Monday, May 11, 2009
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.