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Naughty Marietta

Naughty Marietta(1935)

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teaser Naughty Marietta (1935)

Naughty Marietta (1935), based on the Victor Herbert operetta, was the first in MGM's hugely successful Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy musicals. The screen adaptation, which takes several liberties with the original, is by the husband-and-wife team of Albert Hackett (1900-1995) and Frances Goodrich (1890-1984), who wrote several of the world's most beloved movies, ranging from the Thin Man series to the classic musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). John Lee Mahin also contributed to the Naughty Marietta script.

MacDonald plays an 18th-century French princess who flees an arranged marriage by taking on the identity of her maid, who has planned to come to America as a mail-order bride. Eddy is a mercenary who rescues MacDonald and the other "brides" from pirates who have captured them on their way to the New World. MacDonald, fabricating a naughty history to avoid her fate as a frontier wife, ends up in New Orleans - where Eddy, now aware of her true identity, claims her hand.

A musical highlight of the film is MacDonald's delivery of Herbert's "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life," which would become one of her trademark numbers. Other songs include "I'm Falling in Love with Someone," "Italian Street Song," "Chansonette," "Tramp Tramp Tramp" and "'Neath the Southern Moon." The movie was nominated for an Oscar as Best Picture and won for Best Sound Recording.

MacDonald was freshly arrived at MGM, where Naughty Marietta and an adaptation of Jerome Kern's The Cat and the Fiddle were both under consideration as her first film in a two-picture contract. She was unenthusiastic about both proposals, but agreed to the latter one, which was filmed in 1934 after MGM could find no suitable leading man for Naughty Marietta. Somehow, no one had thought of Eddy, who was already an MGM contract player and was considered as a possible co-star with MacDonald in a non-musical adventure, The Prisoner of Zenda. (This casting idea came to nothing.) The second film under MacDonald's contract was the very successful The Merry Widow (1934).

Finally, thanks to studio head Louis B. Mayer, it was decided that Eddy should appear opposite MacDonald - now signed to a five-year MGM contract - in Naughty Marietta. The rest was movie history, with the perfectly-matched pair quickly emerging as America's "Singing Sweethearts."

Producers: Hunt Stromberg, W.S. Van Dyke
Directors: Robert Z. Leonard, W.S. Van Dyke (both uncredited)
Screenplay: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, John Lee Mahin, from the Victor Herbert operetta with book by Rida Johnson Young
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Costume Design: Adrian
Editing: Blanche Sewell
Non-Original Music: Victor Herbert
Original Music: Herbert Stothart, Dimitri Tiomkin (uncredited)
Cast: Jeanette MacDonald (Princess Marie de Namours de la Bonfain/Marietta Franini), Nelson Eddy (Capt. Richard Warrington), Frank Morgan (Governor Gaspar d'Annard), Elsa Lanchester (Madame d'Annard), Douglas Dumbrille (Prince de Namours de la Bonfain), Joseph Cawthorn (Herr Schuman).
BW-105m. Closed captioning.

by Roger Fristoe

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