Sunday, October 04, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Naughty Marietta (1935) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy star in NAUGHTY MARIETTA (1935), just reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.

NAUGHTY MARIETTA was previously released by the Archive as a single title, but this time around it's the lead film in the four-movie, four-DVD Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy Collection, Volume One. The other films in this set are ROSE-MARIE (1936), MAYTIME (1937), and THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (1938). A second volume from the Archive contains four additional MacDonald-Eddy films.

Jeanette plays Princess Marie of France, soon to be forced by her evil uncle (Douglass Dumbrille) to marry the foppish Don Carlos of Spain. Don Carlos is flamboyantly played by Walter Kingsford, who was later the staid Dr. Carew of the Dr. Kildare series.

Marie trades places with her maid Marietta (Helen Shipman) and sets sail for New Orleans. The ship is attacked by pirates, but once ashore "Marietta" is saved by dashing Captain Warrington (Eddy).

Marietta and the Captain spar and sing as he tries to figure out this unusual girl's story, and gradually they fall in love. Then her uncle arrives in pursuit...

NAUGHTY MARIETTA was Jeanette and Nelson's first film together, and for this fan of musicals it was pure bliss. They're simply charming together; Jeanette was always a firecracker on screen, spunky, funny, and with charisma to spare, and Nelson doesn't get nearly enough credit. He's a lot of fun and strikes plenty of sparks with his leading lady. I think those who remember him as "wooden" must be the same people who claim John Gilbert had a high-pitched speaking voice.

MacDonald and Eddy's singing style may not be for every filmgoer, but their effective acting combined with their comedic skills, on top of their great musical talent, makes the music as accessible as possible. As for me, I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and I don't mind admitting that I was moved to tears by "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life," especially as I considered how magical it is that their performances can still be enjoyed by film and music lovers 80 years later.

Elsa Lanchester threatens to steal the show as the jealous wife of the inept governor (Frank Morgan). The cast also includes Akim Tamiroff, Cecilia Parker, Edward Brophy, and Harold Huber.

NAUGHTY MARIETTA was directed by the curiously uncredited W.S. Van Dyke and Robert Z. Leonard. The cinematographer was William H. Daniels.

The Warner Archive print was for the most part excellent, although there was one scene where there were a couple of brief but extremely noticeable tears which I assume it wasn't possible to repair, at least within the Archive's budget.

The extras from the previous release of NAUGHTY MARIETTA were included, including a trailer and an "audio vault" with recordings and a Lux Radio Theater program. The other three films in the set have the trailer included on each DVD but no other extras. I will be posting reviews of ROSE-MARIE, MAYTIME, and THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST in the future.

There was a minor defect on my NAUGHTY MARIETTA disc, inasmuch as the main menu did not light up in any fashion as I navigated the options to play the movie, the trailer, or access the "audio vault." However, if I arrowed up and down with my remote and clicked "play" periodically, everything was there, I just couldn't "see" where I was going as I navigated. The options in the audio vault menu worked normally, with a colored symbol lighting up next to each title as I navigated.

The set I received for review consisted of silver-backed pressed discs. The Archive typically presses discs for the initial sales of sets which are expected to sell in large numbers, and the pressed sets are available only from the WBShop, not other vendors.

Highly recommended.

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

MacDonald and Eddy seem to be rarely talked about on the net and I was delighted to read your review. I loved your description of Nelson who, as you say, was much better than critics would have have you believe . But of course it is their voices which I love and their songs.
A great teaming by MGM though I always feel Jeanette would have been great in more modern roles too. I think she only made about
three films which were set in the modern day.
She could easily have done the romantic comedies or dramas we associate with Irene Dunne or Claudette Colbert.
But she and Nelson were so popular, she was typecast in operetta - she did get SAN FRANCISCO which I love.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you, Vienna! I enjoyed this so much. It's been a long time since I watched any of Jeanette & Nelson's movies so I'm looking forward to reviewing more soon.

Completely agree that Jeanette could have done a lot more! What a talented lady.

SAN FRANCISCO is Entertainment with a capital E! :)

Best wishes,

10:44 PM  

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