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Sunday, July 16, 2017

SWEETHEARTS (1938)

This, the lightest & gayest (the right 1938 word) of the splashy Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy operettas, was also M-G-M’s first full-length 3-strip TechniColor feature. Something of a reward for last year’s top-grosser, MAYTIME/’37. The plot of Victor Herbert’s 1913 show (the usual Ruritanian nonsense about a princess working as laundress . . . in Zalinia!!) was jettisoned for a medium-funny backstager worked up by Dorothy Parker & Alan Campbell* about blissfully married songbirds (guess who) hoping to wrap up their long-running B’way hit and give Hollywood a try. Naturally, there’s a misunderstanding (about a canoodling personal assistant) to set off a crisis, but happily it doesn’t come into play till the last act. Most of the piece boasts unexpectedly relaxed playing from the stars, loads of gorgeous (if variable) early TechniColor work, a disposable fashion show for Jeanette and gargantuan specialty numbers, like a novelty dance from Ray Bolger and that revolving staircase (w/ matching draped curtains) built for THE GREAT ZIEGFELD/’36 pulled out of storage for the occasion. Even the plotty last act isn’t a total loss what with its nifty Slavko Vorkapich montage (the Busby Berkeley of trick editing) detailing a miserable tour of one-night stands as Nelson & Jeanette partner up in separate cities with their opposing understudies and start longing for a reunion. KISS ME, KATE it ain’t. But then, neither was KISS ME KATE once M-G-M got hold of it.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *Parker claimed to have done just about all the writing in her 'partnership' with two-time husband Campbell.

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