26 January 2007 | claudecat
Charming romance set in a fantasy land
In this early sound musical, Janet Gaynor plays a princess in an Austria-like fairytale kingdom who longs to live the life of an ordinary girl. Watch it with a sense of humor--this is in no way an important musical along the lines of "Gigi", but it doesn't try to be. The script is humorous and a bit self-mocking, and the actors have a lot of fun inventing business for themselves--scenes between C. Aubrey Smith and Herbert Mundin appear to have been staged for their personal amusement, which luckily works for the audience, too. Director Dieterle adds some wonderful flights of fancy, which I won't give away, because the surprise is a good part of the fun. The music, sets, and costumes all contribute to the delightful feeling of fantasy.
Janet Gaynor's voice is almost shockingly girlish, which I think must have been partly due to the sound technology used, but her performance suits the title. In addition, her character is spirited and mischievous. Henri Garat, a French actor playing Gaynor's love interest, doesn't fare quite as well as she does: he's a bit hard to understand, with his heavy accent; isn't 100% photogenic; and his character comes off as a little caddish. But he does bring his fine singing voice, sounding sincere even when the lyrics are a trifle silly: "You're so completely adorable...is the way to your heart explorable?"
Recommended for old-movie fans looking for a diverting film that's sweet but surprising.