Monday, May 11, 2009

The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch

Starring: Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert, and Miriam Hopkins

Plot: A young officer accidentally makes a pass at a visiting princess. To avoid an international incident, he marries the smitten princess but pines for his girlfriend.

Thoughts: While I loved Lubitsch's The Love Parade (pardon the pun), I wasn't as impressed with this film. The derivative plot had a couple of details changed to make an entirely new story. Once again, Chevalier plays a military officer who marries into royalty. Like The Love Parade, innuendo is abundant and the songs are delightful.

Based on Hans Müller’s short story, "Nux der Prinzgemahl" (Nux, the Prince Consort), which was adapted for the operetta, "Ein Walzertraum" (A Waltz Dream), The Smiling Lieutenant was apparently a troubled production. According to film historian Michael Koresky, Lubitsch was in the process of divorce, Chevalier's beloved mother had recently died, and Colbert and Hopkins were rather diva-esque. The end product is good, but in my not so humble opinion, not as good as The Love Parade.

Once limited to the occasional TV screening (no VHS or laserdisc release), 2008 saw The Smiling Lieutenant released on DVD as part of the Lubitsch Musicals box set. This box set is part of Criterion's Eclipse series and includes The Love Parade and One Hour with You (coming in a forthcoming review soon). If you'd like to see the film online, you can view it on YouTube.

The Smiling Lieutenant only received a nomination for Best Picture for the 5th Academy Awards. Interestingly, Lubitsch's One Hour with You also received the nomination that very same year. Both would lose to Irving Thalberg's Grand Hotel.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Almost Back to Full Power

In case you hadn't noticed, the Derby crashed and burned as we entered the last week of March. After work on the huge project suspended things, I was laid off from my job. What ensued was a rather frustrating search for work for the next five weeks. Almost every day involved 12-13 hours of sitting at a computer screen sifting through job ads, customizing resumes, and making phone calls. Thankfully, the end of April bore fruit in this lousy economy and I began working again this week.

The plan this weekend is to at least post the long-delayed entry for The Smiling Lieutenant. Hopefully, this journey through cinematic history can pick up again next week.