Director: Robert Z. Leonard.
Starring: Jeanette MacDonald (Marcia Mornay), Nelson Eddy (Paul Allison), John Barrymore (Nicolai Nazaroff), Herman Bing (August Archipenko), Tom Brown (Kip Stuart), Lynne Carver (Barbara Roberts), Rafaela Ottiano (Ellen), Charles Judels (Cabby), Paul Porcasi (Trentini), Sig Ruman (Fanchon), Walter Kingsford (Mr. Rudyard), Guy Bates Post (Louis Napoleon).
Guy Bates Post plays Louis Napoleon
Children sing and dance around the maypole. Two older women say hello to each other. Mrs. Morrison goes over to a bench to sit down with Kip Stuart. She asks where is Barbara Roberts. She says she hopes the two of them haven't quarreled. Kip says that Barbara is doing a lot of singing auditions. Her parents and she want her to become a great opera singer. So Barbara doesn't have much time for Kip.
Mrs. Morrison is very tired by the time she gets home. She wanders outside and rests under a tree. Now here comes Kip and Barbara arguing about Barbara's desire for an opera career. She starts crying and Mrs. Morrison asks her to come over. Barbara runs over to her and cries in her lap. She asks Mrs. Morrison how can Kip be so selfish and not see that she deserves a chance to be an opera singer. Barbara asks her if she can understand her position? Mrs. Morrison says she can and she can also understand Kip's reaction. She has never talked to Barbara about herself before, but now she is going to. You see, she once was the opera singer Marcia Mornay. Barbara knows the name of Marcia Mornay. It was many years ago in Paris at the court of Louie Napoleon.
[From Wikipedia: Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I. Elected President in France's first ever popular vote in 1848, he initiated a coup d'état in 1851, before ascending the throne as Napoleon III on 2 December 1852, the forty-eighth anniversary of Napoleon I's coronation. He ruled as Emperor of the French until 4 September 1870. He holds the distinction of being both the first titular president and the last monarch of France. He launched a major reconstruction of Paris.]
Flashback. At a fancy ball, people dance to the music of the orchestra. Marcia arrives at the ball and is very excited to be here. She is escorted by Nicolai Nazaroff. She tells him that she is frightened of Kings. Nicolai says she's in luck because Louie Napoleon is an Emperor. Marcia says it's the same thing. Nicolai says he will present her to the Emperor. All she needs to do is curtsy. The Emperor knows of Marcia. He tells her: "After hearing you at the opera the other night, we are all impatient to hear you sing again, Mademoiselle."
The Emperor now waltzes with his Queen. Nicolai walks Marcia around for awhile. He tells her to look at the older fellow on the other side of the room. That is the famous Trentini the great composer. Now the call goes out for Mademoiselle Mornay. She begins her performance. Trentini likes it so much that he stands up from his sitting position to clap for her. She gets a rousing reception from the entire audience. She sings another song and gets another round of enthusiastic applause.
After her performance she and Nicolai partake of the sumptuous dinner offered by the Emperor. Nicolai manipulates Trentini to get him to say he will write an opera especially for Marcia. Marcia is thrilled.
At home, Marcia asks Nicolai does he remember how they first met in New York City? Yes, he remembers, but he has some bad news for her. She has reached the level in opera where his work with her is finished. Nicolai says he has never butted into her personal life or asked anything of her outside of singing. But now he wants to ask her for something. He wants to marry her. Marcia replies: "I shall be very happy to marry you." They hug and kiss.
Nicolai leaves. Marcia says she feels restless and unsettled. She suddenly decides to go for a carriage ride. She tells her servant that she will be back in ten minutes at the most. Marcia says she needs to be alone by herself for once in her life. She goes out and gets a carriage ride.
Marcia falls asleep on the ride until tolling bells wake her up. She asks the driver to drive her back home now. He turns the carriage around, but somehow the horse gets loose and runs away from the driver. The driver tells Marcia to wait for him as he goes after his horse. She hears jolly singing from a tavern. She likes the voice of the main singer and goes into the tavern. The singer is the American, Paul Allison. He sings another song by himself. By now Marcia is sitting at one of the tavern tables. The men pick him up, carry him around and deposit him in the seat next to Marcia. The two people start talking and when Paul realizes that she is an American he is very excited to meet her. He says he has been starved because he hasn't heard one clean American voice until she shows up.
He kind of bowls her over with his enthusiasm. He asks to see her again tomorrow. Then some of the tavern clients realize that Paul is talking to the opera singer Marcia Mornay. Now Paul is really impressed by this young woman. The men and a few women ask her to please sing for them. He tries to set up a date with her, but, of course, she is busy with her career. He says she doesn't like him, but she says she does like him very much. And he has a wonderful voice. But he still can't get a date with her. She says she will be busy for the rest of her stay in Paris.
The carriage driver arrives and Marcia says she just has to go. She leaves the tavern and gets in the carriage. Paul says he won't let go of her hand until she says she will come to his place over the tavern tomorrow for lunch. And he does hold on to her hand until she actually promises to come to see him at lunch tomorrow. Now he sings a song of joy right in the middle of the street. People in the apartments above tell him to stop that singing. It takes the arrival of a gendarme to chase Paul back into the tavern. There he continues to sing. He sings that he has no money and wants to borrow some francs. He gets his francs. A man comes into the tavern and says that a whole squad of gendarmes is on its way. Everyone, including Paul, runs out of the tavern.
When Paul gets back to his apartment that he shares with his singing coach, he tells coach that Marcia Mornay is coming for lunch tomorrow. The coach is very happy to hear that piece of news.
When Marcia finally gets back home, both the maid and Nicolai are up and waiting for her, and they don't look very happy about it either. Nicolai asks her with whom did she go for a carriage ride? She says she went alone, so he repeats his question. She repeats her answer. He then says that was a very foolish thing to do. She asks Nicolai to please understand that she was overexcited by recent events and couldn't sleep. She tells him the true story and says if Nicolai wants to check her story, he can go down and pay the carriage driver because she still needs to pay him. Nicolai says he will go down and pay the driver.
Nicolai comes back and asks Marcia to forgive him for doubting her story. Marcia says that's alright. He had his reasons for being mad.
Paul buys his groceries for tomorrow's lunch. He sees on a poster that Marcia Mornay will be singing in the opera Les Huguenots. A man sitting at a sidewalk cafe table asks if Paul wishes he could go to the performance. Paul says he is going to the performance, but the man says that concert is all sold-out. He then shows Paul the two front-row seats he has for the opera. The waiter comes and bumps into the wealthy man and somehow Paul gets the tickets from the man in all the confusion.
Coach will act as the waiter for Paul. The bell rings and there stands Marcia. He says she's just as beautiful in the daytime. He introduces her to his coach. Marcia has some bad news for Paul. She says she only came because she didn't want to break her promise, but she really can't stay. She does says she's awfully sorry. Paul begs her for just ten minutes and she sort of says yes. Marcia actually starts cooking the eggs and Virginia ham for the lunch. She has a very good time and stays longer. Paul starts singing carry me back to ol' Virginia and Marcia plays the piano for him. She then joins in the singing. The coach claps for their wonderful performance.
Paul says he's thinking of going back home. Marcia tells him, no, he must stay and work on his singing and join the opera company. The clock strikes the hour and Marcia has to run. She asks him to please not ask her to see him again. He says he can't promise that.
The wealthy man is at the opera trying to talk his way into the seats that he used to have tickets for. He doesn't have much luck. Paul and his coach are sitting in his front-row seats. They really enjoy Marcia's singing, but at intermission they have to leave in a hurry because the wealthy man and his wife now have the manager with them to get their seats back. When Marcia goes to her dressing room, Paul is waiting for her. He again forces her through black-mail to promise to go to the fair with him. She promises and Paul finally leaves. He runs right into Nicolai.
Nicolai goes into Marcia's dressing room and asks who was her visitor? She says that was just a silly young man who wanted to see her so he could brag about it later to his friends.
There are a lot lof people at the fair. Paul waits just by the entrance gate for Marcia. Marcia actually does show up. He says it's Mayday and they are going to have lots of fun. He pushes her in a large swing. They play toss the rings and ride the merry-go-round. And on and on. They even get on stage and sing together with a gypsy singer. The singer enjoyed their performance with him.
Later they take a walk in the park. They sit at the base of a large tree. He tells her that she's his sweetheart in the song he is going to sing for him. At the end of the song they kiss. He says he loves her and she says: "Oh, darling." Then she pulls away from Paul. He asks if there is another in her life? She says there is. He says it's Nazaroff, isn't it? She says yes. Does she love him? She says yes and she is going to marry him. She asks him to forgive her. She kept coming back to Paul because she was having so much fun. She says everything she has and owns is due to Nicolai. He was the only one who had faith in her voice, when even she had given up on herself. Nicolai dropped all his students to concentrate just on training her. And he has never once failed her. "That's why I can't fail him now, Paul, even for something I want far more." Paul says he understands that he met her too late. She says goodbye and then runs away.
The two young people keep thinking about each other. Marcia goes on her opera tour of different cities in Europe.
Finally, Marcia returns to the United States. They stay in a hotel suite. Marcia tells her maid that she wishes she could stay somewhere long enough where she could stay in an actual house and not a hotel. Nicolai comes in to talk a little business with Marcia. During their talk he grabs her and kisses her passionately but is disappointed when she really doesn't respond. He tells her frankly that though she's been a good wife, he has never felt in all these years that he truly possessed her. He says he just loves her too much.
Nicolai deals with the opera executives. The executives are ready to put on La Traviata, but Nicolai says that Marcia Mornay will not perform that opera. Nicolai says that he wants them to put on the opera that the famous Trentini wrote for Marcia Mornay. One of the executives says they don't have a baritone who can match Marcia Mornay in quality. But another executive says they have Paul Allison and he could certainly be able to sing with Marcia. Nicolai doesn't know who exactly Paul Allison is, but he says that the people are coming to see Marcia Mornay not the male singer. He accepts Paul Allison.
Nicolai tells his wife that Paul Allison will be performing with her. She suggests getting someone better known, but Nicolai says that part doesn't matter. So it will be Paul and Marcia together again.
Rehearsals begin for the new opera. Marcia receives great applause from her opera performers. Now she will meet the cast. She meets Paul. Nicolai seems to think the guy looks a little familiar to him. Now Paul's coach comes in and when he sees Marcia again he talks as an old friend to her. Paul has to step on the coach's foot to remind him that the husband is here too.
When the performance actually begins in front of an audience, Nicolai fumes with anger as he notes the two main singers are acting a little too much like they are in love. The two really hold the kiss a long time. They tell each other quietly that they love one another. He says she is not going back with Nicolai. He will take her away. The play restarts and their private conversation has to stop.
In her dressing room, Marcia tells her servant to go tell Paul not to do anything until she talks with him and that will be tomorrow morning. Now Nicolai comes in. He tells Marcia that tonight she surpassed even herself. In fact, the critics are calling it a living emotion. He says that he actually brought Paul and her together again. And he says that it's Paul who has stood in his way for all seven years of their marriage. She tells her husband that she is very tired and confused. Can they talk about this later in the hotel? Yes.
The executives want to take her and her husband to Delmonico's for dinner, but Nicolai says Marcia is just too exhausted to go. They both say good night to Paul on their way out.
In the hotel room Marcia says nothing could have stopped this from happening. "I never realized what a terrible mistake I made when I left him. I thought then that I had to keep my promise to you after all you've done for me. I tried to forget him. I tried to put him out of my mind, but was never able to. And now tonight I realized that I love him more than anything else in life. And I can't go on living without him." She wants to be set free. Nicolai says if that's what she wants, he won't stand in her way. Good night.
Nicolai is crushed and angry. He goes into the bedroom. He puts on his hat and coat. He takes his pistol and puts it in his coat pocket and then walks out of the hotel. Marcia goes into the bedroom and finds that her husband has taken his gun and gone out. It appears that he's out after Paul. He goes to Paul's apartment building and finds out which apartment he is living in. He walks up the steps. He goes into the apartment and walks up to Paul playing the piano. He pulls out his pistol and shoots Paul in the mid-section.
Marcia hears the shot. She sees her husband come out of Paul's apartment. She rushes in. Paul asks her not to cry.
Back to the present. Barbara feels very bad for Mrs. Morrison. The older woman tells her that she only told her the story to help her decide what she should do with Kip and her career. And that's why she lives here where people don't know her. Barbara says thank you to Marcia. She says she will pay more attention to Kip. And from now on, she's going to see Marcia more often, so she won't feel so lonely.
Kip comes along. Barbara rushes over to him. Kip says he has no right to stand in her way, but she says, with a laugh, that she's not going. They hug each other. Mrs. Morrison watches them. She has somewhat of a smile on her face. She dies there sitting under the tree.
Now the two lovers are reunited for good. Their souls sing to each other. They smile as Kip and Barbara kiss.
Entertaining movie, but not very informative historically speaking. Of course, that wasn't the purpose of the film. It's basically a story of unrequited love. I enjoyed the film. The role of Napoleon III was a small one, but it may help me to remember Napoleon III of France.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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