Cast & Crew
In Vienna, Lieutenant Nikolaus "Niki" von Preyn falls in love with violinist Franzi at a beer garden, although his married friend Max has had his eye on her. Not long after, Niki convinces Franzi to stay with him through breakfast, and they are caught up in a happy romance. When the King of Flausenthurm arrives in Vienna with his homely and sheltered daughter, Princess Anna, Niki turns out with the guards in the street. He smiles and winks at Franzi, who is across the street, just as the carriage passes, and Anna believes the smile was meant for her and that he was making fun of her. This incident makes the headlines, and Niki is called before the king for disciplinary action. Noting that the king is easy prey to flattery, and realizing that telling the truth would be of no help, Niki claims that he smiled at Anna because he found her beautiful, and because of this, forgot his duty. Thrilled by his flattery, Anna forgives him, and the king appoints him to be his main adjutant while in Vienna. In the evening, Niki returns to Franzi, and when she shows signs of jealousy with regard to the princess, Niki honestly admits he does not even remember the color of Anna's hair. While he and Franzi reaffirm their love for each other, Anna is giving her ladies-in-waiting a glowing account of Niki. Anna begs her father to allow her to marry Niki, threatening to marry an American if he does not, and after getting approval from his cousin, the Emperor, the king gives his consent. Much to Niki's surprise, Adjutant Von Rockoff appears at Niki's apartment and informs him that, although he is not allowed to propose to the princess, he is to be married to her. When Niki attempts to protest the marriage, the emperor himself congratulates him and he realizes he is stuck. Dejected, Franzi takes her lingerie, sheet music and violin and leaves Niki's apartment, but leaves behind a garter and a note saying, "It was lovely while it lasted." Niki and Anna are married and move to Flausenthurm, but Niki is too miserable to consummate the union, and Anna spends most of her time playing checkers with her father. One day, Niki discovers that Franzi has come to Flausenthurm with her all-girl orchestra, and has her unofficially arrested so he can spend time with her. Anna becomes aware of the affair and calls Franzi to the palace to meet her. Both women sob over their predicament, but Franzi takes pity on Anna and tries to bring her into the modern age by introducing her to sexy lingerie, jazz music and a new hair style, among other things. The women part as friends, and Franzi leaves Flausenthurm for good. Hearing lively jazz music in the palace, Niki rushes downstairs to find Anna transformed, and unable to believe his eyes, he checks the liquor bottle from which he was drinking, takes another drink and returns to Anna. Convinced of her new beauty, he tosses the checkers board onto their bed, and the newlyweds finally head for a good game.
The Smiling Lieutenant
The film was based on a popular 1907 operetta called A Waltz Dream by Leopold Jacobson and Felix Doermann with music by Austrian composer Oscar Straus. The original source material had been a short story called The Prince Consort, which many believe was inspired by the real life romance between Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert. A silent film version of the tale would be made in Germany in 1926. But The Smiling Lieutenant was to be the first sound adaptation, and as such, with "talking pictures" still a very new phenomenon in 1930, the film features a minimum of dialogue scenes. Still, the operetta's songs remain intact, with upstart Miriam Hopkins (in only her second film) swapping tunes with stars Colbert and Maurice Chevalier.
Colbert and Chevalier had already starred in The Big Pond (1930) and would appear together in Make Me a Star in 1932. The Smiling Lieutenant was Colbert's ninth film. Nonetheless, when she and Hopkins both stated they only wished to be filmed from the right side, the newcomer Hopkins won out. As his biography Laughter in Paradise tells it, "Lubitsch liked Miriam Hopkins; he may have been the only person in show business who did. Certainly, she was the right physical type to attract him, but it would seem that Hopkins managed to simultaneously entice him and keep him at arm's length." And for Hopkins this partiality made for quite an advantage. "She was as pleased as a kitten with a new ball of yarn," it was said of Hopkins after winning her right profile dispute with Colbert. Lubitsch also went on to cast Hopkins in two more films -- Trouble in Paradise (1932) and Design For Living (1933).
Colbert wasn't fazed by Lubitsch's attentions to Hopkins. She would always call him her favorite director and the two would work together again on Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938). And it seems Colbert was able to laugh off the incident with Miriam Hopkins and bore the actress no ill will. But others in Hollywood were less tolerant of Hopkins' ways. As photographer John Engstead recalled unfavorably, "you should have seen how cute she was with Ernst Lubitsch. And [::tcm::OB]he[::tcm::CB] never saw through [::tcm::OB]her[::tcm::CB]." Not only did Hopkins become known for her narcissism, but also for being tardy on sets and poorly prepared - all of which apparently led to a public reprimand by the usually tactful Edward G. Robinson. And when Hopkins settled at Warner Bros. in 1939, the studio played up (what was probably a real) feud between Hopkins (reduced to playing second fiddle) and Bette Davis for publicity purposes. The two actresses were teamed in The Old Maid (1939) and Old Acquaintance (1943), and thanks to the studio's strategy, the scene in Old Acquaintance where Davis finally gives Hopkins a good shaking was eagerly anticipated by the audience.
Hopkins' second victory over Colbert in The Smiling Lieutenant occurred on screen, where her character and Colbert's go after the same man. It may feel to audiences like the wrong girl (Hopkins) gets her man, but at least the more worldly Colbert gets in a good, pre-code line with, "girls who start with breakfast don't usually stay for supper." The Smiling Lieutenant would go on to be nominated for Best Picture, losing out to Grand Hotel (1932). Hopkins most memorable role came in 1935's Becky Sharp, the first film made in three-strip Technicolor and Hopkins' only Oscar nomination. Colbert would, of course, win the Oscar in 1934 for It Happened One Night, as well as receive two more Best Actress nominations. So it's easy to see who came out on top in the end.
Producer: Ernst Lubitsch
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Screenplay: Henri Bataille, Ernst Lubitsch, Samson Raphaelson, Ernest Vajda
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Film Editing: Merrill G. White
Art Direction: Hans Dreier
Music: Oscar Straus
Cast: Maurice Chevalier (Lt. Niki), Claudette Colbert (Franzi), Miriam Hopkins (Princess Anna), Charles Ruggles (Max), George Barbier (King Adolf XV), Hugh O'Connell (Orderly).
by Stephanie Thames
The Smiling Lieutenant
Lubitsch Musicals Eclipse Series 8 - LUBITSCH MUSICALS: Eclipse Series 8 - Now on DVD!
1929's The Love Parade establishes the Lubitsch musical comedy format; the only thing slowing it down are a few too many unmemorable songs. Lubitsch paired Maurice Chevalier (in his second talkie) with Jeanette MacDonald, a fresh face and voice from Philadelphia. In the mythical country of Sylvania, Queen Louise (MacDonald) marries young Count Renard (Chevalier), a diplomat recalled from Paris for having too many notorious affairs. Renard is likewise smitten, but he rebels at being relegated to the powerless position of Queen's Consort. He withholds his presence at formal ceremonies until Louise breaks down and acknowledges his masculine rights.
Lubitch begins in Paris with an almost wordless sequence involving a jealous husband and a mock suicide attempt. Renard retains an amused 'French' attitude through it all, trusting that everything will work out. Back in Sylvania, Louise is badgered by her ministers to take a husband; she worries about spinsterhood until smoothie Renard arrives for punishment and stays for a seduction. As an added treat, the royal romance is mirrored by servants Lupino Lane (a clever music hall-type performer) and Lillian Roth, whose smiling eyes have hanky-panky written all over them. Lubitsch invests this trifle with delicate comic timing, emphasizing MacDonald's mischievous antics and Chevalier's relaxed self-assurance. MacDonald is frequently on display wearing elaborate nightgowns and filmy undergarments, an aspect of the film that surely attracted both male and female viewers. Hays Code? What Hays Code? Although not as saucy as the later films, The Love Parade delivers a new kind of screen entertainment.
1930's Monte Carlo must do without Chevalier, replacing him with Jack Buchanan, a refined Englishman with plenty of talent but little in the way of sex appeal. Buchanan is now known almost exclusively through his performance in Vincente Minnelli's The Band Wagon, over twenty years later. Lubitsch compensates by giving Jeanette MacDonald more sexy business (& lingerie) and much better music. MacDonald debuts the hit song Beyond the Blue Horizon in a speeding train. We're told that 1930 audiences marveled at the excitement generated when angles of the moving locomotive were edited in time with the melody.
The plot has Countess Helene Mara (MacDonald) bolting from the altar and fleeing to Monte Carlo, where she loses all her money at roulette yet takes a suite in an expensive hotel. Unable arrange a proper introduction, Count Rudolph Falliere (Buchanan) poses as a hairdresser to be near Helene, and soon replaces most of her servants. By the time the Countess's foppish fiancé shows up, Falliere is also accompanying Helene out on the town. Helene figures she'll have to give up Rudy for financial reasons, until her hairdresser reveals his true identity.
Double-entendres abound as Rudy finds excuses not to cut Helene's hair. Improved songs comment on the story with earthy wit: a chorus chirps the rude lyric, "He's a nas, he's a nas, he's a nasty-tempered brute!" Buchanan isn't as charismatic as Chevalier but he plays Lubitsch's visual gags to the hilt. Rudolph follows Helene to the casino's doors, claiming that if she rubs his hair, she'll have good luck. Helene ignores him and slams the door in his face. But when he turns back to signal failure, the door opens just long enough for Helene's hand to pop out and give Rudy's head a pat!
The visual, verbal and sexual invention continues in 1931's The Smiling Lieutenant, a fast-moving farce that constructs a romantic triangle by bracketing Chevalier with two new sweethearts. Viennese Lieutenant Niki Von Preyn (Chevalier) falls madly in love with Franzi (irresistible Claudette Colbert), a violinist in a popular beer garden band. Their romance is blissful until Niki inadvertently winks and smiles at Franzi just as a carriage carrying foreign royalty passes between them. Naíve Princess Anna of Flausenthurm (Miriam Hopkins) concludes that Niki has slighted her, and her furious father demands satisfaction. Anna instead makes Niki her companion during their Viennese visit. The two countries eventually decide that Niki must marry Anna, and Franzi is crestfallen when Niki departs for his new home. In Flausenthurm castle, the new husband refuses to perform his matrimonial duty. 'Stepping out' on the town, he discovers that Franzi and her band have followed him to this new country. When Anna finds out, the two women come to a surprisingly original solution to the problem.
The Smiling Lieutenant builds to a bittersweet ending, which it undercuts with more frivolity. We can imagine young screenwriter Billy Wilder studying this film in hopes of understanding 'the Lubitsch touch.' Colbert and Chevalier are inflamed with passionate abandon; after the Code restrictions were enforced most of the fun of sex was leeched out of Hollywood filmmaking. Hopkins is genuinely amusing as the backward belle from Flausenthurm (Geshundheit!). We can tell she's in serious need of enlightenment by her unfamiliarity with sexy underwear!
The Smiling Lieutenant was Lubitsch's first collaboration with writer Samuel Raphaelson, with whom he later made many of his most famous comedies. Anna's stuffy papa quickly consents to her marriage with a foreign Lieutenant after her simple threat: If the King doesn't say Yes, she'll marry an American!
Lubitsch finalizes his naughty musical comedy formula in 1932's One Hour With You, a movie that begins with Dr. Andre Bertier and his wife Colette (Chevalier and MacDonald) happily married and in love. If it plays out like a silent sex farce, it's because it's a remake of Lubitsch's own 1924 The Marriage Circle. Colette's wicked best friend Mitzi (Genevieve Tobin) plots to seduce Andre while leading Colette to believe that another woman is responsible. Things come to a head at a dinner party. Mitzi entices Andre to join her in the garden, and then finally to come home with her, at 2:30 in the morning. The big surprise is that the film tosses off Andre's flagrant infidelity as no big deal when compared to his commitment to Colette. Colette accepts and forgives Andre, while Andre doesn't believe Colette's confession of a midnight kiss with his best friend, the ardent fool Adolph (Charles Ruggles).
With nothing on its mind but lovemaking, the elegant, impeccably turned out One Hour With You completes these four musical fairytales on a high note. The film is partly credited to George Cukor; Eclipse's liner notes tell us that Lubitsch was originally set to only supervise, but stepped in and redid all of Cukor's work when he felt that the dailies weren't good enough. Most sources still credit Cukor as a co-director.
Eclipse's Lubitsch Musicals collection sports wonderful restorations of these early talkies; I believe I saw only one minor incidence of frame damage. Some of the transfers are on the grainy side but the B&W images are clean and the audio cleaner, even on the 1929 The Love Parade. For all the touting of MGM films as Hollywood's glossiest, Paramount's seem more artistic even when they make do with fewer resources.
The Eclipse series has no extras save for brief liner notes on each title, but these are expertly written and highly informative. We learn that both Lubitsch and Chevalier weathered various personal problems while these musicals were in production. It's difficult to believe that the makers of these light-hearted comedies ever had a sad day.
For more information about Lubitsch Musicals, visit Eclipse. To order Lubitsch Musicals, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Lubitsch Musicals Eclipse Series 8 - LUBITSCH MUSICALS: Eclipse Series 8 - Now on DVD!
Girls who start with breakfast don't usually end up with supper.- Franzi
Do you know whom she reminds me of? Your wife.- Lieutenant Niki
Oh, now wait a minute! This girl is beautiful!- Max
Just picture your wife fifteen years younger, twenty pounds lighter, her hair dyed, her nose operated on. The same girl.- Lieutenant Niki
This is unheard of. Flausenthurm without an "h?" Don't they know, in Vienna, how to spell my country?- King Adolf XV
It's a deliberate insult, Papa. They're trying to make us feel, just because we've a little country, we shouldn't have so many letters.- Princess Anna
Remember what Napoleon said before he went to Elba: "So long."- Lieutenant Niki
I don't know very much about life. I got all my knowledge out of the Royal Encyclopedia. A special edition arranged for Flausenthurm, with all the interesting things left out.- Princess Anna
Although New York Times commented on a wedding scene in the film, no such scene was seen in the viewed print. The song "Breakfast Table Love" might also be known as "One More Hour of Love," and "Live for Today" might also be known as "While Hearts Are Singing." Scenes shot for this film are included in the 1931 Paramount promotional film The House That Shadows Built. Modern sources add the following credits: Art dir , Hans Dreier; Mus dir, Adolph Deutsch; Mus arr, John W. Green and Conrad Salinger; Sd eng, C. A. Tuthill; (Officer) Charles Wassenheim; (A woman) Maude Allen. Further, one modern source notes that Paramount maintained three silent versions of the film for foreign release to defray the cost of their original negative. Chevalier experienced personal tragedy during the production when his mother died, and he also became estranged from his wife, Yvonne Vallee, at this time. Modern sources report that Hopkins earned $1,500 per week for this, her second feature film. By the 1950s, film experts believed that the film no longer existed. However, a print was eventually found in the Danish Film Archives. An earlier film entitled The Waltz Dream, which was based on the same sources, was produced in Germany in 1926 and was released in the United States. The Smiling Lieutenant was nominated by AMPAS for Best Picture of 1931/32, and New York Times included it in its 1931 "Ten Best" list. NYSA records list a French version of the film called Le lieutenant souriant, directed by Ernst Lubitsch and written by Ernest Vadja, that starred Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins, with French dialogue and lyrics by Jacques Bataille-Henri. That version, which was 8,126 feet in length, played in New York on October 15, 1931. According to an article in New York Times in February 1932, the French version was very successful in Paris. No additional information on a French version has been located, however, and it is probable that the version mentioned in the New York Times was merely dubbed.