The Rogue Song (1930)
Metropolitan opera star Lawrence Tibbett headed the cast of The Rogue Song, an opulent Technicolor adaptation of the Franz Lehar operetta Gypsy Love. Set (vaguely) in 19th-century Russia, the film stars Tibbett as Yegor, dashing leader of an outlaw band called "The Robbing Larks." During one of his excursions into Moscow, Yegor falls in love with beautiful Russian princess Vera (Catherine Dale Owen). But when Yegor's sister (Florence Lake) is betrayed by Vera's brother Prince Serge (Ulrich Haupt), the bandit kills the prince and kidnaps the princess. Upon her rescue, she orders Yegor's arrest and has him flogged. As the defiant bandit merrily sings away while the whip tears across his back, Vera realizes that she's still in love with him. Knowing that they can never live together as man and wife, Vera bids Yegor a tearful farewell as he rides off into the sunset with his comrades. After previewing the rough cut of Rogue Song, MGM realized that the film was in desperate need of comedy relief, so the studio borrowed Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy from Hal Roach, casting the team as two members of Yegor's outlaw gang. Written and directed without credit by Hal Roach himself, Laurel & Hardy's scenes wear spotted throughout the picture, bearing only the faintest relevance to the plot. In typical fashion, the two comedians tried to eat a wheel of cheese while being plagued by pesky flies, attempted to shave one another while being distracted by pretty girls and a flock of chickens, shared a darkened cave with a surly bear, and in general behaved more like "Stan and Ollie" than a pair of Russian bandits. Critics were divided as to the merits of Laurel & Hardy's contributions to the film, but audiences loved their antics, and indeed they were billed above star Lawrence Tibbett on some movie marquees. No matter what the reason, The Rogue Song was a huge moneymaker for MGM, earning a "Best Picture" Oscar nomination in the bargain. Alas, the film has apparently vanished from the face of the earth; the negative was destroyed decades ago, and no original prints are known to survive. In the mid-1970s, the film's soundtrack discs were rediscovered, and in the early 1980s a Laurel & Hardy collector came across a worn Technicolor dupe of a three-minute routine. A few years after that, a black-and-white print of the film was found in a Czechoslovakian archive -- with all the musical numbers and Laurel & Hardy scenes removed! One of the ten highest-priority titles on the American Film Institute's "most wanted" list of lost movies, The Rogue Song may indeed turn up intact some day, but the chances grow slimmer with each passing year. … More
as Princess Vera
as Countess Tatiana
as Prince Serge
as Princess Alexandra
as Count Peter
as Yegor's Mother
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