Behind the Camera On LOVE ME TONIGHT
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On the first day of shooting for Love Me Tonight, director Rouben Mamoulian was surprised to realize that the off-screen Maurice Chevalier was nothing like his screen image. The real man was sour and unhappy, sulking around the set between shots. Only when the director called "Action!" did his star turn on the joie de vivre.
Paramount executives thought Myrna Loy's character, Countess Valentine, superfluous and tried to make him cut her from the script. Instead, he sent out official scripts in which she had no lines, then privately sent Myrna Loy her scenes. When she started turning up in rushes, the executives were so happy with her performance, they stopped trying to eliminate the role.
For Love Me Tonight, Paramount assigned Mamoulian most of the crew that had worked on Ernst Lubitsch's musicals. Used to the congenial atmosphere of the other director's sets, they greatly resented Mamoulian's more somber approach. Before long the crew's hostility toward Mamoulian came out into the open. One day a lamp fell perilously close to the director, and later a soundman kept a sneeze on the track for a scene. Concerned about his poor rapport with the company, Mamoulian finally turned to MacDonald, who was also displeased with his methods. She told him to lighten up. "We are supposed to be making a comedy, a gay picture full of laughter. But it's almost impossible in the funereal atmosphere you're creating." He took her advice and the problem faded.
The biggest problem Mamoulian had with MacDonald was the constant presence of her manager and future fiancé, Bob Ritchie, on the set. Ritchie kept trying to direct her performance from the sidelines. Finally, Mamoulian had enough and had him barred from the set.
Originally the costume designer put MacDonald and Loy in similar gowns for the masquerade sequence, but seeing how good Loy looked in hers, the star demanded it for herself. Instead Mamoulian and Loy found an old black dress in wardrobe. Not only did it stand out perfectly, but it also stood out from MacDonald and the rest of the cast because Loy was the only one dressed in dark colors.
To appease the French consul in Los Angeles, a scene in which MacDonald strikes a servant was cut.
Paramount sold Love Me Tonight with the tag line, "Warm Love! Hilarious fun! Sweet music! Hot lyrics!"
MacDonald took off for a European tour after completing the film, declaring that if she ever returned to the movies it would be in dramatic roles. She also stated that she had no interest in playing any more risqué roles: "I just feel I have gone far enough in lingerie."
When Chevalier divorced his first wife in 1932, rumors spread that he had left her for MacDonald. At first they tried not to let it affect their friendship. When MacDonald toured to Europe after finishing Love Me Tonight, Chevalier offered her the use of his villa near Cannes, which outraged her manager, Bob Ritchie. To quell the rumors, MacDonald decided to decline his offer, though she still met with his family while there.
by Frank Miller
Hollywood Diva: A Biography of Jeanette MacDonald by Edward Baron Turk