French title: Le Fugue de Mariette (The Escapade of Mariette)
Danish title: Letsindige Marietta (Licentious Marietta)
German title: Tolle Marietta (Out-of-control Marietta)
Based on the 1910 operetta by Victor Herbert with book by Rida Johnson Young. Screenplay: John Lee Mahin, Frances Goodrich, and Albert Hackett. Musical Adaptation: Herbert Stothart. Art Director: Cedric Gibbons. Art Associates: Arnold Gillespie, Edwin B. Willis. Orchestrations: Paul Marquardt, Jack Virgin, Charles Maxwell, Leonid Raab, and Wayne Allen. Sound: Douglas Shearer. Costumes by Adrian. Assistant Director: Eddie Woehler. Photography: William Daniels. Editor: Blanche Sewell.
Naughty Marietta was originally presented on Nov. 7, 1910 at the New York Theatre, with Emma Trentini and Orville Harrold. It ran 136 performances before going “on the road,” a highly respectable run in the days when production costs were a fraction of what they are today, and a producer could recoup his investment in a month!
Jeanette MacDonald (Princess Marie de Namours de la Bonfain, AKA Marietta Franini)
Nelson Eddy (Captain Richard Warrington)
Frank Morgan (Governor Gaspard d’Annard)
Elsa Lanchester (Madame d’Annard)
Douglass Dumbrille (Uncle of Marietta, Prince de Namours de la Bonfain)
Joseph Cawthorn (Herr Schuman)
Cecilia Parker (Julie)
Walter Kingsford (Don Carlos de Braganza)
Greta Meyer (Frau Schuman)
Charles Bruin (Dockside troubadour)
Akim Tamiroff (Rudolpho)
Harold Huber (Abraham – “Abe”)
Edward Brophy (Ezekial “Zeke” Cramer)
Olive Carey (Mme Renavent)
William Desmond (Havre gendarme chief)
Mary Doran, Jean Chatburn, Pat Farley, Jane Barnes, Kay English, Linda Parker, Jane Mercer (Casquette girls)
Arthur Belasco, Tex Driscoll, Edward Hearn, Edmund Cobb, Charles Dunbar, Ed Brady (Mercenary scouts)
Dr. Edouard Lippé [Nelson’s music teacher] (Landlord)
Cora Sue Collins (the child Felice)
Helen Shipman (the real Marietta Franini)
William Burress (Bouget, pet shop keeper)
Catherine Griffith (Prunella, Marie’s maid)
Billy Dooley (Drunk, Marietta’s “brother”)
Guy Usher (Ship’s captain)
Walter Long (Pirate captain)
Harry Cording, Frank Hagney, Constantine Romanoff (Pirates)
Henry Roquemore (Herald)
Mary Foy (Duenna)
James C. Morton (Barber)
Louis Mercier (Dueler)
Robert McKenzie (Town crier)
Charles Bruin (Singer on dock)
J. Delos Jewkes (Priest on dock)
Zarubi Elmassian (Suzette – voice only)
William Moore [later Peter Potter] (Suitor Jacques)
Harry Tenbrook (Suitor at convent)
Ben Hall (Mama’s boy)
Ed Keane (Major Cornell)
Roger Gray (Sergeant)
Ralph Brooks (Marie’s suitor at cottage)
Edward Norris (Marie’s suitor at cottage)
Richard Powell (Herald)
Wilfred Lucas (Herald at ball)
Jack Mower (Nobleman)
Lawrence Grant, Craufurd Kent (New Orleans aristocrats)
Bits: Robert Graves, Richard Hemingway, Margaret Bloodgood, Judith Vosselli, Vessie Farrell, Olin Howland, Pat Flaherty, Beatrice Roberts, Milton Douglas, Elena Ulana, Georgia Caine, Kit Guard, Mary Loos.
Marietta (Cocker spaniel puppy – actually a litter)
Oscar for sound recording: Douglas Shearer.
Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
Other Awards: Voted one of the Ten Best Pictures of 1935 by the New York film critics. Photoplay Gold Medal Award as Best Picture of 1935 (beating out Mutiny on the Bounty which won the Oscar). Selected by the National Registry of Films, 2004.
Naughty Marietta was presented on Cecil B. DeMille’s Lux Radio Theatre 6/12/44 with Jeanette and Nelson, and on the Railroad Hour 1/17/49 with Jeanette and Gordon MacRae.
The first film made by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy together was nearly an accident. At least it acquired that reputation in the myths that grow up around any unprecedented success. The two singers and their director were a most unlikely combination for making screen history.
Jeanette was one of a handful of survivors of the earlier musical cycle. Of the genuine “29ers,” Chevalier, Harry Richman, Jolson, and Cantor were still hanging on, John Boles was playing Shirley Temple’s father, Grace Moore was making a comeback, Bing Crosby was rising, Bebe Daniels was about to depart for England where she would become an institution with her husband Ben Lyon, Joan Crawford had gone dramatic, and Dietrich was—Dietrich. The slick sex comedies that were Jeanette’s forte were dying at the box office. The public, reflected by the Hays and Breen Offices, wanted “family” pictures. The delightful Merry Widow had brought little money to the MGM coffers. A few more flops would undoubtedly have sent Jeanette back to Broadway.
Nelson Eddy was an expensive novice. His “blond” good looks and classically trained baritone had caused MGM to lure him from a lucrative concert career to an even more lucrative film contract—this in the depths of the Depression when most stars were taking salary cuts. The seven minutes of singing he had done on the screen in no way justified his salary and everyone knew it. He was the subject of many conferences, and it looked as if he were on his way out, a fact that did not dismay him. He missed the warm response of facing a live audience and was uneasy on the impersonal soundstages.
Director W.S. (Woody) Van Dyke II was a rugged outdoorsman. He was also one of Hollywood’s lifeblood directors. He turned out competent and frequently very good films in record time, under budget, and without elaborate demonstrations of his own importance. Thus he has been completely ignored by the cultists who prize the work of the more colorful if less productive men behind the megaphones. He started in the silent era, directing Tim McCoy westerns. Because of his reputation for location work and no-nonsense efficiency, he replaced Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North) on the Tahitian-based production of White Shadows in the South Seas when the studio feared its investment was in jeopardy. His credits included Tarzan, The Ape Man and the classic The Thin Man, with Myrna Loy and William Powell, which he reputedly shot in sixteen days. His only venture into the musical film was Cuban Love Song (1931), an interesting offbeat story with magnificent singing and acting by Lawrence Tibbett, pleasant slapstick by Jimmy Durante, an appealing performance by Lupe Velez, and endless repetitions of “The Peanut Vendor.”
The idea of pairing Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy existed for more than a year before the vehicle was decided upon. In July of 1933, MGM announced that they would both appear in The Prisoner of Zenda. This was later amended to Americans Can Sing and then to I Married an Angel. However, the stricter code made the story of an angel who loses her wings on her wedding night too risky. Finally a safe vehicle was chosen.
Naughty Marietta was a most improbable blockbuster. The Victor Herbert operetta dated back to 1910 and was a favorite of studio head Louis B. Mayer. It had been bought as a vehicle for Marion Davies, who had scored in the silent The Red Mill, and then abandoned when musicals lost their box office appeal. (Also shelved was Miss Davies’s unfinished version of Rosalie, in which Nelson Eddy would later star.)
Louis B. Mayer had been a small-town impresario in his youth, booking road companies of The Firefly and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. He always loved the old standbys and guessed (rightly as it turned out) that his audiences did too. Several people pointed out with dismay that Naughty Marietta’s key song, “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life,” was the theme song of Forest Lawn Cemetery. Mayer was adamant. Perhaps to minimize the cost of the impending disaster, “one-take” Van Dyke was selected as director and Hunt Stromberg assigned as producer. The stage was now set for the rebirth of screen operetta.
Naughty Marietta became Jeanette MacDonald’s third film to win an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Its light, breezy style of comedy and richly romantic music made it one of the most popular pictures of 1935 and started a cycle of operetta pictures that would last until World War II.
The backbone of the screen’s first operetta classic was a tightly written script that stripped away the extraneous eccentric characters of the stage version, as well as the past life of the heroine that provided the title. Gone was the gypsy girl in love with the Governor’s effeminate son who is secretly a pirate. The final curtain of the stage version finds the heroine comfortably ensconced in New Orleans. The MGM Marietta abandons idleness and riches for a life in the wilderness with the man she loves, a theme that has stirred the heart since prehistory.
Other assets were superb musical arrangements and added music by Herbert Stothart, and briskly casual direction by Van Dyke so that the film never seems to take itself seriously. Indeed, much of the charm may come from the outdoorsy feeling Van Dyke got by shooting most of the exteriors in natural sunlight. The strong light is occasionally unflattering to our heroine, but the fresh-air spontaneity more than makes up for it. Working quickly and economically with standard sets, stock footage of sails unfurling, and some rear projection, Van Dyke gets a sense of immediacy in Naughty Marietta that is lacking completely in the lavishly produced New Moon which the trio would make five years later.
Van Dyke was noted for his “one-take” policy. Film novice Eddy was understandably stiff and a bit terrified at his first encounter with heavy acting and caused numerous retakes in his first tense days on the set. On the stage he was able to establish an immediate rapport with his audience. Admittedly, he had always been uncomfortable with the melodramatics necessary in some grand opera roles. Critic Alexander Smallens recalled that “acting” was definitely not Eddy’s strong point, but that, in “straight” roles, his singing and warm manner conquered the audience. Eddy himself remembered his favorite roles as Wolfram in Tannhäuser and Papageno in The Magic Flute. Wolfram’s chief emotional projection is dignified concern and Papageno is a broad comedy part, perfectly suited to Eddy’s own sense of fun.
In those days opera acting, as well as the more traditional forms of stage acting, were still based on a system evolved by François Delsarte in the nineteenth century. Delsarte had tired of the frantic arm waving and scenery chewing that passed for dramatic acting and, after studying people in real-life situations, he formalized a catalogue of gestures that fit motion to emotion: back of wrist to head to express dismay, hand to heart to indicate passion. His method is the heart of classical ballet and would serve concert and opera singers throughout the first half of the twentieth century, but it was hardly the technique for a screen hero.
Van Dyke used on-set pranks to loosen up Eddy and reveal his natural charm. At one point, Van Dyke learned that the nervous Eddy was repeatedly flubbing a high note at a recording session. With nearly a hundred musicians and technicians staring icily at him, Eddy was not likely to calm down. On the next take, Van Dyke arranged for an enormous blast of sirens to go off just as the fatal note was reached. Everyone laughed including the astonished Eddy, and his next take was perfect.
The opening shot of Naughty Marietta is of a trilling lark on a slender finger. A voice echoes the bird’s song, and the camera pulls back to reveal the Princess Marie de Namour de la Bonfain (Jeanette) in a pet shop. She has slipped away from the palace to purchase some songbirds and to visit her old singing teacher nearby. Bringing a big-eyed puppy as a gift, she finds Herr Schuman (Joseph Cawthorn, the doctor in Love Me Tonight) hard at work. He is trying to write down the mysterious melody of the bells from the nearby church. Just as Marie starts to help him, they are interrupted by the pranks of her former fellow students. Together, they all swirl up the stairs from floor to floor, singing the spirited “Chansonette” as the little spaniel clambers determinedly after them.
Back at the palace, things are far from gay. Marie’s doltish fiancé, Don Carlos (Walter Kingsford), has arrived with his three cadaverous sisters, bearing a gift of wedding clothes—all black. Marie’s ominous uncle (Douglass Dumbrille) orders her to be nice to Don Carlos, but she knows the marriage has been arranged only to make her accessible to the lecherous Louis XV. The alternative is prison and possibly death. In despair, she picks out the notes of the unfinished song on the piano.
She is interrupted by a serving girl, Marietta (Helen Shipman), who has come to say goodbye. Marietta is too poor to marry her Giovanni, so she is going to the New World as a Casquette Girl with a dowry from the King. There she will marry a trapper or planter and begin a new life.
A new life! Princess Marie decides to change places with Marietta. She gives the girl a dowry so she can marry her sweetheart. As a final gesture, Marie throws open the doors of her aviary, letting the birds fly free.
The king’s messengers are searching the countryside for her, but the new Marietta is nearly unrecognizable among the raw-boned brides. In a simple homespun dress, she crosses her eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses and distorts her face by stuffing her mouth with bread, chewing elaborately. When a suspicious sentry questions her, she points out a reeling drunk on the dock (silent comic Billy Dooley) as her “brother.” She waves him such a tearful farewell that he decides to go with her. Fortunately, he and the ship sway in different directions. As the ship prepares to sail, a dockside troubadour (Charles Bruins) sings the mocking love song of “Antoinette and Anatole.” Amidst the tears of the old people and children left behind, the ship pulls out into the harbor, taking the young girls to an unknown fate. Their voices rise in the moving “Prayer” (based on a Victor Herbert piano piece).
Off the coast of Louisiana, the girls discuss what kinds of husbands they hope for, but Marietta is hard at work on her song. “I’m not going to marry,” she tells them. She comforts the timid Julie (Cecilia Parker) when the other girls tease her and tells Julie she will find a fine young man in the New World. “But what about you, Marietta? Don’t you want a fine young man?”
They are interrupted by pirates who kill the crew and cart the girls off to their camp in the bayou. Facing death or worse at any moment, the girls hear a distant song. It is Captain Dick Warrington (Nelson) and his scouts!
They come “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp”-ing out of the woods and demolish the pirates. The girls take quite a liking to their colorful rescuers, but Dick Warrington assures them they will be delivered untouched to New Orleans. Marietta instantly dislikes the brash captain, and he, in turn, resents her superior airs.
Around the campfire, Dick charms the girls with his rich baritone rendition of “The Owl and the Bobcat.” Marietta pretends disinterest. Dick can’t understand what brought such an attractive girl to the wilderness to seek a husband. “Surely nothing short of a wooden leg.”
He takes advantage of the moonlight to sing the lushly romantic “’Neath the Southern Moon.” Marietta is not impressed. She snaps her fingers in his face and walks off disdainfully—right into a tree.
In New Orleans, the Casquette Girls are welcomed enthusiastically by the entire population, led by the Governor (Frank Morgan in his first role without a mustache since 1928) and his haughty wife (Elsa Lanchester). Soon the girls are promenading in the garden of a nearby convent, interviewing prospective husbands. “Can I have a blonde, mother?” “‘May I have a blonde,’ son.”
Dick and the Governor are enjoying the sight of all these pretty girls when a disturbance erupts. Marietta is refusing several very persistent young men. The Governor reminds her of her contract, but she insists it was “lies, all lies.” Certain that he has seen her somewhere before, the Governor reads her contract in search of the lies. Marietta agrees to the truth of each statement—her age, health, hometown—until he reaches “is of excellent character, entirely above reproach.”
“That’s it!” she cries, as Dick eyes her in disbelief. “Surely,” she asks, lowering her eyes, “you have a place in New Orleans for someone who doesn’t wish to marry but who likes to be charming…”
Amidst his wife’s splutters of rage, the Governor orders the gendarmes to take Marietta away and “find her a home somewhere.” His wife eyes him coldly. “And youthought you knew her.”
Dick again rescues Marietta, this time from the gendarmes, who hope she plans to charm them. He finds her a place to live in the Bohemian quarter and invites himself to dinner. “I never cooked in my life,” she tells him, “and I’d die before I cooked you a radish.”
“You don’t cook radishes,” he replies, “you eat them alive.” Marietta is just about to throw Dick out when a group of singers from Rudolpho’s Marionette Theatre come by the balcony window. Dick loves to be sung to, and chides Marietta for not being as agreeable and talented as the troupe’s dark-eyed soprano. Marietta gleefully eclipses the lady with a spirited rendition of “The Italian Street Song,” giving an extra emphasis to the “Ah-ha-ha” refrain for Dick’s benefit.
Several gentlemen who have followed Marietta from the convent arrive with something less than marriage on their minds. Dick agrees with their declaration that Marietta should have the best among them, thanks them for their compliment, and closes the door in their faces. He turns to find out more about this decidedly puzzling Casquette Girl, but she has fled.
The leader of the gendarmes, Major Cornell (Ed Keane), is infuriated by the continued presence of Dick’s scouts within his jurisdiction, but Dick insists on keeping his men in town “for a rest” while he looks for Marietta. A chance visit to the Marionette Theatre reveals Marietta in a doll costume, singing “Ship Ahoy.” Backstage Rudolpho (Akim Tamiroff) warns Marietta that Captain Warrington is notorious as a heartbreaker.
Nevertheless, Dick manages to persuade her to accompany him on a tour of the town. They argue good naturedly until they pass an outdoor café and Marietta realizes she is hungry. At a nearby table are two members of Dick’s rustic regiment, Abe (Harold Huber) and Zeke (Ed Brophy), loudly slurping their soup. This charming interlude is interrupted by a messenger on horseback. A ship is in the harbor bearing Don Carlos and Marie’s uncle, who is offering a large reward for “Marietta Franini.” (The original stage “Marietta,” Emma Trentini, was from Naples to justify her accent, and the vestigial name remains.)
Dick sends the crowd off to the Marionette Theatre and escapes with Marietta in a small boat. Drifting in the bayou, he tells her he has a song for her, “I’m Falling in Love with Someone.” She has a song for him too, but she doesn’t know the words yet. “It’s all so mysterious,” he says. The gendarmes are waiting for them in Dick’s camp. Dick offers to fight their way out, but Marietta fears for his.life and quickly consents to return to France with her uncle and Don Carlos.
At the Governor’s house, the ladies of New Orleans who had spurned Marietta now vie with each other to meet the Princess Marie. She is elaborately dressed and coiffed for the ball in her honor. Don Carlos has been convinced by her uncle that her running away was just a girlish prank to entice him.
Julie, now married to a young man in the Governor’s service, tells Marietta that Captain Warrington has been ordered to leave town immediately on pain of death. Even as they speak, they hear the scouts passing in the road on their way up-river.
Dick has been forbidden entrance to the ball, but Major Cornell is eager to even old scores and lets him in. Dick finds Marietta. Terrified for his safety, she lies to him, telling him that she will see him tomorrow even though her ship is leaving that night. She is trying to persuade him to leave when her uncle discovers them together. “Don’t be silly, Uncle. This young man only came to say goodbye.”
The guests beg for a song. Across the crowded ballroom floor, Marietta sees Dick leaving and knows she will never see him again. The words for her song fall into place. She sings and he knows that it is just for him: “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.” The “secret of it all” is love. Dick realizes this is farewell, and forgetting his safety, he returns to sing with her. She pauses halfway up the stairs and turns to sing the emotional duet.
The song ends. Marietta rushes upstairs in tears. Her uncle furiously places her under guard. But Dick is waiting in her room to take her away “to the land beyond the mountains.” As they slip down the backstairs, her uncle discovers she is gone and rushes out on the balcony.
“Arrest them,” he cries to two nearby gendarmes. He orders the prisoners taken to the Governor’s office.
“At once!” cry the menacing gendarmes, and they do a smart about-face. It is Abe and Zeke. “We know a better way to the Governor’s office,” comments Abe. “Yeah,” murmurs Zeke. “Through the woods. Kinda pretty…”
The closing scene shows Marietta, once again in homespun, riding into the West in the arms of Captain Warrington as the scouts sing “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” and the lovers’ voices soar in “Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found thee.
It was apparent from the beginning that Naughty Marietta was going to be a hit. The premiere was held in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 1935, and the formally dressed audience included Supreme Court judges, cabinet members, thirty-five senators, and the Russian ambassador. The film opened at the Capitol Theatre in New York (the site of Miss MacDonald’s first stage appearance), where it had a record run. Rereleased in 1945, it ran five weeks at New York’s Plaza Cinema as a single feature, and has it enjoyed revivals ever since.
Ed Sullivan reported in the New York Daily News: “It’s terrific. MacDonald-Eddy are the new team sensation of the industry. Their duet of ‘Sweet Mystery of Life’ is the grandest thing ever recorded!” Regina Crewe proclaimed in the New York American: “Superlatives for Naughty Marietta! It’s the top, the super-stratosphere of musical motion picture entertainment! In Nelson Eddy, who debuts so auspiciously as Jeanette MacDonald’s hero, the screen has found a thrilling thrush, possessed not only of rare vocal tone but of personality and form and features cast in the heroic mold. A madly enthusiastic audience applauded each song.”
The New York Times’s Andre Sennwald was just as enthusiastic: “A screen operetta which would have delighted its composer. W.S. Van Dyke has made a photoplay which is gaily romantic and rhapsodically tuneful. Such fortissimo singing as Mr. Eddy and Miss MacDonald provide for those rapturous love songs has not been heard in a motion picture theatre since One Night of Love.” (The Oscar-nominated One Night of Love with Grace Moore had scored a huge hit several months earlier.)
Venerated critic Richard Watts Jr wasn’t sparing with superlatives for his review in the New York Herald-Tribune: “Virtually perfection of cinema light opera….The triumph of Naughty Marietta is registered by Nelson Eddy who has a brilliant baritone voice.”
“Great entertainment! An exquisite film so rich musically and strong in story, it makes the average musical movie seem tawdry. Handsomely produced and skillfully directed, it features the splendid voices of soprano Jeanette MacDonald and baritone Nelson Eddy. The story is dramatic, its tender charm contrasted with the stirring scenes of action and suspense.” Bland Johanneson, New York Daily Mirror.
“A great screen operetta sung to perfection. Possessed of a brilliant baritone voice, handsome Mr. Eddy has a way about him which, with his singing ability, should make him one of cinema’s outstanding figures. MacDonald’s is a stunning performance, both vocally and dramatically.” William Boehnel, New York World-Telegram.
Even Time magazine unbent long enough to offer faint praise: “This preposterous scrap of Americana is well suited to the needs of sentimental cinema….a worthy example of what operatic cinema can amount to….[Nelson Eddy is] as personable a singer as his most serious Hollywood rival, Lawrence Tibbett.”
Indeed, newcomer Nelson eclipsed the established Jeanette in the rave department: “A new movie star emerged from the Capitol [NYC] screen when Nelson Eddy appeared opposite Jeanette MacDonald in Naughty Marietta…his fine, full powered voice is admirably suited to the Herbert score” wrote Kate Cameron in the New York Daily News.
“Those advance enthusiasms were justified. Nelson Eddy is a find, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has wisely put him in a part well suited to his acting ability and magnificent voice. Jeanette MacDonald is at the top!” reported Eileen Creelman in the New York Sun. The New York Journal reported that “Naughty Marietta is a personal triumph for Nelson Eddy. Already famous on the concert stage, Mr. Eddy is established as a definite screen personality.”
(See Discography for further information)
The superb MGM arrangements of these old tunes done by Herbert Stothart were not used for the RCA recordings, so millions know most of these MacDonald/Eddy favorites only in their rather flat recorded versions.
“Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” (Recorded both separately and together by both MacDonald and Eddy, plus as a duet between Eddy and Nadine Connor)
“Italian Street Song” (MacDonald)
“Chante Italienne” [Italian Street Song] (MacDonald)
“I’m Falling in Love with Someone” (Eddy)
“‘’Neath the Southern Moon” (Eddy)
“Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” (Eddy and male chorus)
Eddy also recorded songs from the original Naughty Marietta that weren’t used in the film: “It Never, Never Can Be Love,” “Live for Today” (with Nadine Connor), and “Naughty Marietta.”
“Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life,” with “Indian Love Call” on the reverse, received a Gold Record for selling a million copies, a major accomplishment when the nation’s population numbered only 160 million.
All music by Victor Herbert. Original lyrics by Rida Johnson Young. New lyrics by Gus Kahn. In listing performers after each title, “and” denotes a genuine duet, while commas between names indicate a sequence of singers.
An asterisk (*) indicates author’s working title for material crafted for the film. No copyright records have been located for these songs. (The bird call that opens film is used as a calling theme between lovers Gene Raymond and Loretta Young in the poetic film Zoo in Budapest, 1933.)
Overture: Roll of drums, “Italian Street Song” (MacDonald, Eddy, male chorus), “Ah, Sweet
Mystery of Life.”
“Chansonette” (MacDonald and chorus) – based on “Punchinello,” arranged by Herbert Stothart,
lyrics by Gus Kahn.
“Antoinette and Anatole” (Charles Bruin and women’s chorus) – based on “Dance of the
Marionettes” from stage score, lyrics by Gus Kahn.
“Prayer”* (Delos Jewkes, chorus, MacDonald) – based on a Herbert piano solo, “Yesterthoughts” (1900), lyrics by Gus Kahn. (Also sung as “Wonderful Dreams” by Allan Jones and
Mary Martin in The Great Victor Herbert, Paramount, 1939.)
“Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” (Eddy and male chorus) – Lyrics by Rida Johnson Young and Gus
Kahn. (The verse about “wading in blood to the knee” is happily omitted.)
“The Owl and the Bob Cat”* (Eddy and male chorus) – based on “If I Were Anybody Else But
Me” from original stage production, lyrics by Gus Kahn.
“‘’Neath the Southern Moon” (Eddy) – Lyrics by Rida Johnson Young. (Originally a contralto
aria for the gypsy lover of the Governor’s effeminate son.)
“Mon Ami Pierrot” fragment (contralto) – traditional French folk song.
“Italian Street Song” (Zarubi Elmassian, Eddy, MacDonald with chorus)
“Ship Ahoy” (MacDonald, M. Sankar, Countess Sonia, Alexander, Bokefi, William Sabot) –
music identical to “Antoinette and Anatole,” based on “Dance of the Marionettes” from
stage version, lyrics by Gus Kahn.
“I’m Falling in Love With Someone” (Eddy) – Lyrics by Rida Johnson Young.
“Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” (MacDonald, Eddy, violin obligato by Jan Rubini) – Also known
as “The Dream Melody,” lyrics by Rida Johnson Young. (There is a popular but untrue
legend that the song, used as an entr’acte in the stage production, had lyrics put to it after
the show opened. Both versions were copyrighted simultaneously and used from the
Finale: “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” (male chorus) sung contrapuntally with “Ah Sweet Mystery of
Life” (MacDonald, Eddy)
Songs from the original stage production that were used in the film are: “Italian Street Song,” ‘’Neath the Southern Moon,” “I’m Falling in Love With Someone,” “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,” and “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.” New words were put to the melodies of “Dance of the Marionettes” and “If I Were Anybody Else But Me.”
Contributed by Mary Truesdell
A March 1930 draft of the script in the MGM archives, intended for the adorable and feisty Marion Davies, depicts Marietta as a Parisian laundress with aspirations to be a singer. Her beau is a baker, “heavy, clumsy, but nice and honest.” The supporting male lead is a gawky music student from the provinces, lusted after and eventually kept by an aristocratic siren. Marietta, in turn, is tempted by a well-to-do villain, but eventually the principals achieve career success and true love together.
The next script adaptation has Marietta still in Paris, wooed simultaneously by a poor Gypsy named Dumaine and a rich villain named Etienne. Dumaine ultimately wins her heart by singing “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” under her window, and they go off to a life of poverty and happiness.
With the Motion Picture Code in effect in 1934, Felix Feist prepared a new version, still intended for Davies. It reverts to the New Orleans stage location, but with Marietta, still feisty and adorable, arriving from France to escape an arranged marriage. She rebels at the marriage auction block, and Dick, intrigued by her feisty adorableness, carries her off, tied and gagged. This script was further adapted and refined into the MacDonald-Eddy version we know today.
Seeking appropriate future vehicles for the burgeoning MacDonald-Eddy team, MGM advertised a forthcoming production of Reginald de Koven’s opera Robin Hood. Eddy certainly had the opera credentials, but it was hard for some to picture him leaping about in tights. When Warner Bros. released a non-singing saga of Sherwood with Errol Flynn in 1938, the opera project was shelved.
Movie magic sometimes comes about because scenes are routinely shot out of sequence and then rearranged in the editing process or parts of the same scene are shot on different days. Costumes may change within the same scene, props appear and disappear. The continuity person (called a “script girl” in the old days) tried desperately to prevent these mistakes, but sometimes they slipped in. Here are some favorites spotted by sharp-eyed fans.
The spot on the head of the cute puppy following Jeanette up the stairs in the opening scenes keeps expanding and contracting—indicating they used a whole litter to film the scene. (Molly Yeckley)
After Princess Marie puts the bird in the aviary, she places its carrying cage under a small table. But when the real Marietta comes in to say goodbye, the cage is not there. (Anna Michalik)
Nelson’s pinkie ring is appears and disappears from scene to scene. (Tricia Lutz)
While Dick is singing “The Owl and the Bobcat” to Marietta, the tie on her cloak keeps tying and untying itself. And the sail on the small boat in the bayou keeps furling and unfurling as he sings “I’m Falling in Love with Someone” to her. (Anna Michalik)
Jeanette’s hairstyle in the scene before the gypsies appear keeps switching from smooth curls to tight curls. (Stephanie Loyd)
Jeanette carries white gloves in her hand as she leaves her bedroom, but a second later, as she descends the stair to the ball, she is wearing medium-colored gloves with several bracelets firmly clasped over them. (Author)
At the ball, when the guests ask Marietta to sing, her uncle is at her left. But when the camera cuts to a medium shot, he is at her right. (Minami Pennington)
Notice the microphone boom shadow following Nelson and Jeanette in their farewell scene on the horse as they ride away into the mountains. (Elsa Dik Glass)