17 March 2006 | bkoganbing
"All others end the way we start, forever we'll be Sweethearts."
Sweethearts is the first of two of the Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy films to be done in technicolor, the second at last being Bittersweet. It is also the first MGM film done in modern technicolor, though in Jeanette's The Cat and the Fiddle, the last 10 minutes were in color. And it is the only one of their films besides Bittersweet where they start off as man and wife.
The original operetta by Victor Herbert was done in 1913 and it was in fact a story set in Holland as the numbers do show. But this film is like the later one Nelson did with Rise Stevens, The Chocolate Soldier, in that he and Stevens are husband and wife appearing in The Chocolate Soldier while the plot of that is taken from Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman.
Sweethearts has an original script by Dorothy Parker and it involves two happily married singing co-stars of a long running operetta, named Sweethearts. They've been appearing on Broadway for seven years in the same show.
In fact a whole cottage industry has grown up around Sweethearts. Producer Frank Morgan, songwriter Herman Bing, librettist Mischa Auer have had it real good for seven years. They've been quite content to live off the box office of Sweethearts as long as MacDonald and Eddy keep appearing. Also the extended families of both Eddy and MacDonald live off of them as well.
When Reginald Gardiner woos them on behalf of Hollywood producer George Barbier, panic ensues among the ranks of the cottage industry. These people might actually have to go to work.
Knowing Dorothy Parker wrote 50% of the script, you can imagine it is a witty one. Jeanette and Nelson are in good voice and the musical calls for a large number of duets. They sing the title song, For Every Lover Meets His Fate, and an interpolated non Victor Herbert song, Our Little Grey Home in the West in anticipation of their California excursion. In addition Jeanette sings A Summer Serenade which was originally an instrumental Victor Herbert composition entitled Badinage. Robert Wright and Chet Forrest gave it some lyrics for the film. Nelson has a good typical Nelson marching song in On Parade.
After appearing with Nelson Eddy in Rosalie as a sidekick Ray Bolger didn't have as many scenes, but got to show his dancing talent a lot more in the Wooden Shoes number. Jeanette personally interceded with Louis B. Mayer and got Douglas MacPhail and Betty Jaynes cast as their understudies.
MacPhail and Jaynes married later on, but divorced after MacPhail's career took a nosedive in the early Forties. He was a good singer who you might remember appeared with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in Babes in Arms and later introduced the Cole Porter classic, I Concentrate on You in Broadway Melody of 1940. Tragically he took his own life after the divorce for God only knows what reasons.
For Jeanette and Nelson fans and for those who like to see Ray Bolger in something else besides The Wizard of Oz, Sweethearts in highly recommended.