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Lubitsch Musicals

Maurice Chevalier , Jeanette MacDonald , Ernst Lubitsch , George Cukor    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The historical importance of the early musicals in this set can hardly be overestimated--three of the four were nominated for Best Picture--and they are still racy and fun. Criterion's transfers are very good, with only "One Hour with You" slightly on the dark and grainy side. The soundtracks are crisp and clear. The only criticism I can make, for which I have docked the rating one star, is that no supplementary features whatever are included. Nevertheless, anyone with an interest in classic movies, MacDonald, Chevalier, or Lubitsch, will want to grab it.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Chris S
The best of the four was Monte Carlo, staring Jack Buchanan (most commonly know for his preformaces on Broadway and in London) as his humor and persona suits the role. He is far better than Maurice Chevalier who comes across as far too egotistical in the other 3 to be likable.

If you are looking for the sweet romantic comedies of the time this is not the set to buy. As Chevalier loves them and leaves them, and you, unsatisfied.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the great musicals of the precode/early talkie era. Nov. 25 2007
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
Starting with the dawn of sound until the birth of the modern movie musical around 1934, audiences suffered through musicals that were so bad that they were cheesy such as 1930's "Golden Dawn" and the just plain awful such as the inexplicable "Howdy Broadway". A cut - or maybe two - above the rest were the musicals Ernst Lubitsch made at Paramount. This set is the debut of those musicals on DVD. They include:

The Love Parade (1929) - stars Jeanette MacDonald as the queen of a mythical country and Maurice Chevalier as her new husband, Renard. Renard, whose background has been that of a free-wheeling philanderer finds his new position as consort quite constraining. Nominated for Best Picture Oscar.

Monte Carlo (1930) - stars Jeanette MacDonald this time as a status-rich cash-poor Countess. She falls in love with someone she thinks is a hairdresser and decides to marry a wealthy member of the gentry to improve her financial position, which is desperate. However, she later finds out her hairdresser is not who she thinks he is. Enjoyable and above average, but probably the weakest of the four films.

The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - Chevalier is back, this time in the title role. His smile, meant for his girlfriend, is intercepted by a noblewoman. He is forced into a marriage with this noblewoman. However, afterwards the girlfriend shows the new wife how to win her husband's love. This is a great precode and was nominated for Best Picture.

One Hour with You (1932) - Reteams Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier. This time Chevalier is the pursued rather than the pursuer as he is Andre, the happily married husband of Colette (MacDonald). Collette's friend Mitzi pursues Andre relentlessly, and he gives in. Likewise, Colette can't resist a man in pursuit of her. Throw in Mitzi's jealous husband, and you have Andre confessing his transgression to his wife and hoping for her forgiveness. Nominated for Best Picture.

Lubitsch was one of the few people making musicals in 1931 and 1932 because the genre was so out of favor due to early poor entries. Watch these four musicals full of great precode sauciness and sophistication and find out why the Lubitsch touch is the stuff of legends.
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expensive set for the connisseur Dec 7 2007
By Douglas M - Published on Amazon.com
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This collection of pre-code Ernst Lubitsch comedy/musicals is a welcome addition to the gems which continue to appear on DVD. Ernst Lubitsch was the master of the bedroom comedy, with a famous and recognisable touch towards matters sexual which became the benchmark for many famous directors, notably Billy Wilder.

"The Love Parade", released in 1929, became the prototype of the Lubitsch musical which culminated with "The Merry Widow" in 1934, to which it has many similarities. The film stars the debonair Maurice Chevalier as an ambassador who marries luminous Jeanette Macdonald, queen of Sylvania, in her film debut. Macdonald became for a brief time the queen of the bedroom farce, long before MGM paired her with Nelson Eddy and systematically removed her sense of fun. In this film, her makeup obscures her lush beauty but no one could match her balance of sexinesss and insouciance. The film broke away from the backstage conventions of the early talkie musicals and contributed significantly to the liberation of the camera from the inertia which talkies initially brought. The print is very good.

As a follow up, Macdonald was starred in 1930 in "Monte Carlo" with the British Jack Buchanan who is no Chevalier. Buchanan has an effeminate quality which detracts from the romance. The plot is a take off of Monsieur Beaucaire, a countess falling in love with a count impersonating her hairdresser. The best moment is the staging of MacDonald in a train singing "Beyond the Blue Horizon", a song she kept in her repertoire for the rest of her life. The film is a showcase for her and she is animated and funny. The print is generally excellent but the soundtrack comes and goes at times as the actors move away from the microphone.

In 1931, "The Smiling Lieutenant" brings back Chevalier in another marital musical farce whereby he is mistaken for flirting with dowdy princess Miriam Hopkins and ordered to marry her to avoid an international scandal. Claudette Colbert plays his saucy girlfriend, a violinist with an all girl band. Colbert eventually meets the princess, takes pity on her and teaches her to "jazz up her lingerie" to attract Chevalier. The film is filled with visual tricks, smutty innuendo, particularly around Colbert's ability with her hands, and some lively songs. Colbert reveals an adequate singing voice. All the leads are terrific and the print is really excellent.

"One Hour with You" for 1932 is a remake of an earlier Lubitsch Silent and is another bedroom farce with Chevalier caught between wife Jeanette MacDonald and her girlfriend Genevieve Tobin, in rhyming couplets. The film in fact was originally directed by George Cukor but Lubitsch was not satisfied with the results and apparantly reshot much of the footage. There are some charming songs and, once again, lots of sexy innuendo. MacDonald is radiant here and her scenes with the superb Tobin are hilarious. Charles Ruggles and Roland Young are on hand too in support of the leads and are perfect as always. The print is OK.

All of these films contributed to Paramount Studios reputation as the most sophisticated of the studios. While they were critical successes, only "The Love Parade" really was an all out smash hit. The set is expensive but has no extras except some good notes on the inside sleeve of each DVD. This is disappointing given they are more worthy of preservation than many more famous box office hits.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where It All Began Feb. 14 2008
By Tom S. - Published on Amazon.com
Ernst Lubitsch is the great director who pretty much invented the sophisticated, adult film comedy, but he also pretty much invented the film musical as we now know it. I saw the first and most famous of these 4 films, THE LOVE PARADE, on TCM a while ago, and I immediately looked for a DVD of it, but there wasn't one until now. The wonderful folks at Criterion have put Lubitsch's 4 early musicals together in one great package, and it is delightful. It is also an important chapter in the history of film. LOVE PARADE (1929) was the first full-length sound film with songs incorporated into the story, and it was such a big hit that Paramount followed it up with the other 3 in this collection.

Just about every musical film director owes something to Lubitsch, from the early sound period right up to the present. Watch these 4 movies, and you will see the earliest examples of a whole lot of musical film conventions that we now take for granted. You'll also see great performances by Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Jack Buchanan, Claudette Colbert, and Miriam Hopkins. And you'll find out where several famous songs were first introduced, including "Dream Lover," "Give Me A Moment, Please," and "Beyond the Blue Horizon." Who knew? I sure didn't--but I'm glad I found out. Any fan of film history--especially musicals--should find this collection fascinating. Highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful films April 23 2010
By Reviewer from Queens - Published on Amazon.com
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Highly recommended and must see films from Ernst Lubitsch. The Love Parade is the second American film of Maurice Chevalier and the first film for Jeanette Macdonald. The Love Parade features Lillian Roth and Lupino Lane who later was a sensation in Me and My Girl and introduced the Lambeth Walk. Innovative in that it successfully integrated songs and plot, this film is outstanding and features songs including "Dream Lover," "My Love Parade," and "March of the Grenadiers." It is the classic battle of the sexes featuring a Queen played by Jeanette Macdonald and her Prince Consort played by Maurice Chevalier. Monte Carlo which features the standard "Beyond the Blue Horizon" sung by Jeanette Macdonald co-stars Jack Buchanan, a Count in disguise as a hairdresser. Jack Buchanan a musical star who later starred in The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire is excellent with the lovely Jeanette. The Smiling Lieutenant stars Chevalier and his leading ladies are Miriam Hopkins and Claudette Colbert, both equally charming. In a mythical kingdom, Chevalier's Lieutenant falls for Colbert but in a series of misunderstandings, marries the Princess played by Hopkins. One Hour with You is a remake of Lubitsch's silent the Marriage Circle and a triangle of happily marrieds Colette and Andre and the flirtatious Mitzi. Charles Ruggles co-stars as Adolph who is smitten with Colette. Tunes include "We will always be Sweethearts" and "One Hour with You." Fans of Musicals will enjoy this set featuring pre-Nelson Eddy Jeanette Macdonald and Maurice Chevalier. Highly recommended
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous set of four precious Lubitsch musicals March 27 2009
By Robert Moore - Published on Amazon.com
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About twenty years ago I managed to see three of the four films in this set at an Ernst Lubitsch festival and was able to see MONTE CARLO in the University of Chicago film archives. Since then I've managed to see ONE HOUR WITH YOU, one of my favorite Lubitsch films, one on AMC (back when it showed classic films) and once on TCM (after it wouldn't allow AMC to show the films it had the rights to). Although I'm only reviewing this set now, I had it preordered when it was first released. As a huge fan of Lubitsch, I had for years regretted his neglect not only on DVD but on VHS as well. This set makes several of these films available for personal ownership (unless one recorded them off TCM or AMC) for the first time. My only hope is that the rest of Lubitsch's films will also be released.

Lubitsch is one of the great masters of cinema. Andrew Sarris in THE AMERICAN CINEMA placed him and Hitchcock at the apex of the greatest directors in American cinema. He obviously also made Sarris's "Pantheon." Hitchcock and Lubitsch are both unsurpassed in their ability to use the camera to tell a story. Both are complete virtuosos and mastered the unique qualities of cinema that cannot be immitated by other art forms. Lubitsch can move the story along merely by showing the changing contents of a closet. Showing a clock and the changing light of day can speak volumes. And no one in the history of cinema -- especially in his pre-code films, but even afterwards as well -- could handle sex as well as Lubitsch. There is never anything lascivious or dirty about his treatment of sex, but it is always fun, mischievous, and deeply flirtatious.

These are also among the most watchable films of the early years of sound cinema. There were huge technical difficulties while THE LOVE PARADE was being made. And even MONTE CARLO and the other two films were made when many of the kinks of the sound process had not been worked out. If you watch carefully, THE LOVE PARADE frequently becomes a silent film, with music providing all of the soundtrack. But these difficulties hardly slowed Lubitsch down. Along with the Marx Brothers, most of the early sound films that we still watch with delight were largely these made by Lubitsch.

Lubitsch is unique in another way. He is the only major film figure who is simultaneously an important studio head (he was for many years until health prevented it head of production at Paramount) and one of the great directors of cinema (many rank him among the top 4 or 5 directors ever). So in making his films there was little or no conflict with the studio brass over artistic vision, simply because he was the studio brass.

I love all four of these films, though I will confess a preference for ONE HOUR WITH YOU, a film that was begun by George Cukor. All four films are dominated by Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald, with each of them appearing in three films each, two of them with both. They also appeared together in the great THE MERRY WIDOW, one of the last pre-code films and one that desperately needs to be brought out on DVD. they also appeared in 1929 in another truly great musical, LOVE ME TONIGHT, directed by Mamoulian. If you didn't know Mamoulian directed it, you would swear Lubitsch had. Ironically, though MacDonald is best known for her films with Nelson Eddy, they cannot even remotely compare in quality with the group of films that she did with did with Chevalier.

Two of the films are scripted by Samson Raphaelson (who was pretty transparently the model for the Eli Wallach character in the recent film THE HOLIDAY, in which Kate Winslet). He wrote the screenplay for both THE SMILING LIEUTENANT and ONE HOUR WITH YOU, and would later write other major screenplays for Lubitsch such as TROUBLE IN PARADISE, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, HEAVEN CAN WAIT, and others.

Now, while I am absolutely delighted that these films have been made available once again in the Criterion Eclipse series, I do have complaints. First, there are absolutely no special features. No commentaries, no documentaries about the films, nothing. Second, while the prints were somewhat cleaned up, they are not truly pristine. Most of the films show lots of scratches and scrapes. The pictures are not as vivid as one might wish. Still, their available at all trumps these complaints.

The four films in the set are:

THE LOVE PARADE

This was one of two great films Chevalier and MacDonald made in 1929, the other being LOVE ME TONIGHT. Though Lubitsch was the greatest comedy director in cinematic history in my opinion (though I have to confess that I'm hardly alone in that assessment), for once Mamoulian managed to top the master. THE LOVE PARADE is a very good movie, but LOVE ME TONIGHT is a masterpiece. THE LOVE PARADE features a story that is similar to many of the plots of his films: two individuals of widely differing social backgrounds or classes find love. Here a princess elevates a diplomat so that she can marry him. (Interestingly, LOVE ME TONIGHT had the same kind of tension.) The plot is thin, but the execution is delightful. There are a host of wonderful moments that shows Lubitsch at his finest. I especially loved a song where Chevalier, about to depart Paris, sings aloud his regret at leaving his lady loves. His valet then sings his regrets, and all of the servant girls come to their windows to hear him with distress. Finally, Chevalier's dog comes up to the window to bark out his sadness at leaving his lady friends, and a group of female dogs hear his lament.

THE LOVE PARADE also features a couple of fascinating supporting actors. Chevalier's valet is played by British vaudevillian Lupino Lane. He was famous for his remarkably physical style of dancing, which he puts on display here. He was the uncle of Ida Lupino. More poignantly, he is teamed with Lillian Roth, who was only 19 when this film was released. She had a great voice and a remarkable youthful beauty. Fans of the Marx Brothers will recognize her from ANIMAL CRACKERS. Although she was a major talent, she underwent a long string of personal tragedies, including alcoholism and drug addiction (much of it in reaction to major disappointments in life, such as the death of her fiancé when she was in her early twenties). Eventually she managed to make a major comeback as a nightclub performer and wrote a biography that was made in to a major film, I'LL LIVE TOMORROW, which garnered an Oscar nomination for Susan Heyward. Roth was perhaps the first celebrity to publicly admit a problem with alcoholism and her openness made it possible for other troubled celebrities to get help. But seeing her in this film, so pretty and young and talented, really makes you regret that she did not have the kind of career her talent might have generated.

MONTE CARLO

This is the least of the four films included in the set, though it is still quite good. Jeannette MacDonald sang "Beyond the Blue Horizon" in it and it became her personal theme song for the rest of her life. But for many film fans the greatest source of delight is the presence of Jack Buchanan in the male lead. Most American film fans know him primarily for his extraordinary work in the Fred Astaire film THE BAND WAGON. This film shows that he was not a one-hit wonder and the wonderful elegance that he displayed in THE BAND WAGON is fully in evidence here.

THE SMILING LIEUTENANT

Two things that really strike me in this film are how very, very young Claudette Colbert is in it. We don't usually remember that most of Colbert's career came in her mid to late thirties, or even in her early forties. In this film she is 28 and one can see just how thin she was at that stage of her career. Though she was never a large person, she is surprisingly thin in this one, especially in her face. The other thing that struck me about her is that she hadn't yet refused to be photographed from her left profile. Here she frequently can be seen in full right profile and thinks nothing of going from one profile to another. Contrast this with THE PALM SPRINGS STORY, where she laboriously blocks her scenes to stay in left profile.

The film is also graced by the wonderful Miriam Hopkins, one of the great comic actresses of the thirties and one of Lubitsch's most frequently used stars. She was in one of Lubitsch's greatest films, TROUBLE IN PARADISE, as well as in DESIGN FOR LIVING. I was not previously aware that she played the piano, but in the scenes where she is supposed to be playing it definitely looks as if she is. If she isn't, it is one of the best jobs at pretending to that I've ever seen.

The greatest thing about this set is that it makes movies like this one available again. Although Lubitsch was impeded in his filmmaking by his duties at the studio and by ongoing health problems, it is absolutely amazing how many great movies he made. Now those who previously only knew him from NINOTCHKA and HEAVEN CAN WAIT and TO BE OR NOT TO BE and THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER and TROUBLE IN PARADISE can see a great film like THE SMILING LIEUTENANT.

ONE HOUR WITH YOU

This is one of my all time favorite movies. It is also a film that couldn't possible have been made three years later, after the Code was fully implemented. It is quite naughty, about a promiscuous married female who is trying to seduce her best friends husband. She succeeds and one of my all time favorite scenes in any film comes when Chevalier, doing the walk of shame the next morning and sensing the moral disapproval of those in the film audience, asks them (us) if someone came up and did all the things that this temptress had done, what we would do? He then self-righteously proclaims, "Well, I did, too!"

ONE HOUR WITH YOU also contains one of the strongest supporting casts of any Lubitsch film. Genevieve Tobin, Roland Young (who provides one laugh after another), and Charlie Ruggles provide one marvelous moment after another.

Interestingly, while Lubitsch was making this film he simultaneously did so in French as well. Chevalier was, of course, French, and MacDonald fluent in it. They switched some of the supporting actors with others who could speak French. I've never seen this version and don't even know whether it is available. It would have been nice if they had included it as an extra in this set. It is definitely one of the movies that I would most like to see. Many people are unaware that many Hollywood films were simultaneously filmed in more than one language. Many Laurel and Hardy shorts were also made in Spanish and can be found without too much trouble.

If you love classic cinema, this is as much as anything gets to a "must buy" set. Four great films by one of cinema's greatest directors focusing especially on two great stars. Sets simply don't get any more compelling than this.
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