Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Written by: Guy Bolton (libretto); story byErnest Vajda (film story); based on Le Prince Consort c.1919 novel
by Leon Xanrof and Jules Chancel
Cinematography: Victor Milner
Producer: Ernst Lubitsch
by Jon Cvack
From the moment I saw the name of the film I thought about Tobey MaGuire's character James Leer from Wonder Boys (2000) who named his first novel after the film (which makes sense, given his passion for the films). Having worked my way through the majority of Ernst Lubitsch’s more notable filmography, most recently with The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), I was excited to see how this held up. The vast majority of the films are romantic comedies, with his early works such as this and The Smiling Lieutenant accompanying the genre with musical numbers, with The Love Parade considered the first film to have incorporated musical numbers into the narrative. While I have little experience with Bollywood films, it was Slumdog Millionaire (2008) that introduced the fact that most of the films - no matter the content - have musical numbers. The Love Parade in no way needs its songs, and yet they add a flavor that we really haven’t seen in any modern movies. If a film is a musical, it’s a musical first and whatever other genre second. As much as La La Land (2016) was a drama, it was a musical first.
The Love Parade involves philanderer Count Alfred Renard (Maurice Chevalier) as he gets caught with an ambassador’s wife. At the same, Sylvanian ruler Queen Louise (Jeanette MacDonald) is being pressured by her all male advisors to get a husband. Of course, whilst on a boring assignment as punishment, Renard meets Louise and the two very quickly get married. However, life as a King, especially when subservient to the Queen, is far from as great as it’s cracked up to be and tensions rise, which is all broken up when Renard and Louise return to their bed yet again for another lecherous night; often watched and commented by the male advisors.
In the pre-code era, which I didn’t even know extended all up from 1930 to 1968, it was fascinating to watch a film that looks so old, as one of the first modern musicals, let alone classic talkie pictures, provide such overt and hilarious sexual commentary. There are moments in the film where the humor feels as though it could be used today; having not aged a bit, or possibly because, like any style, there is a loop and with dad jokes, memes, and good television, we appreciate wit and suggestion. While the film could have been under 90 minutes, not even due to particular scenes, but simply because most scenes were too long, it’s still provided an entertaining historical document. I liked to think of James Leer watching this film, smiling all the way.
Recently, in some post on Reddit, I heard Anthony Bourdain talk about how he’d like nothing more than to get high all day and watch old movies, but he has to fight not. I can’t recall the motivated part because the intro was so interesting. The further I get along in life, the more I appreciate movies like this. It was there to watch for Woody Allen was a boy, it’s here for me to watch now, and it’ll be around for as long as we exist. Seeing films like this, especially with a specific milestone, transcending movie watching and becomes an engagement with history; not just the film, but the people, the voice, the plot, the design and look; dozens of things to admire for having once been around, some still here and others long past. Makes me wonder what that book was about.
BELOW: A sample song and dance number that's unnecessary but I'm happy it's there
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