Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Monte Carlo (1930)

MONTE CARLO is the latest Ernst Lubitsch film I've watched from the Criterion Eclipse DVD collection of his early musicals.

MONTE CARLO is quite entertaining, though I didn't feel it was on a par with the previous films watched from the set, THE LOVE PARADE (1929) and ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932).

Most of the issue for me with MONTE CARLO was leading man Jack Buchanan. A couple decades later he was great in a supporting role in THE BAND WAGON (1953), but playing opposite Jeanette MacDonald, he's sexless and unappealing. It's a bit like having Edward Everett Horton playing a romantic lead. I've never particularly considered myself a fan of Maurice Chevalier, but I have to admit that I have a new appreciation for him after seeing Jeanette in a Lubitsch film with a different leading man.

On the other hand, MONTE CARLO has an absolutely splendid "must see" performance by Jeanette MacDonald. She's simply delightful -- funny, charming, and at times adorably petulant, with a slightly risque sense of humor and a voice like an angel. "Beyond the Blue Horizon," which she sings on a train, is one of those great songs that's worth rewatching after the movie is over; thereafter it was considered one of MacDonald's theme songs.

Jeanette plays penniless but beautiful Countess Helene, who ditches rich but idiotic Prince Otto (Claude Allister) at the altar and hops a train for Monte Carlo. She dreams of winning riches but after a good run of luck at the tables she promptly loses it all again and is at risk of being thrown out of her lavish hotel.

Count Rudolph (Buchanan) is attracted to Helene but can't find a good way to meet her, so in a goofy plot twist he hires on as her hairdresser. Of course! This also enables Rudolph to find out if Helene will love him for himself, rather than his money.

It's interesting that the story, when you come right down to it, is about Jeanette doing silly things -- planning to marry for money and running out, trying to make her fortune gambling, and living far beyond her means -- but because she's so delightful, the viewer accepts all this without feeling too critical.

There are many clever moments which display Jeanette's comic talents to great effect, along with her beauty. One of my favorite bits was a scene where she wakes up and has to remember the complicated sequence to unlock her bedroom door -- she'd wanted to be sure she wouldn't be tempted to run into Rudolph's arms the night before. It reminded me just a bit of the delightful scene where Danielle Darrieux wakes up in a hotel in THE RAGE OF PARIS (1938).

I also loved the way Jeanette said the line "That's what you get for being nice to the help!" and later her stomping off to the opera in tears -- then the dawning realization that Rudolph, unexpectedly sitting in the next box, may not be exactly who she thinks he is.

MONTE CARLO runs 90 minutes.

I have just one movie in the Lubitsch set left to go -- THE SMILING LIEUTENANT (1932) with Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins opposite Maurice Chevalier. I'm really looking forward to it. This set is a great value for anyone who loves pre-Code comedies, musicals, Lubitsch, Jeanette MacDonald, or all of the above, as the movies are sure to be enjoyed multiple times! The fall Barnes & Noble Criterion sale should take place in about a month, and I highly recommend this collection.


Blogger SimpleGifts said...

Hi, Laura - Do you recall a quick scene in MONTE CARLO with a receptionist answering the phone - she has 2 or 3 lines? It's Frances Dee in her first speaking role! Thanks for your review of this fun film! Best, Jane

9:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Oh my goodness, I totally remember that scene and was thinking the person looked vaguely familiar -- it wasn't a closeup. I'll be pulling out the DVD this weekend and giving it another look!


Best wishes,

9:56 PM  

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