The Love Parade (1929) Director: Ernst Lubitsch
An early racy musical starring everyone’s favorite French comedian, Maurice Chevalier, The Love Parade is a terrific little picture. This pre-code romance-comedy was nominated for a panoply of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. The story was borrowed from a 1919 French play called Le Prince Consort. Most critics seem to suggest The Love Parade was the first film to feature integrated music alongside the film’s story-line, another “first” movie of significance on my list. Maurice Chevalier plays Count Alfred Renard, a scandal-ridden member of the “Sylvanian” military. After being caught in yet another moment of infidelity with a married woman while stationed in Paris, he is sent back home to Sylvania where Queen Louise (Jeanette MacDonald) currently sits on the throne and refuses to marry a suitor. However, upon spotting Alfred, she falls in love with his playboy charm and in a striking parallel to the romance of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, we follow their marriage through its ups and downs –particularly Alfred’s struggle as he is forced play second fiddle while serving as consort– until Queen Louise finally submits herself to Alfred in the end.
This was actually Jeanette MacDonald’s debut film though you would never know it watching her onscreen. Rife with innuendo and that ever-elusive “Lubitsch Touch,” The Love Parade was also Ernst Lubitsch’s first “talkie.” It was released shortly after the 1929 stock market crash and, being a huge box office hit, it was the film that effectively saved Paramount. At the time, Maurice Chevalier had been employed by Paramount about a year, and Ernst Lubitsch had just transferred to Paramount from Warner Bros. The Lubitsch-Chevalier union makes for a nice production. Some of the standout songs in this film for me are: “My Love Parade,” “Paris, Stay the Same,” and “Let’s Be Common.”