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"The Merry Widow" (1934/1952)


Film_Fatale

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TCM is showing both versions of *The Merry Widow* this Wednesday (the first one, it seems, due to Ernst Lubitsch's birthday).

 

I don't recall if I've seen one or both versions, but for those who have: which one do you like best, and why?

 

*The Merry Widow* (1934)

A prince from a small kingdom courts a wealthy widow to keep her money in the country.

Cast: Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Edward Everett Horton, Una Merkel Dir: Ernst Lubitsch BW-99 mins, TV-PG

 

1934_The_Merry_Widow.jpg

 

*The Merry Widow* (1952)

A prince from a small kingdom courts a wealthy widow to keep her money in the country.

Cast: Lana Turner, Fernando Lamas, Una Merkel, Richard Haydn Dir: Curtis Bernhardt C-105 mins, TV-G

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The 34 version of The Merry Widow is ageless and the one to see. It's hasn't been available on home video since the mid-1980s and on VHS when Ted Turner released it under the old MGM/UA Video label.

 

Warner Home Video now owns the rights. They have long promised a DVD (since 2002 actually) but this never materialized. I suspect when they finally get around to it, the movie will become part of their 'Archive Collection' - a poor cousin 'burn on demand' release as opposed to a properly minted DVD.

 

The 52 version is rather painful to watch. Neither Lamas or Turner can or do sing. Remember that the original film is an operetta with Jeanette MacDonald warbling most of the score and Chevalier blissfully singing 'girls, girls, girls.' The remake has Technicolor going for it and that's about it. Otherwise, its a rather colourless experience and should be - and probably is - largely forgotten.

 

 

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I think we need to start a letter writing campagin to get Merry Widow (1934)

 

 

released on BluRay!

 

 

 

 

 

The 1934 version of The Merry Widow has several arguments to recommend it as

 

 

one of the next films to be restored and released, at least on DVD!

 

 

 

 

 

1) Ernst Lubitsch sophisticated light comedic touch, his whip cream delivery tops

 

 

this tasty romantic comedy.

 

 

 

 

 

2) Franz Lahar's addictive music and lyrics, timeless and fresh today.

 

 

 

 

 

3) Maurice Chevalier at his peak of sexy inuendo and flirty confidence.

 

 

 

 

 

4) Alluring yet cool to the touch Jeanette MacDonald before she got away from her

 

 

 

 

 

preCode underwear shots and believed the critics when they said she was an opera

 

 

diva.

 

 

 

 

 

5) MGM grand production values. The giant plush sets, hundreds of costumes and

 

 

sweeping dance choreography that twirls and hops across a full screen of joy!

 

 

 

 

 

Talk about a great date movie, everyone gets lucky after watching this widow.

 

 

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I also watched the 1934 "The Merry Widow" on TCM and loved it.

 

As the co-host of "Choreography by Jack Cole" this coming Monday, September 10, 2012, I would like to highlight Cole's choreography for the 1952 version of "The Merry Widow." His big waltz sequence is marvelous in its morphing between dream and reality. He imbues the dance with deeply romantic moodniess by the changes in lighting. At one point, he bathes the scene in pink light. And he fills the frame with rich moving color. I love it.

 

I blogged on Jack Cole's "Merry Widow" waltz here, including video:

 

http://artsmeme.com/2011/12/25/jack-cole-invites-you-to-a-ball/

 

In my story, you'll read that Cole transfered the theme of waltzing girls in pink dresses right into "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" at Fox.

 

The choreographer for the Lubitsch version, Albertina Rasch, does a very wonderful job, as well, with her waltz. Cole in fact quotes from it.

 

Please tune in Monday night. We have another great MGM musical on the roster, "Les Girls" (1957). Cheers!

 

Debra Levine

 

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