Sunday, November 28, 2004

NEW MOON (1940)

Many years ago, I watched an Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy operetta, didn’t care for it, and decided I didn't need to see anything else of that ilk, but I finally broke down during TCM's recent festival of musicals and watched this one. Surprisingly, it was painless and even rather entertaining. Eddy is a French duke who has been arrested for "singing seditious ditties" and as punishment is shipped out of France to New Orleans as a bonded servant. MacDonald is a rich lady who, on the same ship as Eddy, mistakes him for an officer and does a little flirting. Coincidentally, her estate manager buys Eddy as a house servant and their relationship, after a rocky start, develops at the same time that Eddy is planning a servant's revolt aboard the ship New Moon. In another wild coincidence, Eddy and his men wind up taking over a ship with McDonald and a bunch of mail-order brides. The ship wrecks on an island and the motley group of ladies and pirates learn to get along, as do Eddy and MacDonald. Eventually, the French attack, but news of the French Revolution gets through just in time to save the day and allow our couple to be happy ever after. The plot is silly, though I enjoyed the echoes of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS in the island sequence, and Eddy is completely unbelievable as a dashing romantic figure, but he sings the famous "Stouthearted Men" quite nicely. MacDonald's "One Kiss" is a standout, as is their duet, "Wanting You," which is shot beautifully in the woods. With the leads being rather bland, it's left to the supporting players to add some spice to the film, which they do. Mary Boland, the nutty countess in THE WOMEN, is good as MacDonald's aunt; also shining in smaller roles are George Zucco, Grant Mitchell, and H.B. Warner. John Miljan is one of Eddy's more lively buddies, and Sara Edwards has a short but funny bit as a gossipy bitch who wants to buy Eddy from MacDonald. [TCM]

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