Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tonight's Movie: The Girl of the Golden West (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Jeanette MacDonald stars as THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (1938). It's part of the four-movie, four-DVD Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy Collection, Volume One, available from the Warner Archive.

This is the third film I've reviewed from the set, following the sublime NAUGHTY MARIETTA (1935) and ROSE-MARIE (1936).

THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST isn't quite on the level of those films, lacking as many good musical numbers, but it's still prime Jeanette and Nelson. I find that I invariably smile watching a MacDonald-Eddy film. They make me happy, and what more could one ask in a movie?

Jeanette plays Mary, a simple girl of the mountains who owns the local tavern. Sheriff Jack (Walter Pidgeon) wants to marry her, but on her annual trip to Monterey Mary is taken with a dashing lieutenant (Eddy) -- who isn't a lieutenant at all, he's actually a bandit named Ramerez.

Mary falls wildly in love, and she continues to protect her sweetheart from the sheriff even after she learns the truth about his identity. Will Ramerez reform, and will he and Mary live happily ever after? What do you think?

As mentioned, the movie could have used some more memorable music, but there are still some wonderful moments, including Jeanette singing "Liebestraum" and "Ave Maria" (the latter with the St. Luke's Choristers of nearby Long Beach, California). There's also some terrific Romberg-Kahn music at a fiesta, including "Senorita" and "Mariache."

One of my only regrets about the movie is they didn't find a spot for Pidgeon, a fine singer, to participate in a song.

Jeanette is absolutely lovely and winning as Mary, sustaining her "hick" accent throughout. She's such a charmer, she darn near carries the whole movie on her back on the basis of her appeal.

I generally think Eddy is a much better actor than he gets credit for, but I didn't find this role as interesting as his parts in other MacDonald-Eddy films. Still, he and Jeanette are always a great team, and it's a particular joy to hear them sing together, such as the lovely scene at movie's end.

The deep cast includes H.B. Warner as a padre, Monty Woolley as the governor, and Buddy Ebsen as Mary's pal. Also in the cast: Charley Grapewin, Billy Bevans, Leo Carrillo, Leonard Penn, Cliff Edwards, and Olin Howland.

THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST was directed by Robert Z. Leonard. It was filmed in black and white by Oliver T. Marsh. The running time is a slightly longish 121 minutes. I think at least five minutes could have been pruned without missing much.

I'll be reviewing the final film in the collection, MAYTIME (1937), at a future date. I've also reviewed three of the four films in Volume II: SWEETHEARTS (1938), NEW MOON (1940), and I MARRIED AN ANGEL (1942), with a review of BITTER SWEET (1940) still ahead. Both sets are highly recommended.

THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST is a fine print with good sound quality. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Jocelyn said...

I've not gotten into the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette McDonald films, but I will someday. Your write ups highlight the good things about them!

Have you ever seen the opera by Puccini based on the same story? (La Fanciulla del West). It's odd to hear a very American story sung in Italian! :-)

6:47 AM  
OpenID christinawehner said...

I've just been discovering the joys of Eddy and MacDonald...especially Jeanette MacDonald. I watched New Moon and was enthralled. Definitely going to have to get these collections. Thanks!

I didn't realize Walter Pidgeon could sing. What a pity they didn't let him show it in this film.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jocelyn, I'm glad to know I'm spurring your interest in these films! They provide such joy. I haven't ever seen the opera!

Christina, glad to know you found NEW MOON as wonderful as I do. That's a DVD I've put back in just to listen to some of the music!

Pidgeon was one of the first people to record the Irving Berlin standard "What'll I Do?" and sang in some early talkies, but that part of his career quickly fell by the wayside, as his best-known films are all nonmusicals.

Best wishes,

1:09 PM  
Blogger Clayton Walter said...

Jeanette Mac...sigh. She, Carole Lombard and Deborah Kerr are my dream ladies. Beyond the wonderful voice, her acting is fun, and she has the most winning smile.

This is an amazing set; I'm very happy that Warner archive is blessing us with all these amazing goodies.

Clayton @ Phantom Empires

11:43 AM  

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