The small kingdom of Marshovia has a little problem. The main tax-payer, the wealthy widow Sonia (who pays 52 0f the taxes) has left for Paris So Count Danilo is sent to Paris, to stop her from getting married by a stranger, so that the danger of removing the money is banned. But this is not that easy as the ambassador in Paris has planned.
Maurice Chevalier ... Count Danilo
Jeanette MacDonald ... Madame Sonia / Fifi
Edward Everett Horton ... Ambassador Popoff
Una Merkel ... Queen Dolores
George Barbier ... King Achmet
Minna Gombell ... Marcelle
Ruth Channing ... Lulu
Sterling Holloway ... Mischka
Donald Meek ... Valet
Herman Bing ... Zizipoff
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Music: Franz Lehár / Richard Rodgers / Lorenz Hart
Won Oscar for Best Art Direction
Codecs: XVid / MP3
The great Ernst Lubitsch clearly understood the material in which "The Merry Widow" was based. Being European himself, he clearly identified with this delightful Franz Lehar operetta that had been charming audiences throughout the years. Mr. Lubitsch places the action in the small country of Marshovia, in central Europe. The director had an eye for the great spectacle he presents for us. Mr. Lubitsch greatest achievement is that he seems to have his camera waltzing all the time. The result is an amazing triumph for MGM.
In fact, the glorious sets one admires in the film are breathtaking. For a film made in 1934, the art directors, Cedric Gibbons and Gabriel Scognamillo recreate the royal palace of Marshovia in amazing detail, as well as the Paris scenes with an elegance and good taste that shows the resources of the studio that didn't spare anything. The black and white cinematography of Oliver Marsh enhances the Lubitsch style. Adrian's gowns look luxurious and the editing of the film by Francis Marsh give the film continuity without ever making the action appear forced or staged.
The pairing of Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald was an match that seems to have been made in haven. Both actors are a delight to see. Mr. Chevalier with his French accent and mannerisms make his Count Danilo the charmer he is. The beautiful Ms. MacDonald is mysterious at first, when we meet her, then as she has fallen in love, changes her attitude and realizes Danilo is the man for her.
The secondary roles are played with great panache by the genial Edward Everett Horton, who as the ambassador to Paris, is under orders to have Sonia, the wealthy woman, accept Danilo and return to Marshovia with all her money. George Barber plays the King Achmed and the incomparable Una Merkel is seen as Queen Dolores.
The Merry Widow waltz received a great production number in which about a hundred couples are seen dancing around Sonia and Danilo, first in white tuxedos and gowns and later in black ones. Later all the couples are mixed together creating such a rich moment. By today's standards that sequence couldn't have been done, or it must have cost a fortune, or perhaps would have digitally mastered in order not to pay dancers to appear dancing in the movie.
Let's just be thankful there was a man with a vision, Ernst Lubitsch, and let's be grateful for his vision and his legacy. This is why Hollywood use the expression "The Lubitsch Touch".
* Because the contracts of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart contained a clause stating they were a team, they both got on-screen credit for the lyrics of the songs, even though only Hart wrote them.
* MGM hired at least 500 extras for the "Merry Widow" dance number.
* It took four months and 12 seamstresses to make Adrian's two dozen designs for Jeanette MacDonald's gowns.
* The 1,000 gas chandeliers on the sets took two hours to turn on.