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Golden Art of The Silver Screen Queen








By Ken Norton


Posted 12-10-2002

by >Gio


Reprinted with permission of the Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club- LA PETITE COMET, Vol. IV, No. 1, Page 8 ) We sincerely thank Clara Rhoades and Tessa Williams who have graciously allowed us to include the article on our  Website.

Mobile, Alabama

Dear Clara,

   In remembering and enjoying Jeanette as THE MERRY WIDOW, I wonder if some of our members are so captivated with her beauty, which was breathtaking, and with her voice which was, as always, exquisite, that (perhaps?) they've not been fully aware that, in this film, her dramatic performance was equally noteworthy. When the film opened at the old Astor in New York, all of the reviews were raves, but I've run across one from that tine which some of our members may not have in their collections, one which, indeed, many may not have read at all. Making allowances for the rather long-windedness of the article, and for the manner of expression which was peculiar to newspaper writers of the '30s, I think it worthy of some space in the COMET, if you can spare it. On my copy of the review, the writer's name is obliterated, which is unfortunate, for the following segments should be credited to him:


  "It happens, not too frequently, but once in a while, that a motion picture production is so overwhelming, offers so much upon which to comment, that many items are lost in the critical shuffle to do the film a just homage in the face of a menacing deadline. A case very much in point is "The Merry Widow," in which the dazzling MacDonald, the lilting Lubitsch and the scintillant Chevalier combined to bemuse the film reportorial fraternity to an extent which caused many of the 'movie' s virtues to be over-whelmed in an avalanche of enthusiastic, if hysterical, approbation.... In the light of the Lubitsch reputation, which sheds such rare lustre on the screen, the tendency was to overlook certain shining facets of the pictorial gem which continues to grace the Astor screen ... The voice of Jeanette MacDonald, like that of the Lorelei, so charmed its auditors, that the combination of melody and beauty left the onlookers too dazed for comment upon other qualities the star brought to the picture ... One may, with an effort, become sufficiently detached to resist the allurements of the Lubitsch direction, the startlingly effective backgrounds, the unforgettable strains of the Lehar music, and devote some attention to the excellence of the acting without which the film must fail despite all elegancies ... specifically and especially, the acting of Jeanette MacDonald.


   Not her beauty, not her singing, not her dancing, but her straight out-and-out hundred percent histrionicism ... There was a MacDonald once who found criticism in some quarters as being a chilly lily indeed, a creature of remote beauty, whose flaming tresses belied the heart of an ice maiden, an actress without warmth, whose very love scenes lacked even the essence of passion. But this was not the Jeanette of "The Merry Widow." No, as many thousand times as you wish to say it, No! That picture has completed the metamorphoses through which Jeanette has passed from the cool chrysalis of earlier films to the gorgeous, pulsing, palpitating butterfly, alive with love and living, whose smile breathes warmth, whose eyes reflect the fire in her heart.


   She is, forevermore, "The Merry Widow." This gives Hollywood one star who possesses beauty, charm, warmth, marvelous vocal ability, and in addition, a very real, actual thespic talent. Not only does Jeanette evidence a flair for light comedy, gay sophisticate, delightful, but she shows distinct dramatic depth, the capacity for emotion, the ability to portray it effectively.... Jeanette has returned to Hollywood from San Francisco, where the New York triumph of "The Merry Widow" was equaled, even eclipsed, by the Golden Gate premiere.... And now the scene is set for a MacDonald cinema which may well outshine even the Astor film hit."


   End of quote. And the film which followed, of course, was "Naughty Marietta." The article goes on and on, and would take even more space, but I hope other Club members will get as much pleasure as I did from this rather extravagant accolade.

- by Ken Norton




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