Thursday, August 8, 2013

Smiling Through

Once more it's time for the Lubitsch Touch: The Smiling Lieutenant (1931). The last time I watched a Lubitsch film, I complained about the lack of Maurice Chevalier. This one has him in the title role. He is a lieutenant in the Austrian guards, but a swordsman with the ladies. His first song, "Toujours l'Amour in the Army" pretty much sums up his lifestyle.

His latest conquest is girl musician Claudette Colbert. He is smiling and winking at her across the street, but the carriage of visiting royalty passes between them, and the wink is intercepted by Princess Miriam Hopkins. She is a stuck-up prissy prig, and is inclined to make an international incident over it, so Chavalier has to pretend to be lovestruck at the sight of her. Which works too well - now she wants to marry him.

Chevalier plays this quite broadly (I know, what a surprise), taking the title quite literally. Colbert is beautiful and sexy, and Miriam Hopkins is able, somehow, to appear plain and dowdy. But the ending is a real shocker. So - SPOILER - Chevalier marries Hopkins, but is true to Colbert, until Colbert takes Hopkins aside, explains what men like, and "jazzes up her lingerie". At this point, Chevalier is all about Hopkins, and Colbert is discarded.

We knew he was a cad from the start. We've seen his leer, his wink and heard his Toujours l'Amour song. But somehow, the way he dumps the woman you thought he loved for the princess he was forced to marry, just because she has hot underthings - it gives you a jar.

In conclusion, not my favorite Lubitsch, although I admire his chutzpah. The songs weren't that great, either.

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