Sunday, December 18, 2005


Another movie that doesn't get written up in the reference books, but which is solidly entertaining and worth watching. Adolphe Menjou is a noted opera singer and notorious ladies man, just back from Europe and about to appear in a production of "Don Giovanni." On the ship, he hears a woman sing a snatch of an aria and discovers later that it was Irene Dunne, an aspiring singer. He agrees to tutor her and soon feels she is good enough to open opposite him, which irritates diva (and former lover) Olga Baclanova. He falls in love with Dunne and, ready to renounce his philandering ways, proposes to her; she accepts even though she still has feelings for her ex, Neil Hamilton, Menjou's understudy. On opening night, their first act is an unqualified triumph, but Menjou gets an attack of laryngitis at intermission and she has to go on with Hamilton. We discover later that he is graciously stepping out of the way so she and the understudy can find true love together. It looks like Dunne does her own singing; if not, they've done a very good job with dubbing. She and Menjou are both wonderful; even though he does seem a tad too old for her and would probably wind up making her unhappy, he is still more likeable than the passive Hamilton, so the "happy" ending feels a bit perverse. Cliff Edwards is fun as the opera company's press agent and Roscoe Ates does his usual stuttering shtick as his sidekick. Ernest Torrence is a standout as Menjou's butler, who is given to talking about his boss in the first person plural; he refers to one of Menjou's past lovers as "the red-haired lady who swooned when we kissed her." There is an amusing subplot about a love/hate relationship between an older diva and a male singer whose singing always causes her dog to start barking (she says it's because the dog hates Wagner). Not necessarily a movie to hunt for, but if it shows up again on Turner Classic (perhaps on Irene Dunne's birthday), it's worth catching. [TCM]

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