15 December 2008 | bkoganbing
Frozen Jeanette In The Frozen North
Arthur Hammerstein of the famous theatrical family and uncle of the celebrated lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, II, was a Broadway producer of considerable reputation. Probably deciding that the legitimate theater was risky in Depression times, he opted to go to Hollywood and produce his latest show as independent production released by United Artists. Hammerstein managed to secure the services of Jeanette MacDonald from Paramount and Joe E. Brown from Warner Brothers.
The three male leads John Garrick, Joseph Macaulay, and Robert Chisholm all came from the legitimate stage. Garrick would return to Great Britain where he had a considerable career in British cinema for the next decade. The other two had considerable credits on the Broadway stage.
The film is set in Norway with Jeanette working in an Oslo café and going out with Garrick. Italian dirigible explorer Macaulay has his eye on her as well. Jeanette's got herself an embezzling brother played by Carroll Nye whom she takes the fall for. But before that Garrick walks out in a huff thinking she's two timing him with Macaulay.
When released from jail, Jeanette becomes a Lottery Bride. She gets assigned a number and whomever draws her number among the miners in the area north of Trondheim gets that bride. Who should draw it, but Chisholm who's a miner up there and who's gone up to join him and forget a broken heart, but Garrick who is Chisholm's brother. Later on Macaulay joins bringing his polar expedition to town.
Unfortunately the three stage performers did not tone it down for the cinema and they overact outrageously. Macaulay as a villain of sorts is this side of Snidely Whiplash.
The climax of course is a rescue of the downed dirigible, reminding everyone of the ill-fated Umberto Nobile expedition of a couple of years before. On the plus side the special effects of the dirigible crash and rescue were pretty good though they're obviously miniatures to today's sophisticated eye. For the time they were first rate.
Rudolf Friml wrote the score with J. Keirn Brennan the lyrics and it's one of Friml's lesser efforts. Jeanette MacDonald as the movie name gets first billing, but most of the singing is done by the three guys from the stage. For comic relief Joe E. Brown and Zasu Pitts are here and quite frankly they're needed.
The Lottery Bride given its special effects was obviously something that Hammerstein was better off doing on the screen. The problem is that he couldn't shake his stage origins. After The Lottery Bride, Hammerstein went back to Broadway and what he knew best.