Prerelease title: Lover, Come Back
Swedish title: Nymånen (New Moon)
French title: L’Isle des Amours (Island of Love)
Spanish title: Luna Llena (Full Moon)
Portuguese title: Lua Nova (New Moon)
Based on the stage operetta with music by Sigmund Romberg, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Frank Mandel, and Laurence Schwab. Screenplay: Jacques Deval, Robert Arthur. Cameramen: William Daniels, Oliver Marsh. Music Director: Herbert Stothart. Editor: Harold F. Kress. Recording Director: Douglas Shearer. Art Director: Cedric Gibbons. Art Assoc. Eddie Imazu. Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis. Gowns: Adrian. Men’s Costumes: Gile Steele. Makeup: Jack Dawn. Dances: Val Raset. Assistant Directors: Marvin Stuart, Hugh Boswell. Boat scenes photography: Clyde de Vinna.
The stage version of New Moon, called The New Moon, opened in Philadelphia on December 22, 1927, and was closed for revamping. It reached Broadway on September 19, 1928, where it reigned at the Imperial Theatre for 509 performances. It starred Evelyn Herbert and Robert Halliday.
MGM’s 1930 musical film New Moon starred Grace Moore and Lawrence Tibbett, and was directed by Jack Conway (Let Freedom Ring). It abandoned the stage plot entirely for a Russian setting in which a haughty aristocrat (Moore) must choose between a rich lover (Adolphe Menjou) and a dashing Russian officer (Tibbett). Since Menjou doesn’t sing, her decision is easy. The 1919 Select silent, The New Moon, which starred Norma Talmadge, was also a Russian story, but totally unrelated to the operetta.
Jeanette MacDonald (Marianne de Beaumanoir)
Nelson Eddy (Charles Mission, Duc de Vidiers) *
Mary Boland (Valerie de Rossac)
George Zucco (Vicomte de Ribaud)
H.B. Warner (Father Michel)
Richard [Dick] Purcell (Alexander)
Stanley Fields (Tambour)
Bunty Cutler (Julie, the maid)
Grant Mitchell (Governor of New Orleans)
Ray Walker (Coco)
John Miljan (Pierre Brugnon)
Ivan Simpson (Guizot)
George Irving (Ship Captain)
Edwin Maxwell (Captain de Jean)
Paul E. Burns (Guard on ship)
Trevor Bardette (Foulette)
LeRoy Mason (Grant)
William Tannen (Pierre)
Cecil Cunningham (Governor’s wife)
Claude King (Dubois)
Rafael Storm (de Piron)
Winifred Harris (Lady)
Buster Keaton (“Lulu”- cut from print)
Robert Warwick (Commissar)
Sarah Edwards (Marquise della Rosa)
George Lloyd (Quartermaster)
Gayne Whitman (Mate)
Jean Fenwick (Woman)
George Magrill (Guard)
Christian J. Frank, Arthur Belasco, Edward Hearn, Nick Copeland, Gino Corrado, Fred Graham (Bondsmen)
Frank Remsden (Man)
Ed O’Neill (Lookout)
Warren Rock [Jeanette’s real-life brother-in-law] (Mate)
Jewell Jordan (Woman)
Joe Yule [Mickey Rooney’s father] (Maurice)
Max Marx (Officer)[Stephen] Alden Chase (Citizen)
Jack Perrin (Officer)
Claire Rochelle (Drunken girl)
Frank Elliott, Kenneth Gibson, Victor Kendall, Gerald Fielding, Bea Nigro, Hillary Brooke (Guests)
Dorothy Granger (Fat bridesmaid)
June Gittelson (Madeline)
David Alison (Troubadour)
Ralph Dunn, Harry Strang, Ray Teal, Ted Oliver (Bondsmen)
Joe Dominguez (Wounded bondsman)
Florence Shirley (Guest)
Forbes Murray (Commandant)
Abe Dinovitch, Sally Mueller, Austin Grant (“Stout Hearted Men” soloists)
Nat Pendleton (Bondsman, Lulu’s pal)
The Jericho Choir with Eddie Jones, Ben Carter, Lois Hodnett, Billy Mitchell (Negro spiritual singers)
*The stage hero is named Robert Mission.
For those who delight in Naughty Marietta, New Moon presents a problem. So many plot turns, scenes, even lines are identical that the mind boggles. Is it an attempt to invoke nostalgia for an already-distant moment of glory? Or a hack attempt to cash in on a former success? Or an intended parody? Or just an accident? We never find out.
Again we have the shipload of Casquette girls captured by pirates. Again, a leering pirate leader comes down the stairs into the hold to survey the cowering maidens. Again the matriarch of the group cries out in quivering outrage that they are not to lay one finger on the girls. Again we are in Louisiana amidst powdered wigs, panniers, and shoe buckles. Again Jeanette is a lady of rank with an unfinished song and a maid named Julie. Again we have a pompous governor, nobility incognito, a grand ball, and a curving staircase begging for a song.
A second problem in seeing the film today is that it thrusts naggingly into our social consciousness with its casual acceptance and treatment of the black slaves while vigorously denouncing the servitude of the white bond servants. And it is nearly impossible, without a wrench of the heart, to see Buster Keaton, only ten years earlier regarded as one of the world’s greatest comedians, in a walk-on rôle.
Assuming that we can put these factors aside, New Moon is a pleasant film, heavily laden with “production value” and rich in well-known songs. Robert Z. Leonard again directs with his artful eye for getting the most out of each scene and his overall lack of structure and pacing. Having discovered that Jeanette shared with Carole Lombard the delightful ability to mug outrageously while being utterly feminine, he makes heavy use of her talent in every single scene. Thus, her emoting as the haughty Marianne de Beaumanoir offers no contrast to her later indignation when she finds herself reduced to taking orders and milking goats with the rest of the Casquette girls. MacDonald mannerisms are allowed to occur so frequently that they lose their effect.
Eddy, too, is not quite as we want to remember him. He hated the constant nagging by the studio about his weight. He was after all, a baritone and not a bathing beauty. In the days before the vogue for slender opera singers, Eddy was a sylph among singers. Nearly every prominent singer, male and female, outdid him for girth and tonnage and he couldn’t understand the studio’s preoccupation with starving him. Thus, in New Moon, he is perhaps just a trifle heavy for his dashing revolutionary rôle. However, he leads his men with rousing fervor, and his rugged character freed him of the still traditional juvenile makeup with lipstick that continued to afflict even actors like Humphrey Bogart into the forties. (Eddy had frequently suffered at the hands of the makeup people, especially in The Girl of the Golden West.)
New Moon had been bought by MGM in the first days of sound after its 1928 Broadway success as The New Moon, referring to the name of a ship. Eighteen years had separated the stage versions of Naughty Marietta and The New Moon, so audiences didn’t notice the similarities. The 1930 New Moon became a film vehicle for Grace Moore and Lawrence Tibbett. The Moore-Tibbett story concerned a dashing Russian officer and a haughty aristocrat who sings “Lover, Come Back to Me” from the battlements of an isolated fort as her man rides out to fight the Cossacks. The 1940 New Moon returns to the stage plot, more or less, eliminating the characters of Marianne’s father and fiancé. Alexander, the comic servant of Marianne and partner of soubrette Julie, becomes a non-singing sidekick of the hero.
Appearing only five years after Naughty Marietta and with the same stars, New Moon couldn’t help calling attention to the similar plots. To be perfectly fair, the bride-ship device used in the film Naughty Marietta was not in the stage version and had been “borrowed” from the stage The New Moon originally. Still, we might wish for a fresh way to get all the men and maidens together on the island.
Behind the credits, we see the silhouette of an eighteenth-century ship slowly crossing a moonlit tropical ocean. Our opening scene takes place on board the luxurious vessel, the Joie des Anges. A dance is in progress, and the celebrants could not be dressed more grandly if they were at Versailles. Indeed, they are fresh from Paris and on their way to New Orleans.
The toast of the evening is Marianne de Beaumanoir (Jeanette), who has quite dazzled the handsome Monsieur Dubois (Claude King). Marianne’s garrulous old aunt, Mme de Rossac (Mary Boland), gloatingly informs a cluster of gossiping biddies that Dubois can mean nothing to Marianne. Why, it is barely a month since “we” refused an offer of marriage from a prince. And Marianne has sung for the queen!
As the dance music dies, an ugly sound is heard in the distance. Only the cattle in the hold, the Captain (George Irving) assures Marianne. If Mademoiselle will sing for them, her music would make them all deaf even to the roar of lions. She gaily sings the flirtatious “Stranger in Paris.” As she launches into an encore of “The Way They Do It in Paris,” she is slowly drowned out by the singing of the “cattle” in the hold.
They are bond servants being shipped to the colonies as penalty for various crimes, and their lyrics are as bitter as Mademoiselle’s are innocent. The Captain sends several officers to silence the miscreants and their leader, an especially outspoken but not outsung villain named Charles Mission (Nelson).
Charles demands that the Captain fulfill his promise to the King and deliver live bondsmen to New Orleans, not skeletons for medical students. The prisoners need food and air. The officer tells Charles ominously that he can see the Captain in the morning and deliver the request in person.
The bondsmen are all elated—all except Charles’s three friends, Pierre (William Tannen), Alexander (Dick Purcell), and Tambour (Stanley Fields). The Captain may recognize him, and, if Charles Mission is guillotined, the noble Duke Charles de Vidiers will also be headless. Charles is indeed the revolutionary Duke. He has escaped the King’s police by getting himself arrested for drunkenly singing seditious ditties and deported under an assumed name. But he has not escaped death to spend his life as a bond servant, he tells them. A month behind them on the high seas is the ship New Moon, loaded to capacity with guns and provisions. His brother officer, Captain Mondieux, is leading the rescue. The plan must be kept quiet until the time is right.
The sea is a bit rough the next morning when Marianne makes her way to the Captain’s quarters to register a complaint. There she finds a handsome young man in shirt sleeves, also waiting for the Captain. In his embarrassment at being so discovered by a lady, he grabs the only coat in sight, an officer’s jacket hanging on a peg. Instantly the rough-looking Charles Mission takes on the appearance of an officer and a gentleman. Marianne certainly thinks so, for she does not object too strenuously when he is mildly flirtatious or the pitching ship throws her into his arms.
She has come to tell the Captain of her aunt’s problem, but perhaps she can tell his officer instead. Her aunt has been kept awake by the howling of the men in the hold and would like something done—not anything unpleasant of course. Charles apologizes elaborately for her aunt’s distress. The men were merely clamoring for food and air. In New Orleans, they will be sold like cattle. Perhaps her aunt will consider the years of starvation and whips facing these men as atonement for her sleepless night.
Marianne is horrified and withdraws her complaint. Charles kisses her hand “on behalf of those abandoned men,” but he must decline her invitation to one of the ship’s dances. His duties keep him busy day and night. She asks his name but he will tell her only his given names, Charles Henri, since “they are the only ones a woman remembers.”
This brief meeting apparently makes a tremendous impression on Marianne. When the ship reaches New Orleans, she decides to give a ball for all the ship’s officers at her plantation. The plantation itself is complete with white-pillared mansion and smiling slaves waving at the gate.
Marianne has just completed an extremely modest bath (compared to Miss MacDonald’s Lubitsch days) and is discussing the subject of love with her servant, Julie (Bunty Cutler), when Charles walks into the room bearing flowers. The amused and romantically inclined Marianne decides that he has boldly disguised himself in servant’s livery for the escapade. She sends for her overseer, Brugnon, to chide him for permitting the charade. Meanwhile Charles returns with Mademoiselle’s breakfast tray.
Flowers are one thing, but Charles’ continued presence in her bedroom borders on impropriety. She spars verbally with him as he serves her hot chocolate, getting his gloved fingers caught in the sugar tongs. When Brugnon (John Miljan) arrives, Marianne upbraids him for going along with the deception. Brugnon disillusions her. Charles was bought at auction yesterday. He has a receipt. Charles belongs to her for life.
Of course, Charles comes highly recommended. He was the personal valet of the Duke de Vidiers. Angry and embarrassed, Marianne sends Charles off to his duties. They include polishing the shoes of the household, which he does musically under the trees. As he sings of “shoes that do not choose to run” (a reference to the 1940 presidential election), he tosses each finished shoe up into the air. Magically they vanish. The camera tracks up to reveal a tiny black boy in the tree who is catching the shoes and hanging them on the branches to dry. Charles’s sprightly song continues until he reaches one particular shoe, her shoe. From her window, Marianne hears his singing turn to romance as he sings “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.”
Marianne summons him to the library and reproaches him, not only for his singing but for his irritating attitude as well. He is actually assuming the manners of a nobleman. “Many noblemen have learned their good manners from their servants,” he tells her. “That is a revolutionary remark!” she replies. “Many a truth is, Mademoiselle,” he says.
She tells Charles that things are quite different from Paris here in the Colonies. The one who commands is merely a matter of circumstance, but someone must command. Charles eloquently and truthfully replies that even a Duke would be proud to serve her. Marianne sends Charles off to assist her Major Domo, Guizot, with the arrangements for the ball. Charles is to obey Guizot in every detail.
The reception is splendid beyond belief. Even Marianne is astonished at the elegance around her. Her delight turns to dismay when she learns that Charles, not Guizot, has directed everything. Angrily she tells Guizot (Ivan Simpson) that he is not to take orders footmen! However, the guests, including the Governor (Grant Mitchell), are suitably dazzled.
Dancing and gossip are the main activities of the evening. Marianne’s aunt holds forth with the latest tales of the scandalous Duke de Vidiers, which end with the Duke spending the night in the bed-chamber of the Princess de Caravye.
A loud chord of music summons Marianne to sing for her guests. Guizot, Charles tells her, has made it the feature of the party. And, asks Marianne tartly, has Guizot decided what she should sing? “Guizot is for ‘One Kiss,’ Mademoiselle,” Charles murmurs.
“One Kiss” is delivered to the rapt guests, although several are not too rapt to notice Charles’s adoring looks during the song. The regal Governor’s wife (Cecil Cunningham, the laundress of Love Me Tonight) rolls her eyes toward her husband, her tongue making a knowing circuit inside her cheek. Another guest, the middle-aged Marquise della Rosa (Sarah Edwards), takes notice of Charles. As he summons her coach for the long journey to Baton Rouge, she suggests that Marianne sell Charles to her. People’s tongues are so uncharitable in New Orleans, she smirks. “I wouldn’t trust them even in Baton Rouge,” Marianne replies archly. Nevertheless, the Marquise urges, if Marianne should return to her guests and find the whispering too overwhelming, she can send Charles along to Baton Rouge on her fastest horse. The Marquise departs in a flurry of ruffles and innuendo.
Marianne fears that the elaborateness of her party will make her a laughingstock, and she rebukes Charles. He assures her that the party is an exact duplicate of one given years before by a lady of New Orleans who thereby gained her reputation for taste and grandeur. The lady was Marianne’s mother, and the party celebrated Marianne’s first birthday. The memory of the party was her mother’s last joy on this earth. He knows all this, he says, from diaries kept in the library where he has been dusting. Even the song, “One Kiss,” was sung that night. Moved and ashamed, Marianne dismisses him.
A whistled call of “La Marseillaise” summons Charles outside. Alexander reports that the New Moon is anchored three miles out. Everyone awaits Charles’s orders. He tells Alexander to have everyone prepare to board just before dawn. He will join them soon.
As the party ends, the chanting of slaves is heard in the distance, singing “Troubles of the World.” A guest explains to Marianne’s aunt that they are “celebrating.” “Are they eating someone?” she giggles.
Marianne is drawn to the garden by the music. Charles follows her, and they watch a ceremony in which the slaves stroke the trunk of a giant magnolia tree as they tell it of their troubles. We see the tree, an art director’s masterpiece, in silhouette against a sound-stage moon while self-conscious extras mill around its massive roots. Suddenly we long for a director like Van Dyke who would have used a more realistic tree and sent the camera in close, searching the faces of the extras for real pathos, instead of opting for just a standard production number.
Marianne tells Charles about the time when her nurse took her to the trouble tree. She was desperately lonely after the death of her mother and somehow talking to the tree took away her sorrow.
The slaves switch to a melody in a minor key, and Marianne tells Charles how she has often tried to fit words to it: “The sky was blue. The moon was new.” She trails off. Charles too, has a song: “Wanting You.” Marianne is moved to join him and to let him kiss her. Then, alarmed at what is happening, she rushes back to the house alone.
There, the Governor and the Vicomte de Ribaud of the secret police are waiting. The Vicomte (George Zucco) has just arrived from France, searching for a traitor among the bondsmen. The man is the Duke de Vidiers. A foolish, misguided woman has aided him in his escape and suffered exile for her trouble. Now Ribaud is closing the net. He is warning all the plantation owners tonight and in the morning they will inspect the bondsmen and capture their man. Already they have discovered the Duke’s plot to free all the bondsmen in the Colonies and have taken steps against it. The New Moon, lying in the harbor, which was to have been their escape vessel, is manned by the King’s soldiers. By sunset tomorrow, the plotters will be on their way back to France for a date with Madame la Guillotine.
Marianne assures them of her full cooperation. After they have left, she summons Charles, who arrives ready for romance. Instead he is told that he has been sold to the Marquise. Nearly hysterical, Marianne orders him to pack and leave within the hour. He assumes that this is his punishment for having dared to kiss her and leaves in a fury. Outside, he joins his friends and rides, not to the Marquise in Baton Rouge but to the ocean and the New Moon. From the window, Marianne watches him go. At last, she finds the words of her song: “Lover, Come Back to Me.”
Charles and his friends gallop full speed through the murky bayous to meet the others. Alexander cuts them off and tells them that “the marines have landed.” Ribaud must have discovered their plan. Alexander has seen him and the Governor riding toward Marianne’s plantation. “So that’s why she sent me away,” Charles exclaims. “Mercifully and insultingly. I’ll remember both.” Charles is urged to escape alone but he refuses. They will escape together or not at all.
First, they must reach the stockade before the marines and release the imprisoned bondsmen. This they do, and, as the camera tracks through the prison, clamoring prisoners spew forth through the unlocked doors.
Standing on the whipping block in the center of the torch-lit yard, Charles tells them that their only chance is to take the New Moon and pilot her to freedom. The grizzled faces stare at him sullenly. Piracy is a hanging offense. It’s their only chance, Charles cries. If no one will come with him, he is going alone. “Wait!” cries Alexander. That’s one. Tambour makes two. Then Pierre, Jacques, another, eight, nine, ten! With his ten men, Charles marches off for the New Moon to the rousing rhythms of “Stout Hearted Men.”
The music and his courage are too much for the stragglers and, a few at a time, they begin following him until there is a solid wall of men racing after the briskly marching Charles. The camera tracks along just in front of Charles and his little band (shades of Naughty Marietta) as the crowd literally runs to catch up. They unite and march on through the swamp, joining Charles’s fellow conspirators at the rendezvous. Falling into step, they surge on through the darkness, their torches blazing and the music pounding for one of the most exciting sequences in the film.
Silence falls. The New Moon is riding peacefully at anchor, the sailors lounging on the deck. Suddenly the conspirators pour over the side. The battle is brief and fierce, but within minutes the New Moon is heading out to sea with a new crew and a new captain at the helm. (Buster Keaton is clearly visible in the right background of the captain’s cabin, helping a fellow conspirator try on naval uniforms.)
Without the New Moon, Ribaud is forced to wait two weeks until another ship reaches New Orleans that can take him in pursuit. The Fleur de Lys arrives and is ordered by the Governor to transport Ribaud to Martinique, where he can call out the whole fleet. Marianne, too, demands passage. She is sick of New Orleans and wants to go back to France. Impossible, cries the Governor. The ship has no facilities for ladies. It is carrying a load of non-aristocratic brides for the colonists in Martinique. Marianne’s aunt also demands passage. She’d take the boat if it had a cargo of baboons. “Ah, Paree!” she exclaims.
Marianne is on the deck of the boat as it pulls out to sea, surrounded by some of the same Casquette girls as in Naughty Marietta. Shades of Naughty Marietta, she sings a lovely hymn, this one fashioned from “Ombra Mai Fú” from Handel’s Xerxes.
We have a strong premonition that pirates must be nearby and, sure enough, they appear in the moonlight and capture the ship, losing theirs in the process.
The shrieking girls have taken refuge in the hold and, in an exact duplicate of the sequence in Naughty Marietta, a scarred brigand lounges down the stairs to leer at them. He boasts the same scars but not the same bare chest, and fortunately his intentions are more or less honorable for he laughs at Auntie’s warning instead of shooting her.
On deck, Charles has taken over the ship. He assures the Captain that they had only wanted supplies, but now that the New Moon has been sunk, they must use the Fleur de Lys. Its crew and passengers will be put ashore safely at the first opportunity.
Charles’s duties as the new captain are interrupted by a lady passenger who insists on seeing him. He finds himself face to face again with Marianne. He meets her demand to be returned to New Orleans with quiet laughter and suggests that she join the courageous and amiable ladies below to learn from their example. A tropical storm soon sinks the ship. In a superb sequence, we see the sailors trying to lash down tables and luggage in the hold as the ship pitches, tossing the girls around like dice. Auntie is hurled into the arms of the burly, uncouth Tambour where she finds a few moments for coquetry before another tilt of the ship separates them. On deck, Charles clings to the wheel as waves completely cover the deck. Below, the girls pray and sob, several hurt by the violent buffeting. The men are plainly protective of their charges, and, when the ship founders on a reef, nearly everyone makes it into the boats and onto a nearby island.
The island is happily deserted and well furnished with food and water. Marianne, her elaborate coiffure untouched by the storm, demands that they light signal fires. Charles tells her they are miles from the nearest shipping lane and have better uses for their timber. In another rallying speech, he organizes the new inhabitants of the island into working groups to create a new home. The padre responsible for the girls (H.B. Warner repeating his The Girl of the Golden West rôle and costume) fears for the virtue of his charges, but Charles assures him there will be no “disorder” on the island.
Marianne haughtily inquires whether he wants her to cook or milk goats. “Try cooking, Mademoiselle. Men are more lenient than goats.” To her splutters of rage, he replies calmly that the one who commands is merely a matter of circumstance.
In a montage, we see the island community growing, trees felled, huts being built. Marianne is discovered trying to peel a potato that looks like a candidate for a first-aid class. Auntie is dismayed that she must bend down to milk the goats rather than having the goats rise to her. All this domesticity is interrupted by shouts.
A fight is in progress between two men over the affections of a “girl.” Plainly a little orderly “disorder” is called for, and so again Charles makes a speech. Their crops have been good. Water is plentiful. Now they must have greater ambitions. In the past they have counted by heads. In the future they will count by families.
His plan is greeted with enthusiasm by all. As he tries to return to his cabin, he is surrounded by eager girls. Over their heads, he gets a glimpse of Marianne as she is engulfed in ardent suitors. Charles’s maidens want to cook for him, but Marianne’s wooers insist on singing, day and night. Outside her window, they sing chorus after chorus of “Marianne” until she flees to Charles’s cabin and begs him to make them stop.
He can offer only one solution. If he permits her to marry him, they will leave her alone. He is, of course, suggesting a marriage of harmonious indifference. “You don’t expect me to trust you?” she retorts. “Not if you overrate the temptation,” he replies.
Marianne marches haughtily back to her cabin. The dignity of her passage is marred by a gaggle of caroling lovers who dog her footsteps. It is too much! We dissolve from her irate face to the benevolent face of the padre, his hand raised in blessing. It is her wedding day. The grim-faced lady is coiffed with flowers and surrounded by laughing, singing islanders, Charles at her side.
As with all wedding days, darkness eventually falls, and the lovers find themselves alone in their love nest. Marianne archly demands a lock for her bedroom. She does not wish to suffer the fate of the Princess de Caravye. Charles presents her with a massive log to bar her door. He intends to bar his door also. As for the Princess, what Marianne’s aunt had failed to discover in her haste was that the lady was not only eighty years old—but also his grandmother.
He leaves and Marianne tries to follow, but the log in her arms blocks her passage through the door. She drops this “key” on her foot, and Charles returns to massage it. After all, he is a specialist, he tells her. “A doctor?” “No, a footman.”
The proud lady is now thoroughly humbled. Charles tucks her into bed, and they are near reconciling. As he leans forward to kiss her, an explosion rocks the hut. French battleships are off the north side of the island.
Charles orders the women to the chapel, and the men to the barricades. As pirates, they have no choice but to fight. He asks Marianne to forgive him for any grief he has caused and rushes off. Marianne stands calling after him, “Lover, Come Back to Me,” recalling the almost identical scene in Rose Marie. Though the island is under attack, Charles stops at the ocean’s edge just long enough to join her in a verse and chorus before he dashes on to lead his men.
The sounds of the battle reverberate in Marianne’s ears as she watches through the bamboo slats of her hut, the torch light making a dramatic pattern on her face. “You will come back,” she murmurs fiercely. A bugle is heard. The French have won.
Then shouts, confusion. The men are marching back, Charles at their lead. Behind him, the French officers carry a strange new flag, the tricolore. France is now a republic. The friendly salute of the French battleship was mistaken for an attack. Fortunately, Charles spotted their flag of truce and stopped the battle in time.
Charles and Marianne are now Citizen and Citizeness Vidiers. They can resume their honeymoon in earnest. As the islanders march off to their homes singing “Stout Hearted Men,” Charles and Marianne embrace and sing a contrapuntal chorus of “Wanting You” under a lush, tropical full moon—not a new moon.
“Not even Nelson Eddy’s robust baritone and Jeanette MacDonald’s dulcet soprano can overcome the handicaps of a stilted, ponderous, oft times silly narrative,” wrote William Boehnel in the New York World-Telegram. Other reviewers blamed the stars. Time magazine commented that “Eddy’s figure is becoming almost as operatic as his acting.” Variety said, “Miss MacDonald overemphasizes the coyness in her characterization,” but noted, “there’s no question of the excellence and quality of the vocal numbers, especially the delivery and sound recording of Miss MacDonald and Eddy.” Bosley Crowther in the New York Times chose to be facetious: “With tears welling in our eyes (sniff, sniff), we rather sadly suspect that this sort of sugar-coated musical fiction has seen its better days.”
Such sarcasm also crept into the usually thoughtful commentary of Dilys Powell, film reviewer for the London Sunday Times for more than fifty years:
New Moon, mes enfants, and the pacquebot is on its way from la belle France of, roughly, June, 1793, to New Orleans; and aboard her Mademoiselle Jeanette de MacDonald, all bimsy in wig and hoops trilling her way out to the old plantation. Mille tonnerres, who is this in the hold, shirt-sleeved, parbleu, and hair in a chignon? Why, ’tis Nelson, duc de Eddy, pretending to be a bondsman. Sapristi, he is discovered by an agent “straight from Paree,” he waits only to bawl a duet with Mademoiselle before marching his fellow-bondsmen off to fraternité and piracy; and now Mademoiselle it is who, together with 100 brides bound for Martinique, is led to the hold (“Spare your minions! I know my way”). And now the storm, unabated by the choral rendering of Handel’s “Largo,” and the desert island, sacrebleu; and colonization, and courtship, and marriage, and—tiens, the French Fleet! But what is that they are singing? ’Tis the Marseillaise, harmonized with “Lover, Come Back to Me,” tis the Revolution; ’tis the duc de Eddy for President. And what signifies “bimsy”? Bunk and whimsy, mes gosses.
The writing was clearly on the wall (and review pages). The operetta form, with its many delights and artificialities, was about to suffer one of its periodic declines.
All songs have music by Sigmund Romberg and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II unless otherwise indicated. In listing performers after each title, “and” denotes a genuine duet, while commas between names indicate a sequence of singers.
Overture: “Stout Hearted Men” fragment, “Wanting You” (MacDonald and Eddy), “Softly, as in a
Morning Sunrise” fragment, “Lover, Come Back to Me” (MacDonald and Eddy)
“Dance Your Cares Away” (chorus) – based on “Funny Little Sailor Man” from stage version, music by
Romberg, lyricist uncertain
“Stranger in Paris” (MacDonald) – based on “Take a Flower” melody from the stage tavern sequence,
Act I, Scene 2. Music by Romberg, lyricist uncertain. The song has an obvious cut in the middle.
“The Way They Do It in Paris” (MacDonald, drowned out by Eddy and male chorus shouting) –
based on verse of “Gorgeous Alexander,” music by Romberg, lyricist uncertain
“Shoes” (Eddy) – based on refrain melody of “Gorgeous Alexander,” music by Romberg,
lyricist uncertain, INTO:
“Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” (Eddy)
“One Kiss” (MacDonald)
Spirituals: “Troubles of the World” [“Soon I Will Be Done”], “No More Weeping and Wailing”
(The Jericho Choir with Eddie Jones, Ben Carter, Lois Hodnett, and Billy Mitchell)
“Wanting You” (Eddy, MacDonald)
“Lover, Come Back to Me” (MacDonald)
“Stout Hearted Men” (Eddy and male chorus)
“Ombra Mai Fú” [Handel’s “Largo”] (MacDonald) from the opera Xerxes – music by
George Frederic Handel, Latin lyricist uncertain
“Marianne” (male chorus)
“Marianne” reprise (chorus)
“Dance Your Cares Away” reprise (chorus)
“Marianne” reprise (chorus)
“Lover, Come Back to Me” reprise (MacDonald and Eddy), INTO:
“The Marseillaise” [French national anthem] (chorus) – words and music by Claude Rouget de
“The Way They Do It in Paris” reprise (chorus), INTO:
“Stout Hearted Men” reprise (male chorus)
Finale: “Wanting You” reprise (MacDonald and Eddy) sung contrapuntally with
“Stout Hearted Men” reprise (male chorus)
“Lover, Come Back to Me” (orchestral)
Songs from the stage operetta used in the film are “Marianne,” “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise,” “Wanting You,” “Stout Hearted Men,” “One Kiss,” and “Lover, Come Back to Me.” Also used with new lyrics are “Take a Flower,” “Gorgeous Alexander,” and “Funny Little Sailor Man.”
In Deep in My Heart, MGM’s 1954 biography of Sigmund Romberg, Tony Martin sang “Lover, Come Back” accompanied by Joan Weldon for the last few bars; Helen Traubel sang “Softly” and “Stout Hearted Men.” Ballerina Tamara Toumanova sang (dubbed) and danced to a lavishly staged “send-up” of “Softly,” played very quickly in an audition sequence to demonstrate that the producers didn’t understand Romberg’s music.
Jeanette loses the feathers in her hair when she steps from her party into the garden to sing “Wanting You.” (Tricia Lutz)
The lace tablecloth, when Nelson serves Jeanette breakfast, is alternately crooked and straight. Then, when Nelson leads his ten Stout Hearted Men from the stockade, his collar is alternately in and out. (Joan Woolley)
When they land on the island, Nelson has what appears to be a sextant while one of his men looks through a telescope. Nelson says that they are 62.7 by 14.9. Latitude was easy to find from the position of the sun, but a method to compute longitude had not yet been discovered. Nelson was scientifically ahead of his time. (Trudy Gallagher)