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The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

Passed | | Comedy, Romance, Musical | 1 August 1931 (USA)
An amorous lieutenant is forced to marry a socially awkward princess, though he tries to keep his violin-playing girlfriend on the side.

Director:

Ernst Lubitsch

Writers:

Leopold Jacobson (operetta), Felix Dormann (operetta) (as Felix Dörmann) | 3 more credits »
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Maurice Chevalier ... Lt. Nikolaus 'Niki' von Preyn
Claudette Colbert ... Franzi
Miriam Hopkins ... Princess Anna
Charles Ruggles ... Max (as Charlie Ruggles)
George Barbier ... King Adolf XV
Hugh O'Connell ... Niki's Orderly
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Storyline

Lieutenant Niki of the Austrian royal guard has a new girlfriend, Franzi. He's crazy about her and is smiling at her while on duty in the street. King Adolf and his daughter Princess Anna from the neighboring kingdom of Flausenthurm drive by, and Anna intercepts a wink meant for Franzi. She falls for Niki, marries him (he has no choice in the matter), and whisks him off to Flausenthurm. Franzi follows and enjoys a brief affair with Niki before Anna finds out. Franzi, much more experienced in the ways of the world, gives Anna lessons on how to win the affections of her husband. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

1 August 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Smiling Lieutenant See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(cut) | (original)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Advanced ticketing for the film at its New York engagement sold out immediately. See more »

Goofs

In the latter part of the movie Chevalier bounds up a grand staircase painted to appear as marble but the loud clomp-clomp-clomp of his shoes reveals it to be just wood. See more »

Quotes

Princess Anna: Oh, Papa, have a heart.
King Adolf XV: No.
Princess Anna: Say yes.
King Adolf XV: No!
Princess Anna: Don't you get tired of saying no all day long?
King Adolf XV: Yes.
Princess Anna: Oh, Papa!
See more »

Alternate Versions

A version in French with dialogue and lyrics by 'Henri Bataille (II)' played in New York City, New York, USA on 15 October 1931, and was a big hit in Paris. It probably was a dubbed English version, but slightly shorter at 2,476.80 m in length. See more »

Connections

Referenced in John Loves Mary (1949) See more »

Soundtracks

Jazz Up Your Lingerie
(1931) (uncredited)
Music by Oscar Straus
Lyrics by Clifford Grey
Played on piano by Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins and sung by both
Reprised on piano by Hopkins
See more »

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User Reviews

Awesomely immoral, one of Lubitsch's finest musicals
31 March 2003 | by KalamanSee all my reviews

Lubitsch's third great musical is perhaps his most immoral, along with "One Hour With You". The screenplay by Ernest Vajda and Samson Raphaelson is replete with the occasional Lubitschian double entendres and naughtiness. The film often recalls the lilting grace of Lubitsch's "The Love Parade" but it also looks ahead to the ironic romantic triangle of Lubitsch's lauded masterpiece "Trouble in Paradise".

Here, Chavalier's Lieutenant Niki is torn between an aristocratic princess Anna (Miriam Hopkins) and a working class violinist Franzi (Claudette Colbert), the same way Herbert Marshall's Gaston in "Trouble in Paradise" must choose either Kay Francis's wealthy Madame Colete or his fellow thief, Miriam Hopkin's Lily. But there is a difference. In "Trouble in Paradise", Gaston abandons Mme. Colete for Lily, but in "Smiling Lieutenant", Chevalier unconditionally accepts his forced romance with Anna. At first, Niki is happily fond of Franzi who is introduced to him by his friend Max (Charlie Ruggles, who played one of rejected suitors in "Trouble in Paradise"). But ultimately he is forced to marry princess Anna of the neighboring kingdom of Flausenthurm. The love scenes between lieutenant Niki and Franzi are incredibly charming and flavorsome, while the marriage of Niki and Princess Anna seems unpleasant and uninspired. But the film's charm or brilliance lies in its joyous musical numbers and songs, and its ironic immoral look at its characters. Irony and cynicism are key to understanding Lubitsch's art, especially his works of the early 30s, and "Smiling Lieutenant" is no exception. There is, for instance, an irony and immorality in the lovely number "Jazz Up Your Lingerie", as Princess Anna tries to emulate Franzi in order to look sexy for Niki.

"The Smiling Lieutenant" remains Lubitsch's most underrated musical. Not many people have seen it. It deserves to be seen and compared with Lubitsch's later works, particularly "Trouble in Paradise."


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