The Girl of the Golden West (1938) Poster

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Serious Operetta
raskimono2 April 2004
I am writing this review after my second viewing of this movie. After my first viewing, I thought it was trash but with time and a sequestered absence, my opinion has changed and I think it is the second best of the Nelson Eddy/ Jeanette Macdonald behind only the incomparable The Naughty Marietta. For one, Nelson Eddy had learned to act, not well but okay. Jeanette gives her best performance in this movie, and that accent is impeccable. The story is good with a lot of serious dramatic scenes including a scene at a log cabin that lasts close to twenty minutes and does not drag. You could cut the music out of this movie and it would still play like a romantic drama. Most of the singing is solid as Eddy was one of the great voices of the 20th Century. Walter Pidgeon as the spurned lover does his thang and Buddy Ebsen in a supporting role of a hick walks away with the whole picture. The basic plot of the Puccini opera is retained if not mangled and Belasco's play forms the basis for this movie. All in all, suprisingly low key in style but effective at heart.
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Nelson and Jeannette in the old west
blanche-24 September 2006
"Girl of the Golden West," starring Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald, is based on the play by David Belasco. This play was also used for Puccini's opera of the same name, "La Fanciulla del West" where the chorus sings, "Vells Fargo! Vells Fargo!" One change - the heroine in the opera is named Minnie; in the movie, she's Mary. Good move.

The film deals with one of those double identity villain/good guys - Eddy plays the crook Ramirez, but as Gringo is giving gold to the Indians through the mission of Father Sienna, who knew him and comforted him as a child when his guardian died. When he robs a stagecoach, he meets the beautiful Mary. She owns the Poker Saloon (which sounds with the heavy western accents like Polka). He's wearing a bandanna that covers most of his face. She's en route to visit Father Sienna, whom she also knew as a child. Determined to meet her as a gentleman, Gringo steals a uniform and introduces himself as Lt. Dick Johnson. He sweeps her off her feet, but he has competition in the local Sheriff, Jack Rance, played by Walter Pidgeon. Pidgeon wants Ramirez caught and Johnson out of Mary's life.

There's lots of singing from a Romberg score here, as well as "Ave Maria" and "Liebestraum" and a big mariachi dance number. MacDonald is excellent as the uneducated, somewhat awkward Mary who can also be a real spitfire. MacDonald was a good actress as well as a beauty, and her middle voice sounds especially rich in the songs. Like many sopranos of that era, she sang her high notes in a way that is no longer taught today, but she produces some lovely soft tones in that range. Eddy was a magnificent singer but never was anywhere near MacDonald in acting. He's very likable, but his accent as Ramirez is an absolute scream. In fact, all of the accents, from Buddy Ebsen on up, are laid on with a spatula. H.B. Warner gives a beautiful performance as the gentle Father Sienna, and Leo J. Carrillo is on hand in his usual type of role. Pidgeon is an effective and handsome Jack Rance.

Entertaining, and fans of Nelson and Jeannette will love it.
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That Fabulous Baritone
haridam03 September 2006
Focusing on Nelson Eddy, it was with some astonishment to read his pre-film operatic bio. A remarkable 33 total repertoire which he essayed during the late 20s and up to that "fateful" 1920 concert when he stepped in at the last minute to replace an ailing Lotte Lehmann.

That success led to his film contract, a new career as a film star and a semi-end to his exhaustive operatic career.

Yet, he may have done his most impressive singing during his leading stint with the Philadelphia Civic Opera. I was impressed to discover he sang under the distinguished batons of Stokowski, Reiner, Respighi and Toscannini. And reading his press reviews online pointed to his having critics and public alike in the palm of his hands.

By the time his film roles came around, his voice seemed to have taken on a slight strain and occasional throaty quality. But his first rate musicianship never let down.

He, along with Jeanette MacDonald, respected the legato line, shaping each vocal phrase with sensitivity and beauty.

Their solo and duo renditions in "The Girl of the Golden West" show their artistic integrity. Tenutos, ritards, and fermatas are all given their due, all the while integrating their vocalism with their character and dramatic situations.

As for Eddy, he went on to make some nineteen films, then did the impossible: sustained a triumphant fifteen year post-film career as a nightclub singer. The public apparently couldn't get enough of this fine baritone, who worked as a true star with nary a career lull until he literally dropped dead onstage.

In "The Girl of the Golden West" Eddy is seen to advantage, along with MacDonald, and what could be a dated piece turns into an tender romance.

Sigmund Romberg's original songs are fetching, particularly the love ballad, and Herbert Stodart's orchestrations are rich and luminous.
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Wonderful! Zane Grey put to music.
KT-3124 September 1999
Wonderful movie. Upbeat, with great singing(Of course).

Every time I watch this movie I have the same reaction. Too idealistic for our tastes today; yet as a showcase for Eddy & MacDonald, with some fun thrown in, it is great.

Like Zane Grey westerns, the characters are rather stylized and two-dimensional. However, again like Zane Grey characters, they tend to demonstrate qualities that we wish were reality.

What a supporting cast.

Walter Pidgeon - very believable as the strong, fiercely passionate sheriff with his own strict code of ethics.

Buddy Ebsen, Leo Carrillo, Monty Woolley, H.B.Warner.

I have been surprised over the years how some men, that are rough and rather crude with each other, will display real protectiveness and gentleness in other areas. Therefore, the behaviour shown by the miners toward 'Girl', adopted as kind of a 'mascot' is credible and necessary for us to accept her sweetness.

Suspend your cynicism, enjoy the fine music and a glimpse into a simpler time!
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"original" MacDonald/Eddy
bkoganbing1 April 2004
Of the eight MacDonald/Eddy films, which is the only one that the music was written specifically for the screen? This one happens to be the answer.

Jeanette and Nelson had one thing built in their movies. All of them came from the stage and thus had built-in hit value already. Even with the original score, Girl of the Golden West, has an honorable pedigree as a David Belasco play and a Giacomo Puccini opera. It survives best as a Puccini opera because it's the music that you remember and not the Victorian dialog.

Watching it today you could describe it best as quaint. It might grate on modern tastes, but take it on it's own terms if you view it. Nelson has the best musical moment in this one with Who Are We To Say. In the supporting cast you will enjoy Walter Pidgeon,Buddy Ebsen, Noah Beery,Sr., and H.B. Warner.
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Total Charmer
drednm21 July 2004
Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy star in this musical western with more than a little comic charm and zip. Although there are no

"hits" in this musical, the songs are great and MacDonald gets to sing one of the best "Ave Marias" you'll ever hear. She also turns in one of her best comic performances as the "girl" who is rough hewn and runs a saloon in a gold mining town. A little long, but still one of the duo's best and most underrated films. Walter Pidgeon, Buddy Ebsen, Cliff Edwards, H.B. Warner, Priscilla Lawson, and Noah Beery are notable. The "Mariachi" number is nice as are a few of the songs. It amazes me that Jeanette MacDonald is so underrated as an actress. She not only has a fabulous voice, she could hold her own against any leading man and was also a charming comedienne, and she is splendid in this film.
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Love this movie
jtaraba-12 August 2004
I really loved this movie from the first time I saw it. I know most of the Nelson/Jeanette films are based on the same basic plot structure- but who cares? Fans of Nelson and Jeanette are here for the stars and the music- how it's presented is mostly secondary.

The only thing that irked me about this movie is Sheriff Rance's habit of calling Jeanette "Girl". Maybe he loved her in his own way, but the constant use of the word "girl" instead of her name made me feel as if he wanted to own her rather than accept her as his equal. Strange then that he gave up so easily in the end- But glad that he did! I also loved Buddy Ebsen as Alabama the Blacksmith- what a sweet character!
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An opera too!
Slyvella5 May 2009
The story in this movie is a popular one. A play, an opera, and at least two movies. La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini, based on the play The Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco. Its highly-publicized premiere occurred in New York City in 1910 Imagine a western soap opera being sung in Italian! The movie is based on the same play, adapted by the playwright, as was the 1915 version filmed by Cecil B. DeMille. The singing in the movie is great, Nelson Eddy and Jeannette McDonald are a great pair as usual. Worth a watch.
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Perfectly Charming.
dan.sneed1 July 2003
Just a perfectly charming film that reveals its wonderful qualities more and more with repeated viewings. Jeanette really pulls it off as a "western gal" and her singing is, as usual, superb. "Shadows on the Moon" and "The Wind in the Trees" are just two highlights of many for me. A very lovely, fun and special film.
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A thoroughly entertaining musical adventure
thelaandtheba12 May 2002
Very well defined characters faithfully portrayed by the actors.

Perfectly placed musical numbers, engrossingly rendered by the supreme vocalists of their time, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. Each song melodic and memorable to this day, sixty four years later. Especially enjoyable was the voice and instrumental duet by 'Mary' and 'Alabama'...did Buddy Ebson actually play the pipe part, or was it dubbed? I have had a life-long curiosity about this aspect of the movie. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
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Charming, entertaining and very easy to like
TheLittleSongbird10 September 2013
Closer to Belasco's play than to Puccini's opera(though there are elements of it), The Girl of the Golden West is not going to get awards for originality- though actually still one of the better stories of the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald collaborations- and Nelson Eddy's Ramirez accent is very unconvincing. The Girl of the Golden West even with those flaws taken into account is still really good fun, and one of the better Eddy-MacDonald collaborations. The two stars are fine, MacDonald is the much better actress and does sassy, beautiful and charming wonderfully, but Eddy is a likable partner. Both are in fine voice too, especially Eddy who even when his acting is not up to par always captivates by the strength and beauty of his voice. MacDonald sounds great too, and blends very nicely with Eddy. Walter Pidgeon is handsome and authoritative, managing some menace as well as a sympathetic side as Rance. Buddy Ebsen is very sweet and funny, and comes close sometimes to stealing the film. The Girl of the Golden West looks good, it's photographed with care and the Old West sets are evoked really beautifully and convincingly. The songs and score are rich in orchestration and carry the film very well, the best of them Who are We to Say, Mariache, Shadows on the Moon and Winds in the Trees are wonderful. The dialogue is true to the period the film is set in and has moments of great wit. The story is told briskly and with great charm, the romantic elements are appropriately tender and you are convinced by Eddy and MacDonald as lovers. The characters are not original either but are still interesting, especially Mary and Rance. The ending is true in spirit to that of Puccini's opera, it may be very Hollywood-ish and unbelievable- with Rance giving up so easily- to some, but it was nice to see a somewhat different side to Rance in this scene. Overall, very easy to like and does a great job charming and entertaining. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Too long!
JohnHowardReid23 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
At the height of their careers, MacDonald and Eddy managed to disappoint many of their most ardent fans.

"Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy are like tapioca," wrote Frank Nugent of the New York Times. "Either you like them or you don't."

With this film the public began dividing into two camps: those who loved the splendid entertainment Jeanette and Nelson promised in a good film and those who would be content to watch them read (or sing) the proverbial phone book.

Musically, this1938 movie abounds in some of the loveliest melodies Sigmund Romberg could write and musical director Herbert Stothart outdid himself in vibrant orchestrations. Unfortunately, M-G-M also dramatized uninteresting incidents only mentioned in the stage version and made maximum use of extremely obvious sound stage exteriors.

The Girl of the Golden West was the first weak MacDonald-Eddy vehicle and didn't bring much glory to anyone. While it was one of the top moneymakers of the year, the split between the general public and the "fans" was beginning. The uncritical enthusiasm of the second only served to reinforce the opinion of the former that all MacDonald-Eddy films were "silly." On top of the cool critical reception to The Firefly and Rosalie, their previous solo films, Girl represented a distinct minus for their careers.

OTHER VIEWS: The foremost criticism of Girl was its length combined with the weak plot. Variety thought it was twenty minutes too long, the New York Post said thirty minutes, and the New York World-Telegram acknowledged that there may have been longer films but "few others have seemed as long." The reviewer continued: "the story is neither distinctive nor sturdy and hasn't been helped much by the diffused direction."

Jeanette's singing also drew uniform raves, but her characterizations varied from "excellent" (New York Post) to "a little bit embarrassing" (New York World Telegram). All in all, this was one of the big disappointments of my picture-going youth. The impossible script seems to have defeated almost everyone: Director, leads, photographer, set designers, film editor. A major wasteland of talent, the script can only be described as a tediously trite collection of old-fashioned theatrics. Even the Romberg songs fail to perk up or alleviate the long winded, pedestrian proceedings.
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Girl of Golden West is No Bittersweet **1/2
edwagreen5 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This was not one of Jeanette MacDonald's and Nelson Eddy's best films.

It's just a matter of time before the young boy Gringo finds out who sang so lovely at the camp sight. It will take years later when the two are grown up and by that time, Gringo takes the name of Ramirez and is embittered because the man who took him in is slain by settlers who thought he was out to get them. Just like the man, Gringo becomes an outlaw and steals.

When Eddy is shot in the shoulder by Sheriff Walter Pidgeon, MacDonald acts like a silent screen damsel in distress. MacDonald is totally unfit for the role and Eddy again proves what a bad actor he was.

While it's true that the singing is beautiful, the plot line is thin. The ending is pure Hollywood and at least Eddy survives in this picture.
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