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Will Rogers Jr.,
Lon Chaney Jr.
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In 1461, French nobles fearing King Louis XI may seize their lands, join forces with the rebellious Duke of Burgundy to overthrow the king. One of the Duke's captains suggests enlisting the aid of Francois Villon who is known to oppose the king and is leader of the Vagabonds, a group that robs the rich to aid the poor. In league with Burgundy, Villon and two of his cohorts enter Paris, but are captured by the king's men. The king, recognizing Villon's power over the people, proposes that Villon defend Paris against Burgundy and help uncover traitors in the court.Written by
Ray Hamel <email@example.com>
The last operetta released by a major studio, and it's a pity, for this adaptation of the 1925 Rudolf Friml war horse is pretty nimble. It stars Oreste, a European tenor with the requisite high notes and a fair amount of dash, as the leader of the Paris rabble; he's quite at ease for such a major screen debut, though his accent, so apparent in song, mysteriously disappears in much of his dialogue, making one wonder if some of his lines were post-dubbed. Kathryn Grayson is her usual shrill and simpering self, albeit in a part Callas herself couldn't have made interesting, and Rita Moreno shows a lot of life and a lot of leg as Huguette. Walter Hampden, as the king, has better lines than most screen kings, and underplays them effectively. Friml, then in his mid-70s, appended his stage score with several new melodies set to adequate Johnny Burke lyrics, and one, "This Same Heart," is quite lovely. It's a studio-bound eyeful, with big sets and colorful costumes that have little to do with reality but everything to do with screen spectacle (did 15th century Parisians really don so much purple and yellow and green?), and the screenplay's pretty erudite for this genre, and Michael Curtiz ably keeps things moving (save a brief, silly Adam and Eve ballet that stops the action dead). Nobody went to it in 1956, audiences just weren't interested in operetta anymore, and they still preferred Mario Lanza to an unknown European quantity. But if you can catch this one--I did on Amazon Prime--you'll get a fine eyeful and earful of the lush melody, sweeping spectacle, and ringing romance that endeared audiences to operetta decades before.
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