Jeanette MacDonald had the good luck to make her screen debut with Ernst Lubitsch, who cast her as a lead in The Love Parade (1929). Under his tutelage— he’d fallen in love with her and it showed— she bloomed as few performers do in a first film. MacDonald was not classically beautiful, but she had enormous charm, a bewitching smile, and an accomplished soprano voice. Teamed with Maurice Chevalier at Paramount and later with Nelson Eddy at MGM, she developed into a major musical star. With the exception of Lubitsch’s exquisite The Merry Widow (1934), none of MacDonald’s post-Code MGM films gave her a chance to display the comic talents that were integral to her earlier work at Paramount, the most sophisticated Hollywood studio. At white-bread MGM, she thrived as the matronly heroine of family-fare operettas, ideal escapist flicks for Depression audiences. The highlight of the 12-film series is a far more complex movie from 1932: Rouben Mamoulian’s enchanting modern fairy tale Love Me Tonight.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 30, 1999