Directed by Robert Z. Leonard
Written by Noel Langley based on an operetta by Rida Johnson Young
Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart/ Though our paths may sever/ To life’s last faint ember/ Will you remember?/ Springtime, lovetime, May/ Springtime, lovetime, May — Lyric by Rida Johnson Young
I enjoyed 1937’s beautiful and romantic Jeanette Mac Donald/Nelson Eddy entry.
As the story opens elderly reclusive Miss Morrison (Mac Donald) is visiting a May Day celebration. There she meets a young couple who are quarreling because the girl wants to pursue a career as an opera singer in New York while the boy wants her to stay home and marry. Comforting the girl, Miss Morrison decides to break her silence about her own story.
Segue to Paris decades earlier, when Miss Morrison, then Marcia Mornay, was a budding prima donna. Marcia dazzles Emperor Napoleon with her singing at a ball and her manager, Nicolai Nazaroff (John Barrymore), manages to convince an eminent composer to write an opera especially for her. In gratitude, Marcia accepts Nazaroff’s proposal of marriage. That same night, unable to sleep, Marcia takes a carriage ride through Paris. The carriage has an accident. While she is waiting for another ride, she goes into a café where Paul Allison (Nelson Eddy) is singing. Paul is a struggling voice student. He falls in love with Marcia at first sight.
Marcia feebly tries to fend Paul off but when they go to a May Day festival they confess their love. Marcia, however, feels obligated to Nazaroff and marries him. I will stop my summary here but suffice it to say that this operetta has a rather operatic ending.
Jeanette MacDonald demonstrates her range as an actress in this film. She is unrecognizable but very touching in her performance as old Miss Morrison. I kept looking to see if it was really her. Impressive. Her voice is also at its height. This is also a very beautiful film to look at. The old-fashioned look of Belle-Epoque Paris is gorgeous.
John Barrymore is a bit of a let-down and I have some problems with the “choose love over career” message but overall I can recommend this film.
Per the IMDb, the producers filmed MacDonald and Eddy in Act II of Puccini’s Tosca. The footage is apparently lost. I would give anything to see this. Obviously, however, the plot line of Tosca stabbing Scarpia wouldn’t have worked well in Maytime! The fake “Czarita” opera love scene was substituted.
Maytime was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Sound, Recording and Best Music, Score.
Clip – “Will You Remember” (both versions)