Monte Carlo

Screening on Film
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
With Jack Buchanan, Jeanette MacDonald, Claud Allister.
US, 1930, 35mm, black & white, 90 min.
Print source: Universal

Absent the charms of Chevalier for his second Paramount feature (the rapidly blossoming star was busy with other projects at the time), Lubitsch turned to Broadway veteran Jack Buchanan for a coveted place alongside Jeanette MacDonald in Monte Carlo. The resulting chemistry is less immediate than in The Love Parade, but Lubitsch compensates for this deficit with a surfeit of musical numbers, each a gleaming showcase for MacDonald’s impeccable soprano and unrepressed body language. Juxtaposing stuffy operettas with bustling gambling halls and glittering boudoirs with the rolling hills of the French countryside, Monte Carlo spins a yarn about the simultaneous imprisonment and seduction of prosperity, centered on MacDonald as a sought-after countess who would rather feel the thrill of a craps table than resign to a life alongside the decadent Duke Otto (Claude Allister). Buchanan plays the shrewd and attractive count who tricks her into thinking he’s a mere hairdresser, a scenario that Lubitsch, playing up the fabricated class friction, mines for urbane romantic comedy.

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