18 June 2008 | blanche-2
The Mounties always get their man
Jeanette MacDonald is "Rose-Marie" in this 1936 film also starring Nelson Eddy, James Stewart and Allan Jones. The movie borrows its title from the Rudolf Friml operetta, but it does not use the plot or many of the songs. MacDonald plays a famous opera singer named Marie de Flor whose brother (Stewart), going by the last name of Flower, has escaped prison and killed a Mountie. She leaves at once for Quebec and winds up meeting - who else - Nelson Eddy, a Mountie who recognizes her immediately and believes at first that he is helping her get to a rendezvous with a man. Meanwhile, he's falling for her himself.
Nelson and Jeannette were one of the great screen teams, and even now, they have fans all over the world. Jeanette was beautiful, a good singer and a fine actress, and Nelson, while not being much of an actor, was an attractive man with a magnificent voice. Their big hit, in fact, their signature song, "Indian Love Call," is from this film, as is, naturally, "Rose-Marie." Because of the recording devices used back then and the way female singers were taught, Jeannette's lyric-coloratura suffers somewhat. Like all female singers of that era, she has a back placement for her high notes, though the middle part of her range is quite beautiful. Her obsession with Tosca - one of the opera scenes shown, and a role she also performed on stage in real life - is a curious one. She had no business singing it, and neither did the tenor, Allan Jones, who was a lyric tenor. It's for a dramatic soprano and a spinto tenor. The Gounod "Romeo et Juliette," which she sings with Jones in the beginning of the movie is much more appropriate for both of them. Eddy, on the other hand, had operatic roots, and his baritone has survived very well. They sounded wonderful together, and there was something about them that just worked, even if he was somewhat wooden. She was spitfire enough for both of them, and it made a nice contrast. My favorite part of the film is when, after her guide steals her money, Marie goes looking for the job as a singer in a honky tonk café and tries to do "Some of these Days," which she sings operatically while attempting to copy the hoochie-coochie movements of the café's resident singer.
Stewart was slowly ascending the scale to stardom, getting better and better roles - he has a couple of big scenes in this film. He's boyish, good-looking and very effective.
Today I suppose these films seem very campy, and they've surely been parodied over and over again. However, the music is enjoyable, Nelson and Jeanette are treasures, and one can't help but marvel, amidst the insanity of today, what a much simpler time it was. People were able to be lifted out of themselves for a little while with fantasy and beauty. These movies must have been doing something right. Seventy-plus years later, we're still enjoying them.