Love Parade (1929)

“I pronounce you wife and man.”

Synopsis:
A rakish count (Maurice Chevalier) marries the queen of Sylvania (Jeanette MacDonald), but finds his masculinity threatened by his new role as “Prince Consort”.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that “Ernst Lubitsch’s first sound film revolutionized the screen musical because he integrated numbers into the storyline and used non-synchronized sound… so he could move his camera without fear of losing some lyrics and picking up stage noise”. Indeed, film fanatics interested in the evolution of early sound cinema will surely be fascinated to watch this movie and see how much Lubitsch was able to accomplish, relatively speaking, within his technological constraints. What’s most surprising, however, is how enjoyable this witty pre-Code “bedroom comedy” remains on multiple other levels. The clever, often racy storyline “deals with a husband and wife who have troubles because neither is satisfied with their roles in [a] marriage”; what makes this particular variation on the theme so unusual is that it’s Chevalier who is dissatisfied with the back seat he must take to the demands of his royal wife. The ultimate resolution of this tension is dated and somewhat unsatisfying — but as Peary argues, “it’s all so silly that no one could be seriously offended”.

At the heart of the film’s success are its charismatic lovers. In her screen debut, MacDonald is “glowing” — as Peary notes, this “film is a reminder that [she] was not just a singer, but an okay comedienne and also an extremely sexy actress when given a chance”. Meanwhile, Oscar-nominated Chevalier cemented his American screen presence here as a “bubbling” ladies’ man; it’s easy to see why MacDonald’s “virgin queen” would fall head-over-heels for him. Most film fanatics will also be interested to see a very young Lillian Roth in her breakthrough comedic role as MacDonald’s maid; she performs a couple of enjoyable ditties and dances with “acrobatic, elastic-legged Lupino Lane” (playing Chevalier’s loyal servant).

While its pacing is occasionally off (it could have easily been trimmed by half-an-hour or so), this early Lubitsch outing remains worth a look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Maurice Chevalier as Alfred (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
  • Jeanette MacDonald as Queen Louise
  • Lillian Roth and Lupino Lane’s energetic dances together
  • Plenty of enjoyably racy pre-Code “innuendo”

Must See?
Yes, for its historical relevance as a ground-breaking early (narrative) musical.

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One Response to “Love Parade (1929)”

  1. A once-must, for its place in cinema history.

    Lubitsch is at his best here with a delightful trifle – which, nevertheless, turns surprisingly ‘tense’ when the romance goes awry; as stories like this need to before they need to end happily. MacDonald and Chevalier are fresh and appealing as a couple; their performances are natural and seem effortless.

    One hates to think what might have happened to the script had the film been made with the Code in place; no doubt, it would have lost quite a bit of its charm and a certain flat quality may have surfaced. Not that it’s particularly ‘naughty’ as is but those buttinsky censors did tend to be thorough. I wonder, for example, what might have happened to the scene in which MacDonald is reading a report of Chevalier’s many sexual escapades back in Paris – and she seems to be thoroughly enjoying it; so much so that she has to rush off to her boudoir and freshen up before really presenting herself to him.

    Lubitsch was, of course, famous for his “touch”(es); they’re everywhere and quite lovely – he’s very attentive to nuance. (I particularly like the way he handles the behavior of the groups of royal help, as they comment on the Queen’s actions or just generally murmur.) This is perhaps not the wittiest of scripts but it doesn’t need to be. It’s thin musical material served up in high style. (Some of those sets are absolutely enormous and can make the cast look like ants.)

    It’s true that it may seem a little long, but I don’t find it troublesome. Part of the length comes from the musical tradition of repeating songs we’ve already heard – usually for the sake of emotional emphasis.

    Favorite musical number: Roth and Lane doing the Cole Porter-esque “Let’s Be Common”.

    Favorite bits:

    – the dog ‘singing’ his verse own verse in “Paris, Stay the Same”

    – Chevalier using small binoculars to watch a female performer in the opera; then becoming ecstatic when someone hands him bigger binoculars.

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