23 November 2009 | bkoganbing
Paramount and Chevalier Part
Maurice Chevalier wound up his career at Paramount with The Way To Love. According to the Citadel film series book, The Films of Maurice Chevalier, he was busy negotiating his contract renewal while making this film. In the case of the film he did it twice over.
The Way To Love was a hard luck picture from the start. The first leading lady, Sylvia Sydney feigned illness and walked off the picture. Carole Lombard balked at being her replacement. Paramount borrowed Ann Dvorak from Warner Brothers and not only her scenes, but others had to be redone as supporting cast members were now into other commitments. Scenes were done twice and more.
What came out was a film that if it weren't for the French location, Bing Crosby would have been perfect for the part. Nevertheless Chevalier fit the role fine as this carefree gentleman whose sole ambition in life is to become a Parisian tour guide so he can be paid while telling tourists about his beloved Paris. In the meantime Maurice pays the rent by just wearing a sandwich sign board and walks up and down the street advertising Edward Everett Horton as a fake psychologist guaranteed to solve your problems. Horton liked Chevalier as is, but his wife Minna Gombell and daughter Nydia Westman see him as a prospective son-in-law.
So those two aren't happy after Maurice saves Ann Dvorak from her jealous guardian George Regas. Dvorak is the target for Regas in their carnival knife throwing act and he's the jealous sort.
The songs for The Way To Love were written by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow who also wrote for several of Crosby's films in the Thirties. Maurice does fine with them, but they might have become hits if Crosby introduced him, they suit his style far better.
As for Paramount, they lost Chevalier's services when they wouldn't guarantee to give him films with Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, or Carole Lombard in his future. He's quoted as saying he would have re-signed with Paramount if they had. As it was Chevalier's next film was for MGM, The Merry Widow.
The Way To Love is not a bad film, but a far cry from some of the classic items Chevalier did with Ernst Lubitsch or Rouben Mamoulian during his heyday at Paramount.