The Love Parade Reviews
Lubitsch, who had directed many silent films, takes to talking pictures quite well right out of the gate. There is nothing clunky or awkward with the composition and staging of shots or overall style that suggests someone working through a learning curve. Of course The Love Parade has several strong elements working together in addition to Lubitsch's skill behind the camera. Based on the play The Prince Consort, the script is loaded with lively dialogue, a sharp sense of humor that does not shy away from innuendo, and likeable characters. Maurice Chevalier plays Count Alfred, who is recalled from Paris to his homeland of Slyvania after (several) scandals involving married women.
Lubitsh transitions from silent filmmaking to working with sound and dialogue smoothly. He does not over indulge in dialogue and music and still uses silent visuals to great effect. When a servant in the Queen's palace asks why Alfred has a French accent, Alfred says that he went to see a doctor about a cold but was greeted by the doctor's wife. The movie cuts to an exterior shot of the palace and through a window we see Alfred whisper the rest of the story to the servant. When the movie cuts back inside Alfred says that the cold was gone, but he had that terrible accent. I had never seen a movie starring Maurice Chevalier before and he is as charming and lively and French as I'd imagined.
Jeanette MacDonald, in her screen debut, plays Queen Louise who in addition to having the responsibilities of a governing queen is also under pressure from her ministers and advisors to marry. The trouble with finding her a suitor is that he would be only Price Consort and have no power or responsibility in governing. She meets Count Alfred to reprimand him for his scandals, but they both quickly charm each other and flirt through song.
Aside from a dolly shot or two, I must confess that I was so caught up with the characters and story that I hardly noticed the camerawork, or lack thereof. Lubitsch fills the screen with entertainment, so even static shots are hardly dull. The songs are pleasing and catchy. The palace sets and costumes are opulent and impressive. There are memorable scenes both with and without music. From his balcony at the beginning of the film, Chevalier sings his goodbye to Paris and the women on nearby balconies. His valet, Jacques, played by Lupino Lane, joins in and sings goodbye to Parisian maids. Then Chevalier's dog sings, by barking, to the female dogs of Paris. We see none of Alfred and Louise's first date. Instead we see the Queen's advisors, her ladies in waiting, and Jacques and the Queen's maid spying on the date and reporting to each other like a game of telephone. The Queen's maid, Lulu, played by Lillian Roth, and Jacques have some good songs together too.
The Love Parade is almost overwhelmingly enjoyable, up to a point. There are two distinct halves to this movie. The first half is very funny, jaunty, and romantic. The second half, after Alfred and Louise are married, deals with their marital problems. There is still humor and entertainment value in this half of the film but at a diminished level. Queen Louise and Alfred seem to misunderstand and mistreat each other immediately after they are married and solely for the sake of dramatic conflict. Their main conflict is that Alfred does not have the traditional role of a man in their marriage or in the monarchy. Queen Louise runs the country and palace. Traditional gender roles in marriage and government being the central conflict of a musical from 1929 is interesting, however, as you might imagine, these issues are addressed but not challenged. The two tonally different halves of The Love Parade make for an uneven but overall enjoyable musical. There is still a lot to enjoyed in The Love Parade and it is a good step forward for the nascent musical genre.
Honestly, I'm not entirely sure why [i]Oklahoma![/i] gets so much press as allegedly being the first American musical. Let's even leave aside the [i]Show Boat[/i] debate. If the important issue is a combination of a cohesive story and relevant songs, Hollywood was making musicals long before [i]Oklahoma![/i] was even thought of. Of course, the origins of few art forms are traceable to a specific moment and a specific work, and there are often arguments decades after the fact as to whether certain works qualify or not. Definitions can be slippery things. In fact, there are people who will argue the definition of a movie musical. However, I will say that this only barely meets my standards for a "book musical," in that I don't think the songs are as well integrated as people keep telling me they are.
Count Alfred Renard (Maurice Chevalier) is a military attaché from the imaginary country of It Doesn't Matter. He is stationed in Paris, which he loves. This being pre-Code, it is a joke that he's sleeping around, and with married women to boot. His conduct is considered so appalling that the ambassador (E. H. Calvert) sends him home again. In part because one of the women he's sleeping with is the ambassador's wife. At home, Queen Louise (Jeanette MacDonald) is being pressured to marry by her advisors, as single queens generally are. However, she points out that few men are inclined to just sit around and let their wives run things. A man wouldn't marry a woman for a crown if the crown didn't come with any power. But she meets Alfred, and he seems like enough of a gadabout that he'd welcome a cushy chance to have no responsibility. He thinks he'd like that, too. But of course if he did, hilarity would not ensue. In that 1929 hilarity where it's vaguely uncomfortable to the modern perspective.
Arguably, this movie should hold a record or tie for a record or something for percentage of Oscars it was nominated for. This is because there were a lot fewer Oscars in those days; it was eligible for all of them. Jeanette MacDonald wasn't nominated for Best Actress, and the screenplay wasn't nominated, either. It didn't win any, but it was nominated for the remaining six. This year, there are twenty-four categories. The highest total number any given film is eligible for is eighteen, though no movie has ever been nominated for that many. If it had, that would be the same percentage, and maybe digging around would produce another film which managed to be nominated in three-quarters of that year's categories. It would have had to have been a long time ago, though, probably not long after this one came out. [i]Return of the King[/i] was nominated for fewer than half in its eligible year.
The film makes the point that Queen Louise is treating her husband like a wife. She schedules him bridge and tennis and tells him to take a nap in the afternoon. Her servants won't take any commands from him. They won't even bring his breakfast until she is there, and if I saw that right, he didn't get breakfast when it was established that she wasn't coming. What the film never considers is that maybe a wife wouldn't have been happy with that, either. Yes, it's a shame that his talents were wasted when he wanted to do more. He produces a balanced budget which won't require the loan the country is trying to procure from I think Afghanistan, and they refuse to even look at it. That's wrong. But would it be any better if Maurice Chevalier had refused to look at a budget Jeanette MacDonald had produced?
I will say that it's a lot more civilized than it used to be. When Alfred gets frustrated, he decides to move to Paris. He's going to get a divorce. Oh, it may well bankrupt her country--since they're ignoring that budget he produced--but it's still all he plans to do. Whereas This sort of thing brings to my mind the battle Mary Queen of Scots had with her second husband. He was declared king, but it seems there were two kinds of king in those days. He was king consort, but he wanted to be king regnant. She had excellent reasons for not giving it to him, though it still didn't buy her reign that much time. I think, though, that it was his desire for it and her desire for him which brought her down. I guess the main difference here is that Alfred wasn't as much of a petulant child. Adolescent, yes. A little more rightfully upset, honestly. But it would never occur to him to do all the things Darnley did to his wife, which is good for both Alfred and Louise and for her kingdom.