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teaser Rose-Marie (1936)

Rose-Marie (1936) was the second screen teaming of Jeanette MacDonald and NelsonEddy, following the surprising success of Naughty Marietta (1935), which had the publicclamoring for more. Rose-Marie was the first sound film version of the 1924 Rudolph Friml operetta. It had been filmed as a 1928 silent starring Joan Crawford and James Murray. But while the later version featured the Friml score, including the famous Indian LoveCall, it changed the Otto Harbach-Oscar Hammerstein story completely. MacDonald plays afamous opera singer on tour in Canada. Her brother is an escaped convict, and MacDonald leavesher tour and travels incognito into the woods, hoping to find him before the Mounties do. Eddyplays the Mountie pursuing her brother who eventually pursues the diva.

By the time they made Naughty Marietta, MacDonald was already a big star. Eddy had asuccessful concert career, but hadn't made many films. MGM next planned to co-star Eddy inRose-Marie with opera star Grace Moore, who still owed MGM a film. But Moorebalked at co-starring with someone she considered an "unknown." In the meantime, NaughtyMarietta was turning out to be a huge hit, so the studio was happy to replace Moore withMacDonald, and assigned W.S. Van Dyke, who helmed Naughty Marietta, to directRose-Marie.

Van Dyke was a speedy, economical director, who nevertheless could be counted on todeliver a classy and well-acted product. The studio made a decision that was revolutionary forthe time: they would shoot the outdoor scenes on location, with the LakeTahoe area of northern California standing in for Canada. Rose-Marie was one of thefirst musicals to use a naturalistic setting. A special train of seventeen box cars carted theequipment to the location. Movie crews built several 40-foot totem poles in state parkland atEmerald Bay for the Indian totem pole dance. With a cast of almost a thousand people (cast, extras and crew), feeding everyone was a problem, and the cuisine was less-than-gourmet boxlunches. One day, for a treat, the crew set up a table for Van Dyke with a hot meal. The directorasked if it was the same food that the crew was getting, and when he found out that it wasn't, herefused the meal and stood in line for box lunches like everyone else. The director was a dedicatedprankster, and one of his more elaborate jokes involved rigging a fake explosion, for which thefilm's vocal coach believed himself responsible. Another time, while filming a scene in whichMacDonald falls into a river, he sent the crew to lunch and left the star sitting in thewater.

Rose-Marie was an important film in the careers of several newcomers. Cast asMacDonald's brother on the lam was James Stewart, in his third film. Van Dyke had noticedStewart in his previous bit parts, and asked for him to play John Flower. This was the film thatreally started Stewart's career, and he always gave credit to Van Dyke for the boost. Also astandout in Rose-Marie was Allan Jones, the tenor who shares operatic arias withMacDonald in the film. He was newly-arrived at MGM, and had only been featured in musicalsequences in films. Eddy, who had recently been in the same position as Jones, felt threatened bythe other singer, and demanded that Jones' scenes be trimmed. But the following year, Joneswould get his chance, when he co-starred with MacDonald in The Firefly (1937). Lessauspicious was the part played in Rose-Marie by another newcomer, David Niven, castas one of MacDonald's suitors. He receives a screen credit as "David Nivens," but in hisautobiography Niven claims that in the finished film, his bit part had been reshot with anotheractor.

Rose-Marie was even bigger at the box office than Naughty Marietta. JeanetteMacDonald and Nelson Eddy would make a total of eight films together, and sang 37 duets inthem. But of all those films and all those romantic melodies, the one that is considered thequintessential MacDonald-Eddy number, for better or worse, is Indian LoveCall.

,B> Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Screenplay: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Alice Duer Miller, based on the operetta by OttoA. Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, Rudolf Friml, Herbert Stothart
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Joseph C. Wright, Edwin B. Willis
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Costume Design: Adrian
Editor: Blanche Sewell
Music: Rudolf Friml, Herbert Stothart, lyrics by Otto A. Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, GusKahn
Cast: Jeanette MacDonald (Marie de Flor), Nelson Eddy (Sgt. Bruce), James Stewart (JohnFlower), Reginald Owen (Myerson), George Regas (Boniface), Robert Greig (Cafe Manager),Una O'Connor (Anna), Allan Jones (Tenor), Gilda Gray (Bella), David Nivens (Teddy).
BW-111m. Closed captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri

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