Rouben Mamoulian‘s thrilling and innovative 1932 musical with Jeanette MacDonald, Maurice Chevalier, Myrna Loy, and Charles Ruggles, with a fine Rodgers and Hart score that includes “Isn’t It Romantic?” and “Lover.” Similar in many respects to the Lubitsch musicals with MacDonald and Chevalier during the same period, although Mamoulian’s lively experiments with rhythm, framing, and superimposition are very much his own. 104 min.
A musical remake (1932) of Ernst Lubitsch‘s silent The Marriage Circle, directed from a detailed Lubitsch plan by George Cukor. Maurice Chevalier is a doctor happily married to Jeanette MacDonald but temporarily distracted by Genevieve Tobin. Every so often, Chevalier interrupts the story to ask the audience for advice with the plaintive “What Would You Do?”—demonstrating that you could get away with things in a comedy that most people still won’t accept in a drama. Very funny and very highly recommended.
The ghost of Ernst Lubitsch joins the ghost of Henry James to defeat Peter Bogdanovich‘s 1974 attempt at a sophisticated 30s-style comedy of manners. More mannered than stylish, more would-be tragic than comic, the film is all surface and comes up fatally short on warmth, humor, and insight. Cybill Shepherd is perfectly cast as James’s guileless, aggressively good-natured American primitive, but Barry Brown is overdirected as the effete young man who loves her from afar. With Cloris Leachman, Mildred Natwick, and Eileen Brennan; the screenplay is by Frederic Raphael (Two for the Road).
Ingmar Bergman goes poaching on the terrain of Renoir, Lubitsch, and Mozart. This 1955 film is his lightest and most appealing, but the light touch doesn’t come naturally to the Brooding Swede; a few of those smiles feel uncomfortably forced. Eva Dahlbeck is wonderful as the aging actress who hosts a summer party on her country estate—she seems much more responsible for the film’s gently wise tone than Bergman’s heavily telegraphed ironies. With Harriet Andersson, Ulla Jacobsson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, and Margit Carlquist. In Swedish with subtitles. 108 min.