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Jazz up your lingerie! Here comes 'The Smiling Lieutenant'


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TCM will show this clever Ernst Lubitsch comedy from 1931 at 8 p.m. (ET) Monday (Feb. 20) to kick off a salute to Austria. If you've never seen this Best Picture nominee, by all means do so.

 

Maurice Chevalier is his usual suave self, but instead of Jeanette MacDonald as his leading lady, he has two -- Claudette Colbert (with darker hair than the better-known Claudette of later in the '30s) as the leader of an all-female orchestra who Maurice loves, and Miriam Hopkins as a rather prim princess who through a mistaken wink thinks he's in love with her, and thus they must marry. Eventually things are resolved, thanks in part to a wonderfully outrageous song called "Jazz Up Your Lingerie," where Claudette explains to Miriam is that the way to a man's heart is through her underthings. (This came a few decades before Cole Porter expressed similar thoughts in writing "Satin And Silk" for "Silk Stockings.") A lot of fun

 

Another Claudette film, the 1934 "Cleopatra" with Warren William, is on at 9 a.m. (ET) during a salute to Rome.

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A terrific film that was once thought lost.

 

Also, Miriam Hopkins reprises "Jazz Up Your Lingerie," which she pounds out on a piano while dangling a lit cigarette from her lips ...

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You know, I LOVE Lubitsch: Heaven Can Wait, Trouble in Paradise, Ninotchka, and Cluny Brown being as close to perfection as any films I can think of.

 

Lieutenant is gorgeous and witty and well-decorated, sinfully "continental" in its pre-Code mindset, and Miriam Hopkins in her prime was just the best but I have two BIG issues:

 

1. Claudette is trying but she cannot sing. (Bless her heart.)

2. Why exactly is it that we, the viewer, are supposed to root for, like and empathize with the asinine, mincing, prancing, heavily mascared and be-lipsticked, womanizing, effete, self-centered, insensitive, thoughtless, craven man-pig of a "hero"?

 

Anyone?

 

Oh, and singing next to Chevalier, Claudette is practically Marion Anderson.

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}I thought it was Miriam Hopkins we were supposed to root for. At least I was rooting for her. Anyone who can toss off a tune on the piano like she did has my vote.

That was fabulous, wasn't it? And the cigarette dangling betwixt the lip just made it.

 

I personally was rooting for Mims and Claudette to come to their senses, have Maurice done away with and go on a fabulous crime spree across Europe.

 

Really, America of the 1930's- you enjoyed Maurice Chevalier?? You paid to see him do this schtick? I mean, I guess we got our revenge years later with the whole Jerry Lewis exchange, but eesh! Wasn't the Depression hard enough to get through without having to watch him?

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}I thought it was Miriam Hopkins we were supposed to root for. At least I was rooting for her. Anyone who can toss off a tune on the piano like she did has my vote.

And I thought it was Claudette we were supposed to root for ! That's 3 different takes on who the audience is supposed to root for !

I can't decide if that means the film was exceptionally good, or exceptionally confused.

 

I'd like to add to the comments about *The Smiling Lieutenant*: I'll give it this, it had a completely unpredictable ending. I thought for sure, Chevalier was going to somehow extricate himself from the marriage and return to Franzi. I thought he was supposed to be in love with her ! But no, one quick makeover for Anna, and he's forgotten all about his first love. As I say, at least it ended differently from what the viewer might have expected.

 

( But I did enjoy the makeover scene itself ; and when they parted, it almost looked like Anna and Franzi had not only become friends, but that they were thinking of something more...)

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(But I did enjoy the makeover scene itself ; and when they parted, it almost looked like Anna and Franzi had not only become friends, but that they were thinking of something more...)

 

In other words, we could have had a sequel a la "Design For Living," only this time, Hopkins is Chevalier?

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