This was the first of the three versions of the successful stage operetta. With THE JAZZ SINGER, Warner Bros. had been the premier studio to debut sound and was determined to keep its position as an innovator, so it acquired the rights to THE DESERT SONG and presented filmdom's first
all-talking, all-singing operetta. The curiosity value of the picture, not the plot, was what made it a hit. The story of The Red Shadow and Pierre Bierbeau (the same person, played by Boles) was seen often in later years, except it became known as The Scarlet Pimpernel. Boles is a weak wimp while
in the guise of Bierbeau, and then becomes the hard-riding leader of The Riffs, who battle the sinister Arabs. The same plot has been used over and over from Zorro to Batman. Most of the screen time is taken up by the Romberg/Hammerstein songs as synchsung by the actors (this was before it became
fashionable to "loop" the voices by better singers). The major musical pieces are "The Riff Song," "One Alone," "Sabre Song," "Then You Will Know," and "The French Marching Song." It looked lots better in the later color versions. Boles was handsome and sang well, Fazenda was very funny, and a
very young Myrna Loy was absolutely exquisite. But the film, by today's standards, does not hold up well; they were still without good sound equipment which would have allowed much more movement on the part of the actors. It appeared to be little more than a photographed stage play.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This was the first of the three versions of the successful stage operetta. With THE JAZZ SINGER, Warner Bros. had been the premier studio to debut sound and was determined to keep its position as an innovator, so it acquired the rights to THE DESERT SONG a… (more)