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Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Clueless remake of the Franz Lehar operetta fails to make contact with its enchanting source material or to find any style of its own. M-G-M owned the property (a 1925 silent from Erich von Stroheim with an invented backstory; or Ernst Lubitsch finding an emotional center for Jeanette MacDonald & Maurice Chevalier in ‘34), but this Joe Pasternak/Curtis Bernhardt production rejiggers the plot (rich widow Lana Turner wooed for King & Country by Fernando Lamas’s handsome Count Danilo) into mistaken identity farce, with a soup├žon of Cinderella added at Maxim’s. (Look quick to see Gwen Verdon dancing in the restaurant’s Jack Cole floorshow. Hopelessly anachronistic, but the only good thing in here.) The score is reduced to a trio of tunes for Lamas to sing in his pleasant , if wayward voice, with Turner’s vocal double briefly joining for half a verse of the famous waltz. Saucy Una Merkel, a part of the earlier Lubitsch remake, holds her own against the cringe-worthy sets & costumes, but the rest of the supporting cast sink in amateur theatrics & moldy jokes. Maybe if Lana’s period costumes were more flattering . . . ?

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: As mentioned above, Stroheim’s silent adaptation, a huge hit in its day, still loaded with perverse touches; or the heavenly Lubitsch version (lyrics by Lorenz Hart) finally available in good shape thru Warner Archive.

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