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The charming and romantic musical Rose Marie (1954) stars Ann Blyth as the title character, an orphaned tomboy living on her own in the Canadian wilderness when she is discovered by Captain Mike Malone (Howard Keel) of the Royal Canadian Mounties. When Mike brings Rose Marie back to town and tries to make a lady of her, he soon finds himself falling in love. Rose Marie's heart, however, belongs to the handsome French Canadian trapper Jim (Fernando Lamas). Torn between feelings of loyalty and true passion, Rose Marie must make a difficult choice between the two men.
Directed by Hollywood veteran Mervyn LeRoy (Gold Diggers of 1933 , Random Harvest ), Rose Marie was MGM's first CinemaScope musical. The lavish Technicolor production features breathtaking scenery, lively musical numbers staged by the legendary Busby Berkeley, and rich performances from some of Hollywood's brightest stars of the studio era including the delightful Bert Lahr and Marjorie Main in comic supporting roles.
Rose Marie was based on the famous stage operetta originally written by Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II and Rudolph Frinl that was first produced for the New York stage in 1924. The story had already been filmed twice before at MGM, both times to great success. The 1928 silent version featured Joan Crawford in the title role, and the 1936 version starred Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. While the 1936 version had been a huge hit, it had veered quite a distance from the original material, making significant changes from the story and original musical score. With the 1954 production, director Mervyn LeRoy made a concerted effort to be much more faithful to the source material.
Rose Marie would be the last film that Mervyn LeRoy ever directed for MGM. LeRoy had worked successfully at MGM for over 20 years, but he and new studio head Dore Schary butted heads frequently, and LeRoy wanted out. Rose Marie would be his MGM swan song before moving to Warner Bros.
Both Ann Blyth and Howard Keel were at the height of their fame when they made Rose Marie. However, Keel almost didn't appear in it. Unhappy with the first draft of the screenplay, Keel made it clear to MGM that he did not want to play Captain Mike Malone. "I told my agent, 'I'm not doing Rose Marie. I read the script, and the Mounty part is a jerk,'" said Keel in his 2005 autobiography Only Make Believe: My Life in Show Business. After meeting with Dore Schary and Mervyn LeRoy, however, a new writer was assigned to improve the script, and the changes ultimately met with his satisfaction.
The shoot was a pleasant one, according to Keel, especially on location in the majestic mountains of Mammoth, California, which doubled for the Canadian Rockies. "I didn't sing with Ann Blyth," said Keel, "but she was a delightful cutie and sang beautifully. Fernando Lamas was Fernando, and he sang very well. Bert Lahr was Bert Lahr, and he and Marjorie Main were hilarious together...Bert couldn't stand her. While Marjorie Main was a talented lady, there was something very strange about her, and that drove Bert up the wall."
While this Rose Marie never reached the level of popularity of the 1936 version, it was still a solid hit that found a loyal following with audiences who loved its visual beauty and captivating romantic story. Songs include favorites from the original score such as "Rose Marie," "Totem Tom-Tom" and the famous "Indian Love Call," with a few new tunes added such as "The Right Place for a Girl," "Free to Be Free" and "Mounties."
Producer: Mervyn LeRoy (uncredited)
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay: Ronald Millar, George Froeschel (screenplay); Otto A. Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II (operetta)
Cinematography: Paul Vogel
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Merrill Pye
Music: Albert Sendrey, George Stoll, Robert Van Eps (all uncredited)
Film Editing: Harold F. Kress
Cast: Ann Blyth (Rose Marie Lemaitre), Howard Keel (Capt. Mike Malone), Fernando Lamas (James Severn Duval), Bert Lahr (Barney McCorkle), Marjorie Main (Lady Jane Dunstock), Joan Taylor (Wanda), Ray Collins (Insp. Appleby), Chief Yowlachie (Black Eagle).
C-105m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Andrea Passafiume