One of the greatest of the screen operattas. After a smashing debut in Austria, Franz Lehar's operetta "The Merry Widow" was brought to the US in 1907, became a silent two-reeler in 1912, then, in 1925, Erich von Stroheim directed Mae Murray and John Gilbert in an opulent, controversial
version in which Clark Gable appeared as an extra. This version, however, is by far the best of the lot. Jeanette MacDonald, at the peak of her career, is Sonia, an immensely wealthy widow whose spending keeps the small country of Marshovia afloat economically. When she decides to move to Paris to
find a suitable husband, the king (George Barbier) dispatches Danilo (Maurice Chevalier), whom he has caught dallying with Queen Dolores (Una Merkel), to the City of Light to woo the widow and bring her home. Failing to recognize Sonia in a cafe, Danilo falls in love with her, then tries to
persuade her that his affection is real when she learns the nature of his mission. Unable to convince her, Danilo is called back to Marshovia and put on trial; however, Sonia becomes the star witness for the defense, the two are trapped in a jail cell, and matters end happily and romantically.
The best musical helmed by the great Ernst Lubitsch, THE MERRY WIDOW is frothy, funny, and tuneful from start to finish. MacDonald more than holds her own in the comedy department, snapping off lines with Carole Lombard-like expertise. Star Chevalier had played with newcomer MacDonald at
Paramount, and though he reputedly never liked her, their pairing here is near perfection. The dancing, choreographed by Albertina Rasch, is as good as it comes and the huge waltz in the embassy ball ranks among the best large ensemble pieces ever filmed. Enjoy the opening sequence where Marshovia
is found on the map or the "There's a limit to every widow" scene. "The Merry Widow" is one of 30 operettas penned by Lehar, and here his music was given new lyrics by Lorenz Hart, Gus Kahn, and an uncredited Richard Rodgers.
Cast & Details See all »
- Rating: NR
- Review: One of the greatest of the screen operattas. After a smashing debut in Austria, Franz Lehar's operetta "The Merry Widow" was brought to the US in 1907, became a silent two-reeler in 1912, then, in 1925, Erich von Stroheim directed Mae Murray and John Gilbe… (more)