Sunday, February 05, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Spring Parade (1940)

SPRING PARADE might be described as Deanna Durbin meets SISSI (1955), as this Austrian-set confection was based on an original story by SISSI writer-director Ernst Marischka. The films definitely share a fairy tale appeal, as well as storylines involving the Austrian royal family. All that's missing from SPRING PARADE is Technicolor!

Deanna plays Ilonka Tolnay, a girl from rural Austria who is accidentally transported to Vienna. (Just go with it.) She ends up living with the family of a baker (S.Z. Sakall) and is befriended by Jenny (Anne Gwynne, grandmother of Chris Pine), who lends her an amazing wardrobe. Curiously, there's never any mention of family back home who might wonder about Deanna's absence!

Deanna meets a soldier-composer (Robert Cummings), and the plot gets crazier from there, involving a composition sent to the Emperor tucked inside some baked goods! It's silly -- and completely charming, especially as the Emperor is played by one of the most lovable character actors ever, Henry Stephenson.

The Gus Kahn-Robert Stolz score includes "It's Foolish But It's Fun" and the hummable "Waltzing in the Clouds." There's a moment halfway into the film, when Durbin and Cummings are waltzing to the latter song, which can only be described as pure movie joy, a feeling which is repeated in the film's closing moments. Those who love Deanna should enjoy this movie.

Durbin and Cummings appeared together the year before in THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939). The following year they were teamed in one of Durbin's very best films, IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941).

The deep supporting cast includes Allyn Joslyn, Franklin Pangborn, Reginald Denny, Peggy Moran, Walter Catlett, Edward Gargan, and Mischa Auer.

Be sure to visit the SPRING PARADE page at the Anne Gwynne website, which includes stills and screen captures.

SPRING PARADE runs 89 minutes and was directed by Henry Koster. It was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Black and White Cinematography (Joseph A. Valentine), Best Song ("Waltzing in the Clouds"), Best Score (Charles Previn), and Best Sound Recording. (The winner of Best Song that year? "When You Wish Upon a Star.")

SPRING PARADE is extremely hard to find. It's not had a VHS release and is not even out in the Region 2 series in the UK from which I obtained HERS TO HOLD (1943) and CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944). My great thanks to a longtime reader and friend, Mel, for helping me to see this film at last.

I have just three Durbin films left to see for the first time! The movies still ahead of me are CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944), I'LL BE YOURS (1947), and UP IN CENTRAL PARK (1948).

Links for all Deanna Durbin films previously reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: FIRST LOVE (1939), HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), NICE GIRL? (1941), FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948), BECAUSE OF HIM (1946), MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY (1943), THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939), IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941), CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944), HERS TO HOLD (1943), IT'S A DATE (1940), LADY ON A TRAIN (1945), THAT CERTAIN AGE (1938), ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937), and SOMETHING IN THE WIND (1947).


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I don't know how this Deanna Durbin picture has passed me by. It sounds like a real treat. I love DD and Cummings in "It Started With Eve".

What a kick to find out that Tess Trueheart is James T. Kirk's grandmother!

2:59 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

This is one of my favorite Durbin films. Fairytale is a good way to describe it - it really is basically a fairytale without magic. I thought Robert Cummings was delightful in this - and I think the scene where he writes the waltz in the restaurant must have been based off of Johann Strauss Jr., who was known for scribbling down his compositions on anything he could find when inspiration struck.

Another bit of trivia - Peggy Moran, the girl who's with Cummings in the scene where he's teasing Franklin Pangborn, eventually married director Henry Koster. She had a bit part in the beginning of First Love too.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Charming and now I really want to see it! Thanks for a lovely report, Laura! Well done!

9:44 AM  
Blogger grandoldmovies said...

This is a delightful film and the scenes in the bakery with S.Z. Sakall are charming. I think Durbin and Cummings play better together here than they did in 'It Started with Eve' (which was stolen lock, stock, and barrel by Charles Laughton).
The DVD for 'Spring Parade' can be found here:
'Christmas Holiday' on DVD is here:

10:07 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all for your comments. I'm glad at least a couple of your have been able to see it! That's fun insight into Strauss, Elisabeth. :) I hope those of you who haven't yet seen it will have the opportunity before too long.

Speaking of waltzes, as I've thought on the film more, I think rather than SPRING PARADE the film's title should have been WALTZING IN THE CLOUDS. It captures the film's fairytale quality a little more!

The links seem to just go to the Cinema Classics site, but from there titles can be searched. Thanks!

Best wishes,

11:18 AM  

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