powered by AFI
Rosalie dazzled audiences and dismayed critics in 1937 with a storythat traveled from the Army-Navy game to a mythical European kingdom beforereturning to West Point for a lavish finale that presented a glamorized,Hollywood take on the famed military academy. With Nelson Eddy and RayBolger playing for the Army team, Eleanor Powell as a visiting princessfrom Vasser, a Cole Porter music score, a cast of 2,000 and a budget of athen-impressive $2 million, West Point never had it so good.
Rosalie first hit the boards in 1927 in a lavish Flo Ziegfeldproduction starring Marilyn Miller as the middle European princess whobecomes Americanized by love for a West Point cadet. The story had beeninspired by two recent news events: Lindbergh's solo flight across theAtlantic (the West Pointer flies to Europe to be with his ladylove) and theNew York visit of Queen Marie of Romania. Allegedly Ziegfeld was not allthat enthusiastic about the show, only producing it because his mother hadbeen named Rosalie. Much to his surprise, it became one of the hits of theyear.
MGM originally acquired the show as a vehicle for Marion Davies, but thoughshe completed a film version, the studio decided not to release it.Sources disagree as to whether any of her version was used in the 1937rendition that did make it to movie theatres. If any of it did, footage ofits blonde star would have been missing, as the title role was taken overby the studio's new dancing sensation, the decidedly brunette EleanorPowell. But she never got to dance to the original score that combinedtunes by Sigmund Romberg and George Gershwin (the latter writing the show'sbiggest hit, "How Long Has This Been Going On"). MGM scrapped theirnumbers in favor of a new score by another great Broadway tunesmith, ColePorter.
Although dancing star Powell seemed a strange match for classical baritoneNelson Eddy (who was usually paired with Jeanette MacDonald in the sort of musicals which had made him a star), Porter came up with a winning combination of hot rhythm numbers for her and more traditional ballads for him. In the latter category was the film's one enduring standard, "In the Still of the Night." Oddly, Eddy didn't want to sing it. He consideredthe melody too unconventional and didn't think audiences would take to thesong's unusually long melodic line. Usually, Porter would have adapted hisscore to the star's taste, but he felt this song was too good to lose, sohe appealed to studio head Louis B. Mayer, who was moved to tears by thenumber. On his orders, it stayed in the picture.
Mayer also exercised his influence over the film's title number. Portertried five times to come up with a musical tribute to the leading lady thatMayer would buy, but the mogul found each version too highbrow. Finally,the composer turned out the simplest number he could come up with; somebiographers have suggested he deliberately tried to write a bad song. Notonly did Mayer love it, but it went on to become a big hit. Porter finallychanged his mind about the song when fellow songwriter Irving Berlinadvised him, "Listen, kid, never hate a song that has sold a half-millioncopies."
The critics weren't much more enthusiastic about the film than Porter hadbeen about its title song. Writing in The New York Times, BosleyCrowther called it "one of the most pretentious demonstrations of sheermass and weight since the last Navy games." Years later, Pauline Kaelquipped, "the sets are to make a person of taste weep." But the publicloved it. Drawn by the hit songs, the popularity of Powell and Eddy, and alavish production in the grand style, they made Rosalie one of MGM'stop box-office hits of the year.
Producer: William Anthony McGuire
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Screenplay: William Anthony McGuire
Based on the Play by William Anthony McGuire and Guy Bolton
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Herbert Stothart
Cast: Nelson Eddy (Dick Thorpe), Eleanor Powell (Rosalie), IlonaMassey (Brenda), Ray Bolger (Bill Delroy), Frank Morgan (King Frederic),Edna May Oliver (Queen), Billy Gilbert (First Officer), Reginald Owen(Chancellor), George Zucco (General Maroff), Virginia Grey (Mary Callahan),William Demarest (Army's Coach), Jerry Colonna (Second Officer), TheAlbertina Rasch Dancers.
by Frank Miller