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The Toast of New Orleans

The Toast of New Orleans(1950)


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In the early 1900s, in the swamplands of Louisiana, the Cajun fishing village of Bayou Minou is buzzing with activity as it prepares for the annual celebration of the blessing of the fishing fleet. During the festival, the village hosts two guests of honor from New Orleans: opera star Suzette Micheline and opera director Jacques Riboudeaux. Soon after arriving in Bayou Minou, Suzette, who has a romantic understanding with Jacques, meets the handsome and uncouth Pepe Abellard Duvalle, the nephew of fisherman Nicky Duvalle. Though Suzette is initially attracted to Pepe, she soon becomes perturbed by his crude manners, and is angered when he interrupts her musical recital at the festival and turns her solo into a duet. Jacques, however, is greatly impressed with Pepe's beautiful tenor voice, and invites Pepe to train in New Orleans and sing in his opera. Pepe initially rejects the offer, but later changes his mind when a ferocious storm sinks his uncle's fishing boat. Pepe and Nicky leave Bayou Minou in the hope that Pepe will be able to make enough money to buy a new boat. Soon after Pepe arrives in New Orleans, Jacques decides he must make Pepe more presentable in public, and enlists the help of Suzette to soften his "rough edges." Jacques also hires his well-heeled friend Oscar to teach Jacques some high society manner. Jacques later takes Pepe to Maestro P. Trellini, who is amazed at Pepe's voice and agrees to train him. One evening, Pepe and Nicky join Jacques and Suzette for an elegant dinner at a fancy restaurant, but they nearly spoil the evening with their crude country manners. While Oscar continues to teach Pepe about social graces, Trellini makes great progress training Pepe's voice. Jacques eventually becomes so confident in his new tenor that he makes plans to include Pepe in a worldwide tour of his opera. Suzette takes great pleasure in refining Pepe's behavior and tastes, and a romance appears inevitable. Suzette, however, is torn between her attraction to Pepe and her desire to please Jacques, who is responsible for advancing her singing career. One day, when Pepe tries to kiss Suzette, she rejects him and then hurriedly asks Jacques to marry her. Nicky, meanwhile, becomes homesick and impatient with his nephew's efforts to become rich and vows to return to Bayou Manou. Later, Pepe tells Jacques that he is in love with Suzette and that he intends to leave New Orleans because she has spurned him. Although Jacques now realizes that Suzette proposed to him only to save her career, he encourages Pepe to stay in New Orleans and continue his opera training. Tina and Pierre, two of Pepe's friends from Bayou Manou, visit Pepe one day, but they are disappointed when they discover that their fun-loving friend has become cold and rigid. Eventually, Suzette and Jacques, too, become alarmed at the change in Pepe's personality. After rejecting a marriage proposal from Pepe, Suzette explains to Jacques that she was in love with Pepe before he became so refined, but no longer has feelings for him. When Tina and Pierre leave New Orleans because they are bored, Pepe finally realizes that he has changed for the worse. During a performance of Madame Butterfly , Pepe reverts to his natural behavior and, as a result, is able to reignite his romance with Suzette.