Saturday, September 26, 2015

The telegram in Ernst Lubitsch's The Merry Widow

The millionaire Sonia (Jeanette MacDonald), the Ambassador of Marshovia (Edward Everett Horton), and Count Danilo (Maurice Chevalier) in Paris in The Merry Widow (1934). Please click to enlarge the image.
The funniest telegram in the history of the cinema is in Ernst Lubitsch's version of The Merry Widow (1934). It is in code. The mission: to save Marshovia's finances in Paris where the millionaire widow Sonia is in danger of getting married with a foreigner.

Edward Everett Horton's expression is worth seeing when he hears the code word "darling", meaning: "I consider you the greatest idiot in the diplomatic service". The code reader is the embassy official Zizipoff (Herman Bing) who seems especially to relish the word "greatest". The Ambassador looks even more alarmed when he hears the next code expression: "lilac time"... The urgent message is finally unencrypted (roughly, from memory and partial notes):

I consider you the greatest idiot in the diplomatic service.
Act quickly.
Be brilliant.
Meet crisis.
Kill rumours.
Admit nothing.
Deny everything.
Evade issues.
Face facts.
Stand pat.
Something must be done.
Do it.
Do it now.
What are you waiting for?

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