Balalaika


1h 42m 1939
Balalaika

Brief Synopsis

Refugees from the Russian Revolution build a new life in Paris.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Musical
Period
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Dec 29, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 15 Dec 1939
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical Balalaika , book and lyrics by Eric Maschwitz, music by George Posford and Bernard Grun (London, 22 Dec 1936).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

In the days of Czarist Russia, it is love at first sight when Peter, a prince in the Czarist regime and an officer in the Cossack army, sees Lydia, a cabaret singer. Realizing that Lydia, whose brother and father are leaders of the revolutionary movement, would never fraternize with a member of the aristocracy, Peter disguises himself as a student and the two fall in love. Their romance is shattered when Lydia discovers Peter's true identity as he leads his Cossacks into the public square to break up a demonstration and her brother Dimitri is killed in the scuffle. Soon after, the war with Germany begins, and Lydia and Peter are separated as Peter goes off to fight in the trenches. When the war finally ends, members of the Russian aristocracy emigrate to Paris, where they find work as taxi drivers and doormen. Peter's friend Nicki opens a Paris version of the Cafe Balalaika, where the emigres congregate to reminisce. It is at the cafe that on New Year's Eve Peter and Lydia meet again and, mellowed by the trauma of war and revolution, agree to reconcile.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Musical
Period
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Dec 29, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 15 Dec 1939
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical Balalaika , book and lyrics by Eric Maschwitz, music by George Posford and Bernard Grun (London, 22 Dec 1936).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Award Nominations

Best Sound

1939

Articles

Balalaika


The romantic musical Balalaika (1939), starring Nelson Eddy and Ilona Massey and evocatively photographed by Joseph Ruttenberg and Karl Freund, takes its title from a Russian stringed instrument mentioned decades later in the Beatles song "Back in the U.S.S.R." The word also serves as the title for a current film comedy from Turkey.

The Eddy/Massey Balalaika was based on a hit London stage musical of the same title by Eric Maschwitz, which had in turn been inspired by a German operetta. Eddy plays a Russian prince who falls for cafÈ singer Massey and arranges for her to sing at the Imperial opera. The lovers face a stormy future, since the prince's father is assassinated by the Reds and the singer's father is among the killers. As World War I is about to begin, the singer and her family are exiled to Siberia, while the former Prince becomes a singing sensation in Paris. However, since this is an MGM musical, you may rest assured that the lovers are eventually reunited. The source of the music in Balalaika remains in some confusion, since it includes adaptations by music director Herbert Stothart of tunes from the original Bernard Grun/George Posford score as well as material already owned by MGM. Also included in the mix are excerpts from Bizet's Carmen and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade. The songs include "At the Balalaika," "Ride, Cossack, Ride," "Ochi Tchornya," "Tanya" and "Shadows on the Sand." In a touching sequence, Eddy sings "Stille Nacht" ("Silent Night") at the Austro-Russian front, with the words echoed by an enemy chorus just before the signal is given for attack. Another poignant moment comes in the film's climax at a Parisian cafÈ where Russian emigres have gathered after the Revolution, with one of them (Frank Morgan) singing of his "Land of Dreams." Balalaika is further distinguished by its outstanding supporting cast and the romantic costume designs of Adrian.

Before Massey was substituted as leading lady, Balalaika had been planned as a vehicle for Eddy and his longtime costar Jeanette MacDonald. Born in Hungary, Massey was discovered for American films by Louis B. Mayer when he attended a performance of Aida in Czechoslovakia and was enchanted by her offstage voice singing the high priestess's aria. After sending an invitation backstage to join him for supper, Mayer was delighted to see that Ilona Hajmassy, as she was then known, was a statuesque blonde with movie-star looks. In addition to being a strong singer, she also was an accomplished dancer (which could not be said of MacDonald).

Massey worked on two other occasions with Eddy, playing the supporting role of a lady-in-waiting to his costar Eleanor Powell in the MGM musical Rosalie (1937) and costarring with him once again in his final film, Northwest Outpost (1947), a musical Western from Republic Pictures. Despite the promise of Balalaika, Massey's career turned out to be a disappointing one that played out in minor film and TV appearances.

Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Reinhold Schunzel
Screenplay: Charles Bennett, Jacques Deval, Leon Gordon, from play by Eric Maschwitz
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu (associate)
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg, Karl Freund
Costume Design: Adrian (gowns), Valles (men's)
Editing: George Boemler
Original Music: Bernard Grun, George Posford, Herbert Stothart (also adaptation)
Principal Cast: Nelson Eddy (Prince Peter Karagin, aka Peter Teranda), Ilona Massey (Lydia Pavlovna Marakova), Charles Ruggles (Nicki Popoff), Frank Morgan (Ivan Danchenoff), Lionel Atwill (Professor Marakov), C. Aubrey Smith (General Karagin), Joyce Compton (Masha).
BW-103m. Closed captioning.

by Roger Fristoe

Balalaika

Balalaika

The romantic musical Balalaika (1939), starring Nelson Eddy and Ilona Massey and evocatively photographed by Joseph Ruttenberg and Karl Freund, takes its title from a Russian stringed instrument mentioned decades later in the Beatles song "Back in the U.S.S.R." The word also serves as the title for a current film comedy from Turkey. The Eddy/Massey Balalaika was based on a hit London stage musical of the same title by Eric Maschwitz, which had in turn been inspired by a German operetta. Eddy plays a Russian prince who falls for cafÈ singer Massey and arranges for her to sing at the Imperial opera. The lovers face a stormy future, since the prince's father is assassinated by the Reds and the singer's father is among the killers. As World War I is about to begin, the singer and her family are exiled to Siberia, while the former Prince becomes a singing sensation in Paris. However, since this is an MGM musical, you may rest assured that the lovers are eventually reunited. The source of the music in Balalaika remains in some confusion, since it includes adaptations by music director Herbert Stothart of tunes from the original Bernard Grun/George Posford score as well as material already owned by MGM. Also included in the mix are excerpts from Bizet's Carmen and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade. The songs include "At the Balalaika," "Ride, Cossack, Ride," "Ochi Tchornya," "Tanya" and "Shadows on the Sand." In a touching sequence, Eddy sings "Stille Nacht" ("Silent Night") at the Austro-Russian front, with the words echoed by an enemy chorus just before the signal is given for attack. Another poignant moment comes in the film's climax at a Parisian cafÈ where Russian emigres have gathered after the Revolution, with one of them (Frank Morgan) singing of his "Land of Dreams." Balalaika is further distinguished by its outstanding supporting cast and the romantic costume designs of Adrian. Before Massey was substituted as leading lady, Balalaika had been planned as a vehicle for Eddy and his longtime costar Jeanette MacDonald. Born in Hungary, Massey was discovered for American films by Louis B. Mayer when he attended a performance of Aida in Czechoslovakia and was enchanted by her offstage voice singing the high priestess's aria. After sending an invitation backstage to join him for supper, Mayer was delighted to see that Ilona Hajmassy, as she was then known, was a statuesque blonde with movie-star looks. In addition to being a strong singer, she also was an accomplished dancer (which could not be said of MacDonald). Massey worked on two other occasions with Eddy, playing the supporting role of a lady-in-waiting to his costar Eleanor Powell in the MGM musical Rosalie (1937) and costarring with him once again in his final film, Northwest Outpost (1947), a musical Western from Republic Pictures. Despite the promise of Balalaika, Massey's career turned out to be a disappointing one that played out in minor film and TV appearances. Producer: Lawrence Weingarten Director: Reinhold Schunzel Screenplay: Charles Bennett, Jacques Deval, Leon Gordon, from play by Eric Maschwitz Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu (associate) Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg, Karl Freund Costume Design: Adrian (gowns), Valles (men's) Editing: George Boemler Original Music: Bernard Grun, George Posford, Herbert Stothart (also adaptation) Principal Cast: Nelson Eddy (Prince Peter Karagin, aka Peter Teranda), Ilona Massey (Lydia Pavlovna Marakova), Charles Ruggles (Nicki Popoff), Frank Morgan (Ivan Danchenoff), Lionel Atwill (Professor Marakov), C. Aubrey Smith (General Karagin), Joyce Compton (Masha). BW-103m. Closed captioning. by Roger Fristoe

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

According to pre-production news items in Hollywood Reporter, M-G-M planned to make this film for two years before production actually began. Although Ilona Massey was slated for the lead, the studio also considered revising the script as a vehicle for Miliza Korjus. Another news item in Hollywood Reporter adds that Nelson Eddy and Ilona Massey spent four weeks pre-recording their musical numbers before filming began. The film received an Academy Award nomination in the Sound Recording category.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1939

Released in United States 1939