt that he was to direct only his acting, and that Lanza's singing was strictly Lanza's department. Bernhardt would not accept this, and Lanza would not be told how to sing by a movie director. The end result was that Lanza walked off the set and vowed not to return as long as Bernhardt was the director. The studio took an injunction against Lanza for damages and losses. He could not perform in public, on radio, or in the recording studio for the remaining time of his contract with MGM (which was then 15 months). A solution was reached in May 1953: the studio would remove the embargo on Lanza if he would allow his voice to be used while another actor played the part of the prince. This was agreed to and the filming got under way with Edmund Purdom lip-synching Lanza, which he did marvelously. The irony is that when the film was finally made, the director was no longer Bernhardt, but Richard Thorpe, who had worked harmoniously with Lanza on The Great Caruso. See more »
"Eyes that are bright as stars when they're shining on me"
One of the most beloved of operettas is The Student Prince and for a combination of reasons no sound film was made of it until this one in 1954. I venture to say that somewhere in North America or Europe there is some stock company giving a performance of it right now.
One of those reasons was a little thing called World War II. As Nazi Germany rose in power, stories with a German background weren't a real big sell in Hollywood. MGM which had produced a silent version of The Student Prince in 1927 with Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer, held on to the property all that time. No doubt Louis B. Mayer thought the story perfect for either Nelson Eddy or Allan Jones. I have a recording of Jones singing Deep in My Heart and he would have been a fabulous Prince.
Edmond Purdom is the heir to the throne at mythical Karlsberg, one of the many minor kingdoms that made up the new Second Reich. It's been pointed out to the King, Louis Calhern,that Purdom lacks certain social graces and charm. The remedy suggested by Purdom's tutor Edmund Gwenn is to go to the University at Heidelberg which by coincidence is the alma mater of Gwenn.
He gets quite an education at Heidelberg including one from the innkeeper's niece played by Ann Blyth.
Of course what makes the Student Prince the classic it is are the words and music by Dorothy Donnelly and Sigmund Romberg. All the main songs of the score are retained with a few new ones added by Nicholas Brodzsky and Sammy Cahn.
Purdom's singing is of course the glorious voice of Mario Lanza who was originally supposed to do this. Lanza at the same time the film came out released an RCA Victor Red Seal album of The Student Prince which was a big hit, movie and album, reinforcing the success of the other.
Lanza was having a lot of trouble controlling his appetites for all the fleshly pleasures and was proving impossible to control. He got out of the film, but he had already taped his soundtrack singing. MGM settled with Mario with them retaining the rights to those recordings for the film. Good thing they did, because it's Lanza's singing voice as the Prince that makes this film.
If you like operetta and Mario Lanza, do not ever miss this one when it is on.
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