The Merry Widow
Posted by martinteller on May 29, 2012
In the tiny kindgom of Marshovia, the playboy Captain Danilo (Maurice Chevalier) of the Royal Guard tries to seduce the wealthy widow Sonia (Jeanette MacDonald). She can’t stop thinking about him, and in an effort to get over him, flees for Paris. The king, fearing that her departure will cause the local economy to collapse, sends Danilo to woo her into staying. Another delightful romantic comedy from Lubitsch, based on the operetta by Lehar. Chevalier is charming as always, it’s not hard to imagine him as the extraordinary ladykiller he portrays here. The gags are witty, smart, naughty and come at a satisfactory rate. The story is clever, without relying too much on tedious mistaken identity or misunderstanding twists. The songs are enjoyable, and there are glorious dance scenes in lovely costumes and opulent sets.
The weak link, as usual, is MacDonald. Her acting chops are fine and the chemistry with Chevalier works well enough. It’s her voice that’s a total wet blanket. All that ridiculous, show-offy vibrato is like nails on a chalkboard… and makes her lyrics unintelligible. But at least we’re treated to an array of terrific supporting performances, including Una Merkel, George Barbier, Sterling Holloway and great Edward Everett Horton (who doesn’t get nearly enough screen time for my tastes, but I’ll take him where I can get him). Besides MacDonald’s dreadful singing, it’s a fine slice of entertainment with that Lubitsch touch. Rating: Very Good