21 April 2015 | richard-1787
An uneven movie with good scenes
This is not a great movie, but it's an occasionally enjoyable one, mostly because Preston Sturges' script has some good lines and scenes and because the two stars, Janet Leigh and Ezio Pinza, can both make even weak material sound good.
Pinza had a great career as one of the Metropolitan Opera's leading basses from 1926-1948. He then retired from opera, at age 56, and began a second career on Broadway and in a few movies. He started on Broadway opposite Mary Martin in one of the American musical theater's greatest hits, South Pacific, which opened a long run in 1949. His great success as Emile de Becque in that musical led to other musicals, most notably Fanny, and a few movies, such as this one in 1951, when Pinza was 59.
The script is screwy more than screwball, frankly, and not worth recounting. Pinza has some very good scenes opposite a much younger Janet Leigh, then less than half his age at 24 and near the beginning of her movie career. (Remember that the early 1950s was an era of much older men, like Cary Grant and Gary Cooper, appearing opposite much younger women, like Audrey Hepburn, in romantic comedies.) Those scenes are good only because they are both good actors.
Other than that: Leigh is supposed to be from Mississippi. This was a mistake, since her exaggerated southern accent keeps appearing and disappearing.
Pinza sings a few forgettable pop songs and has two opera scenes.
The second one, "Le veau d'or" from Faust, is fun to watch, though the costumes are bad and the staging not good. It's fascinating to watch Pinza, at 59, jump on and off tables like a young man and really create a character. It's a shame they had him sing the part in French, which he does not handle as well as Italian. The subsequent scene of him hunting for Leigh in Grand Central Station while still in his Mefistopheles costume could have been a lot funnier if it had been handled by a better director.
The first opera scene is evidently from some made-up opera. It appears to be about a Roman general who is returning to his wife Calpurnia. The music is generic, but the Italian libretto sounds real, and Pinza does a great job singing the forgettable music.
So, in sum, not a great movie, but not an embarrassing one, either.