Monday, January 23, 2017


To avoid further war, Napoleon renounces the throne and goes into exile at Elba; his men, led by Ramon Novarro, send him off with a rousing song, but a group of Royalists, led by John Miljan, arrest Novarro and his men. Novarro is put in front of a firing squad but, in a clever, almost slapstick scene, confounds the soldiers and escapes. He tries hiding in the bedroom of a young woman (Dorothy Jordan) with whom he flirts, but when she finds out he is a follower of Napoloen, she gives him up to a soldier. But the resourceful Novarro thrashes the man, dresses in his uniform, and makes good another escape—this time to a chateau in southern France where his cousin, a countess (Marion Harris), lets him stay disguised as a footman. But guess who shows up? Jordan, a cousin of the countess, whom we discover holds a grudge against all thing Napoleonic because of relatives killed by Napoleon's men. Navarro falls in love with her and the overwhelming question becomes, can Novarro break down her prejudices and warm her up to his charms before he is called off to help Napoleon return from exile?

I know very little about Napoleon—pretty much, just what Woody Allen says about him in LOVE AND DEATH—but the history and politics aren't important here. This is an early sound musical based on an 1851 French play, and taking that into account, it's mostly fun going until the last half-hour or so when Novarro's drawn-out romantic agonies get a little hard to sit through. However, Novarro is one of my favorite 30s actors and he acquits himself nicely here with his pleasant singing voice and his easy-on-the-eyes looks. Jordan and Harris are acceptable if not much more, and the same goes for the villainous Miljan. The song "How Can You Be So Charming" is cute the first time, tiresome by the fourth time. As a novelty, there is a brief scene of dancers at a festival shot in color—though now it's faded to mostly orange. Even if I got a little antsy near the end, it's still generally a pleasant diversion. [TCM]

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