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Love Me Tonight – Rouben Mamoulian

Submitted by on January 21, 2011 – 1:42 amNo Comment

A shot of Paris rooftops and the Eiffel lbwer in the distance establishes the locale as Paris. Deserted streets in the first glow of morning are just beginning to come alive with people. A road crew begins paving operations; shoemakers set up their benches, and the sounds of their hammers hitting nails acts as counterpoint to the paving sounds; some derelicts’ snores add a different rhythm; a housewife shakes out the bed linen; cars and taxis begin to rattle, honk, and cough their way through the streets. A young woman throws open her window and starts a phonograph record and the camera moves through the open window of a young tailor named Maurice, who is dressing for the day. Hanging from a crack in the wall is the characteristic straw hat which tells us even before he appears on film that the young man is Maurice Chevalier.

Meanwhile, the street noises have coalesced into a symphony of cacophony which proves too much for Maurice, who closes his window to sing “The Song of Paree.” He continues the song, and it becomes a running recitative as he proceeds from his house along the street to his tailor shop. This sequence introduces various neighborhood types along the way and defines Maurice’s character entirely through song. After Maurice opens his shop, Emile (Bert Roach) arrives to pick up the tuxedo in which he will be married. As he is trying it on, a marathon race passes the shop, and one of the entrants, who is wearing his underwear instead of track shorts and carrying a sign from a fruit stand, runs into the shop. He is the Viscount de Varese who had earlier ordered fifteen suits from the struggling Maurice. Explaining that he has just escaped from a jealous husband, the Viscount takes a suit and borrows money from Maurice, promising to return soon with “bags of gold.” Maurice then sings to Emile of his good fortune and his optimistic view of life in “Isn’t It Romantic?” As Emile leaves the shop he begins humming the catchy tune as he walks, and then turns down the offer of a ride in a taxi. A musician rushing for the train station jumps into the cab, and he and the driver pick up the tune as they drive along. Although the scenes change rapidly from one locale to another, they are all bridged by the same song.

On the train, the musician decides to add words to the tune. He is surrounded by soldiers who pick up the song and sing it in military fashion both on the train and then on maneuvers in the countryside. A strolling gypsy violinist hears the tune and plays it in his camp, gypsy-style. The song wafts through the forest to the balcony of a magnificent chateau where, as destiny would have it, it is ended in operettic fashion by Princess Jeanette (Jeanette MacDonald). Before she finishes singing the song, an elaborate series of vignettes introduces the other denizens of the chateau. They include a milquetoast Count (Charles Butterworth); the stuffy Duke; the Viscount; his cousin, the nymphomaniac Countess (Myrna Loy); and three maiden aunts who invariably appear together, share dialogue, and do imitations of the witches in Macbeth.

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