Only six years after the release of EIN WALZERTRAUM, the 1925 German silent based on the operetta inspired by Hans Muller's novel Nux, der Prinzgemahl, Ernst Lubitsch gathered Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins, moved them into Paramount's Astoria, Long Island,
studios, and made this musical as well as a French-language version, LE LIEUTENANT SOURIANT, with the same cast working from a new French script by Jacques Bataille-Henri. The delightful story is set in Vienna, where Niki (Chevalier), an officer of the Royal Guards, shares romance and an apartment
with Franzi (Claudette Colbert), a violinist. During a state visit to the Austrian capital by King Adolf (George Barbier), his desperately plain daughter, Princess Anna (Miriam Hopkins), mistakenly believes that the smile Niki has intended for Franzi was actually directed in her royal direction,
but is convinced the handsome soldier is only being kind. When Niki protests that he finds the princess attractive, she falls in love with him, and in no time, bound by his duty to his country, he finds himself married to her. Niki refuses to consummate their marriage, however--that is, until
Franzi does a makeover job on Anna that sends the guardsman's head reeling.
The operetta plot bears little resemblance to reality, but the players are so good, the dialogue (by Lubitsch, Ernest Vajda and Samson Raphaelson) so witty, and the direction so skillful that no one minds the logic lapses. The music is delightful, and the songs include such bon-bons as "Spruce Up
Your Lingerie." Made and released during the Depression, THE SMILING LIEUTENANT offered welcome escapism for a public reeling under too real economic woes. Colbert--warm, sweet, with touches of sadness--is in wonderful form, and proves to be a fine singer to boot. Hopkins, meanwhile, enjoyed her
first major opportunity to display her considerable comic prowess as the princess in need of a makeover, and Chevalier is in his best and most typical form. This was the noted French entertainer's first work together with master director Lubitsch after their successful collaboration on THE LOVE
PARADE two years earlier, and the result is an utterly charming film that was box-office hit.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Only six years after the release of EIN WALZERTRAUM, the 1925 German silent based on the operetta inspired by Hans Muller's novel Nux, der Prinzgemahl, Ernst Lubitsch gathered Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins, moved them into Paramou… (more)