Bitter Sweet


1h 32m 1940
Bitter Sweet

Brief Synopsis

A voice teacher and his star pupil run away together to a life of love and poverty.

Photos & Videos

Bitter Sweet - Movie Posters

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 8, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the operetta Bitter Sweet by Noël Coward (London, 18 Jul 1929).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

In the late Nineteenth century, on the evening of her engagement party to stodgy Harry Daventry, Sarah Millick foresakes her fiancé for the love of her Viennese music teacher, Carl Linden. After eloping to Vienna, the newlyweds take up residence in Carl's garret, and are welcomed by his friends Max, Ernst and Mama Luden. Sarah inspires Carl to complete the operetta that he is composing, but when he is unable to sell his work, the couple suffer financial hardships. They are at their most desperate when Sarah convinces a local grocer to let her give his daughter singing lessons, but is fired a few minutes later when Carl tries to convince the grocer to hire him to do the job. When the grocer angrily orders them both out, they return to their flat. Their fortunes start to change when Max and Ernst pawn a piece of their furniture to buy some meat and bread, after which the group decides to become street musicians. One afternoon, as they are performing on the streets of Baden, Sarah attracts the attention of Lord Shayne, as well as the lecherous Baron von Tranisch, who gets her a job at Schlick's Cafe. At the cafe, Sarah learns that the Baron is her benefactor when he comes to claim his reward, and she quits her job. She returns to sing, however, when Lord Shayne brings impressario Herr Wyler to hear Carl's operetta. As Sarah performs for Herr Wyler, the drunken Baron accosts her. To defend his wife's honor, Carl fights a duel in which he dies at the Baron's sword. Although Carl dies, he lives on in his music when Herr Wyler agrees to stage his operetta, and Sarah remains in Vienna to star in the production. After the premiere of the opera, Sarah returns to their flat and, knowing that Carl is not dead as long as his music continues, sings to him as she gazes across the Vienese sky

Cast

Jeanette Macdonald

Sarah Millick

Nelson Eddy

Carl Linden

George Sanders

Baron von Tranisch

Ian Hunter

Lord Shayne

Felix Bressart

Max

Edward Ashley

Harry Daventry

Lynne Carver

Dolly

Diana Lewis

Jane

Curt Bois

Ernst

Fay Holden

Mrs. Millick

Sig Rumann

Herr Schlick

Janet Beecher

Lady Daventry

Charles Judels

Herr Wyler

Veda Ann Borg

Manon

Herman Bing

Market keeper

Greta Meyer

Mama Luden

Rosemarie Brancato

Stage performer

Jack Powell

Stage performer

Mauricette Melbourne

Stage performer

Katherine Harris

Stage performer

Neal Kennedy

Stage performer

Andrew Grieve

Stage performer

Music Hall Rockettes

Corps De Ballet And Glee Club

Philip Winter

Edgar

Armand Kaliz

Headwaiter

Alexander Pollard

Butler

Colin Campbell

Sir Arthur Feuchurch

Art Berry Sr.

Cabbie

Sam Savitsky

Bearded man

Howard Lang

Pawnbroker

Lester Scharff

Man on stairs

Hans Joby

Man on stairs

Jeff Corey

Man on stairs

Paul E. Burns

Lathered man

Hans Conried

Rudolph

John Hendrick

Fritz

Ruth Tobey

Market keeper's child

Warren Rock

Wyler's secretary

William Tannen

Secretary at employment agency

Davison Clark

Attendant

Jean Debriac

Croupier

Erno Verebes

Orderly

Pamela Randall

Hansi

Muriel Goodspeed

Freda

Earl Wallace

Wine waiter

Louis Natheaux

Officer

Margaret Bert

Woman on stairs

Julius Tannen

Schlick's companion

Armand Cortes

Second croupier

Irene Colman

Girl in casino

June Wilkins

Girl in casino

Jack Chefe

Waiter

Gino Corrado

Waiter

Max Barwyn

Bartender

Eugene Beday

Civilian

Paul Oman

Violinist

J. D. Jewkes

Charles Prescott

Tim Stark

Photo Collections

Bitter Sweet - Movie Posters
Here are some original release movie posters from Bitter Sweet (1940), starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 8, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the operetta Bitter Sweet by Noël Coward (London, 18 Jul 1929).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1940

Best Cinematography

1940

Articles

Bitter Sweet


Bitter Sweet (1940) was the sixth feature film that America's singing sweethearts Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald made together. In the film, MacDonald plays an English society girl in the late 19th century who escapes an arranged marriage and elopes to Vienna with her penniless music teacher, played by Eddy. The blissful newlyweds need only love to live on as composer Eddy shops his operetta around town in hopes of having it produced. Fate intervenes in the form of Baron Von Tranisch (George Sanders), who hires MacDonald to sing in his cafe, but his motives are less than honorary. When he tries to force himself on her, Eddy challenges him to a duel.

Bitter Sweet was based on the operetta of the same name written by Noel Coward and performed first on the London and New York stages in 1929. It had been filmed once before in Hollywood in 1933 with Anna Neagle and Fernand Gravey in the roles of the young lovers. Jeanette MacDonald had also been considered for the lead in the 1933 film as well, but negotiations broke down resulting in Neagle getting the part instead.

The Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald Technicolor remake of Bitter Sweet was much anticipated as the operatic singing pair was at the height of its popularity. The buzz was that it might be another Maytime (1937), one of the team's greatest screen successes. For her role, MacDonald had to age convincingly from youth to old age. According to James Robert Parish in The Jeanette MacDonald Story (Mason/Charter), "this provided a challenge for makeup expert Jack Dawn. He prepared three life masks of Jeanette, and then by experimenting with a rubberlike substance he called "formula six" composed segmental latex alterations for her to apply as she "aged." Parish also wrote that during filming MacDonald once "arrived at the studio in a shade of vermilion called "sunburn." The burn was so severe that a Hungarian costume she was to wear had to be redesigned with a higher neck, and while modeling the outfit on camera, the star had to keep her smiling face in full view of the all-revealing lens."

A more serious problem was that the structure of Bitter Sweet too closely resembled Maytime. MGM therefore ordered Bitter Sweet's prologue and epilogue trimmed before it was released in an effort to cut down on the similarities between the two films.

Upon its release Bitter Sweet received a lukewarm reception from the public, and it turned out to be a rare financial disappointment for a Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald picture. Some critics found fault with the lavish production value, while others felt that Lesser Samuels' screenplay strayed too far from Noel Coward's original source material. Some even criticized the leads, both in their late 30s, for being too old to play young lovers. Most did agree, however, that the film's visual artistry was commendable with its beautiful costumes and sumptuous Technicolor art direction, which garnered an Academy Award nomination, as did the color cinematography. The grand number "Zigeuner" at the end of the film was given particular accolades for its unique staging and set design. The lovely Noel Coward songs featured include "Dear Little Cafe," "If You Could Only Come With Me" and "Tokay."

Producer: Victor Saville
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Screenplay: Noel Coward (play), Lesser Samuels
Cinematography: Allen M. Davey, Oliver T. Marsh
Film Editing: Harold F. Kress
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Noel Coward
Cast: Jeanette MacDonald (Sarah Millick), Nelson Eddy (Carl Linden), George Sanders (Baron Von Tranisch), Ian Hunter (Lord Shayne), Felix Bressart (Max), Edward Ashley (Harry Daventry).
C-94m. Closed captioning.

by Andrea Passafiume
Bitter Sweet

Bitter Sweet

Bitter Sweet (1940) was the sixth feature film that America's singing sweethearts Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald made together. In the film, MacDonald plays an English society girl in the late 19th century who escapes an arranged marriage and elopes to Vienna with her penniless music teacher, played by Eddy. The blissful newlyweds need only love to live on as composer Eddy shops his operetta around town in hopes of having it produced. Fate intervenes in the form of Baron Von Tranisch (George Sanders), who hires MacDonald to sing in his cafe, but his motives are less than honorary. When he tries to force himself on her, Eddy challenges him to a duel. Bitter Sweet was based on the operetta of the same name written by Noel Coward and performed first on the London and New York stages in 1929. It had been filmed once before in Hollywood in 1933 with Anna Neagle and Fernand Gravey in the roles of the young lovers. Jeanette MacDonald had also been considered for the lead in the 1933 film as well, but negotiations broke down resulting in Neagle getting the part instead. The Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald Technicolor remake of Bitter Sweet was much anticipated as the operatic singing pair was at the height of its popularity. The buzz was that it might be another Maytime (1937), one of the team's greatest screen successes. For her role, MacDonald had to age convincingly from youth to old age. According to James Robert Parish in The Jeanette MacDonald Story (Mason/Charter), "this provided a challenge for makeup expert Jack Dawn. He prepared three life masks of Jeanette, and then by experimenting with a rubberlike substance he called "formula six" composed segmental latex alterations for her to apply as she "aged." Parish also wrote that during filming MacDonald once "arrived at the studio in a shade of vermilion called "sunburn." The burn was so severe that a Hungarian costume she was to wear had to be redesigned with a higher neck, and while modeling the outfit on camera, the star had to keep her smiling face in full view of the all-revealing lens." A more serious problem was that the structure of Bitter Sweet too closely resembled Maytime. MGM therefore ordered Bitter Sweet's prologue and epilogue trimmed before it was released in an effort to cut down on the similarities between the two films. Upon its release Bitter Sweet received a lukewarm reception from the public, and it turned out to be a rare financial disappointment for a Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald picture. Some critics found fault with the lavish production value, while others felt that Lesser Samuels' screenplay strayed too far from Noel Coward's original source material. Some even criticized the leads, both in their late 30s, for being too old to play young lovers. Most did agree, however, that the film's visual artistry was commendable with its beautiful costumes and sumptuous Technicolor art direction, which garnered an Academy Award nomination, as did the color cinematography. The grand number "Zigeuner" at the end of the film was given particular accolades for its unique staging and set design. The lovely Noel Coward songs featured include "Dear Little Cafe," "If You Could Only Come With Me" and "Tokay." Producer: Victor Saville Director: W.S. Van Dyke Screenplay: Noel Coward (play), Lesser Samuels Cinematography: Allen M. Davey, Oliver T. Marsh Film Editing: Harold F. Kress Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: Noel Coward Cast: Jeanette MacDonald (Sarah Millick), Nelson Eddy (Carl Linden), George Sanders (Baron Von Tranisch), Ian Hunter (Lord Shayne), Felix Bressart (Max), Edward Ashley (Harry Daventry). C-94m. Closed captioning. by Andrea Passafiume

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

A Hollywood Reporter production chart adds Leni Lynn to the cast, but her participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Some of the lyrics in the "Tokay" number were dubbed for Jeanette MacDonald by Ann Harriette Lee, who also instructed MacDonald in French accents and pronunciation for the number. The picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Color Photography. According to news items in Hollywood Reporter in early 1932, Paramount Pictures was planning to film a two-strip Technicolor version of the Noel Coward operetta. The picture was planned as a spring or summer production and was to star Jeanette MacDonald. Although that version was never made, in 1933, Herbert Wilcox directed Anna Neagle in a British version of the operetta. Irene Dunne appeared in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story on November 5, 1936.