LIVING, THROBBING, MELODY, POURING FROM THE SCREEN WITH BOUNDLESS MAGNIFICENCE-THE SUPREME ACHIEVEMENT OF MODERN MOTION PICTURE ART! (Print ad-The Evening Independent,((St. Petersburg, Fla.)) 18 May 1929) See more »
Okay, as a film this isn't the greatest achievement: it's static beyond belief. And I imagine back in 1929 it wasn't a huge success. But seen today, it allows us to witness a performance tradition that is lost. This "Desert Song" looks (and sounds) like a filmed stage performance of one of the most popular Broadway-operettas of the 1920s. All the melodramatic acting is there, the exaggerated comic stuff... and all the cross-gender jokes that would be politically incorrect today. (About Pierre being "like a sister" to Margot and Benny not being "a real man".) Put together, you can imagine how such a way of performing operetta worked on stage back then. And it's a shame no one does it like this any more - because the (homosexual) jokes (among others) are really funny. Also, you get to hear the entire score nearly intact, as played on Broadway. The singing isn't great throughout. But combined with the acting and good looks (especially of the Red Shadow) and combined with the phenomenal orchestra the music impresses. Hopefully someone will issue a soundtrack one day. And hopefully someone will release the film on commercial DVD, as a historic document of a great show done 'historically correct.' Compared with the later 'heroic' versions of "Desert Song" on film, this one is pure fun. And still touching at the same time. A mad romance in Marocco...
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