Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Merry Widow (1925)

In the Presence of Leatrice Gilbert Fountain, the daughter of John Gilbert.
The Merry Widow / Iloinen leski
US 1925. PC: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. D: Erich von Stroheim; P: Erich von Stroheim, Irving Thalberg; SC: Erich von Stroheim, Benjamin Glazer; intertitles: Marian Ainslee - based on the comedy L'Attaché d'ambassade by Henri Meilhac (1861) - libretto by Victor Léon and Leo Stein for the operetta composed by Franz Léhar (premiered in 1905 in Vienna); DP: Oliver T. Marsh, [Ben Reynolds, William Daniels]; ED: Frank E. Hull; AD: Cedric Gibbons, Richard Day; COST: Richard Day, Erich von Stroheim; technical adviser and designer: Don R. Overall Hatswell; CAST: Mae Murray (Sally O’Hara), John Gilbert (Prince Danilo Petrovich), Roy D’Arcy (Crown Prince Mirko), Josephine Crowell (Queen Milena), George Fawcett (King Nikita I), Tully Marshall (Baron Sadoja), Albert Conti (Danilo’s adjutant), Wilhelm von Brincken (Danilo’s aide-de-camp), Don Ryan (Mirko’s Adjutant), Hughie Mack (innkeeper), Charles Margelis (Flo Epstein), Edna Tichenor (Dopey Marie), Gertrude Bennett (Hard Boiled Virginia), Zalla Zarana (Frenchie Christine), Edward Connelly (ambassador), Dale Fuller (Sally’s maid); extras: Clark Gable, John Pringle [John Gilbert’s father]; orig. l: 10,027 ft.; 3086 m, /22 fps/ [123 min announced] actual duration 126 min
print: Österreichisches Filmmuseum.
Live musical accompaniment / Score (incorporating motifs by Franz Lehár):
Maud Nelissen
Performed by Orchestra Mitteleuropea
with Merima Kljucom (accordion)
Conducted by Maud Nelissen
E-subtitles in Italian. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 3 October 2009.

A wonderful live cinema performance with a full orchestra. Maud Nelissen had taken maybe fifty-fifty Léhar and her own original score music, which blended together very well. I love this music, and it was a pleasure to enjoy it played with such a good appetite. - Revisited: the film, in which Stroheim is in full command of his profession. It is a completely original re-interpretation of the hit operetta. The film has not the gravity of Greed or The Wedding March. It is a satiric comedy with moments of gravity, as Danilo realizes that his love is true, and he is ready to put his life on stake. Mae Murray, Alex D'Arcy and Tully Marshall play like marionettes, in strong caricature. Only John Gilbert has a wide range of emotion and passion. - The print (bought via Hollywood Classics) seems complete, and seems like it has been reconstructed with great care. The visual quality is highly variable, with scenes that often have a strongly duped quality. Of course many scenes, including close-ups of Mae Murray, have been soft and filtered originally. I seem to remember that there are very good prints of Erich von Stroheim's The Merry Widow. - After the screening we kept listening and humming Léhar tunes in our hotel room, and Maud Nelissen's warm, tender and humoristic interpretation kept growing in memory.

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