Sunday, March 29, 2015

Shameless Sunday Camp Explosion: A Happy Song

Sometimes the depth of what I don't know really startles me.  How, for example, could I never have heard of Folies Bergère de Paris, a nifty little confection from 1935 that ends with this remarkable number?

I have to confess, too, that this is all I've seen of it, although you can definitely count me intrigued at the notion of a Maurice Chevalier-Merle Oberon (!)-Ann Sothern musical.  Brought to us by Twentieth Century Pictures just on the verge of its enFoxifying, from this snippet it seems like an attempt to merge Lubitschische suave with Warners verve, and at least here does so quite satisfyingly.

And it's not even Busby Berkeley - in fact, its dance director, one Dave Gould, beat the Great One for the Academy Award (for best Dance Direction, a short-lived category), and up against the likes of "Lullabye of Broadway," from Gold Diggers of 1935, no less.  Grabbing the Oscar seems to have been a career highlight, for within a decade he had moved on (and distinctly not up) to Monogram, where he helmed the ice sequences for the studio's string of pictures starring the ineffable Belita, the poorer man's Vera Hruba Ralston (herself, of course, the Poverty Row Sonja Henie).

If you'd like to see Folies, by the bye, you can - but not with either Oberon or Sothern.  This must have been one of the last Hollywood pictures to have been filmed in two languages (more common in the earliest years of talkies), and the French edition, L'Homme des Folies Bergère is available on the YouTubes.  It's odd seeing the patrician Nathalie Paley in Oberon's lush Omar Kiam gown at the top of the number, but the cutting of the finale - with its lack of closeups for poor Annie - makes sense when you know that the bits featuring second lead Sim Viva had to be inserted in place of Sothern's original takes.

With March ending, we'll be bidding adieu to dear Miss Sothern as TCM's Star of the Month, and while here she's pretty much an accessory, it's not every hoofer who can hold her own with a certain Gallic stage-hogger, and she acquits herself with charm and grace.  I can't help thinking that April's star, a certain Mr. Wayne, will not be - however worthy on his own merits - nearly as festive as Our Maisie...


  1. The Duke has a plethora of films, even several decent ones but I prefer when Turner spotlights a more obscure star like Miss Sothern. I've loved this month and have caught many of her lesser known films, several of which were worth catching merely for her presence but there was an occasional charmer like Dulcy which while no master work was a fun film with an amazing cast.

    It's too bad they couldn't have fit in another week of rarities like Folies, the oddly titled Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President and Hotel for Women which not only had Ann but Elsa Maxwell and was Linda Darnell's screen bow. All seem unavailable but if anyone can unearth them it would be TCM.

  2. I had to stop shortly after the giant hats; it was making me dizzy. I'm delicate like that.

  3. A joy from beginning to end - and, I must confess, a new one on me, too! Jx