The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

  • A Lubitsch musical? I’m skeptical, but intrigued.
  • Pre-code.
  • I don’t really like Maurice Chevalier (to be fair, I haven’t seen him in much besides GIGI (1958), but that was enough to permanently add him to my Movie Enemies List). I don’t like that he gets to have two women in this movie, and that they are of the caliber that Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins are. What did he ever do to deserve this? I’m thinking the answer is  ‘not much’, so I feel like I already hate him. (Does this seem too harsh a judgment to make, not even having made it past the opening credits? Maybe. It’s his involvement with GIGI, though, y’all. I’m telling you – that movie ruins lives.)
  • Intriguing fact from TCM/Rosborne: Miriam Hopkins, Chevalier, & Claudette Colbert were all fluent in French, so none of them had to be replaced for the French-language version they also filmed (pre-dubbing, they actually shot multiple versions of a movie, in different languages, instead of one version with different audio tracks overlaid – which is a super interesting concept in itself). Anyway, the fluent-in-French thing is interesting because though Chevalier & CC were both born in France, Miriam Hopkins was not. Miriam Hopkins was born in Savannah, Georgia. But she also happened to be fluent in French. Unexpected – but I guess that worked out well.
  • Seeing the itemized military bill reminds me of that time in OF HUMAN HEARTS (1938) when James Stewart spent all of his mother’s money on his military uniform & then was lectured by Abraham Lincoln. (Still disappointed by the downhill turn that movie took. It could have been so much better!)
  • We’re less than a minute into CST (Chevalier Screen Time), and I’m already dreading the rest of this movie. I hate his stupid face. (Is it cheating if I fast forward through all of Chevalier’s scenes? Probably. Okay, fine – I’ll watch them.) (But I’ll also get a wastebasket, so I can vomit into it if I need to.)
  • Chevalier is definitely wearing lipstick & eyeliner, and it’s creepy as hell.
  • Chevalier & CC just sang a duet about breakfast. My heart is so confused!
  • I just looked it up – Chevalier was 42/43 in this this movie. That makes everything grosser.
  • So…I’ve been watching a fair amount of Miriam Hopkins movies lately, and though this pre-dates all of them, she looks older in this! Weird. (I’m wondering if this was an intentional look achieved by the make-up department for her character? Or if she just became more glamorized after this? Hm. I dunno. Hard to say.)
  • “When we like somebody, we smile – but when we want to do something about it, we wink.” — Nikolaus von Preyn (Chevalier)

^ LESSONS WITH CHEVALIER.

  • Here’s the great thing about about Chevalier singing at this stage in his career – you can barely understand a word of what he’s saying, so it becomes a little less offensive.
  • At times in this movie, Miriam Hopkins reminds me of Billie Burke. I wonder if they ever played mother/daughter in a movie? Because they should have.
  • What a sassy note CC just left Chevalier! “It was lovely while lasted,” written in a delicate little script, with no signature, and HER GARTER PINNED TO THE TOP RIGHT CORNER. And that, my friends, is how you leave a note.
  • It’s interesting how the “Chevalier returns from his official betrothal ceremony and CC sees him coming and leaves” sequence is played without any speaking at all. The section plays like it was taken straight from a silent film – and absolutely succeeds in conveying what it tries (and needs) to. This is a perfect example of the true art of silent film – and demonstrates Lubitsch’s experience with it.
  • The Princess’s (and Chevalier’s, I guess) bed has golden pillows on it. Like, legit golden pillows. If I had a golden pillow, I don’t think I’d be able to fall asleep at night. Gold things like that are way too distracting.
  • Chevalier just declined to sleep with Miriam Hopkins on their wedding night. Yeah, that’s believable. *Eye roll.*
  • Is the “H” in Flausenthurm a reference to something? Or an inside joke of some kind? ‘Cause I don’t get it.
  • I hate that Miriam Hopkins and Claudette Colbert’s scene together is them fighting over a dope like Chevalier. Get a grip girls – there are more important things in life.
  • It seems to me that this whole situation – and this whole movie – could have been avoided if Chevalier just had the balls to tell the truth about his feelings. He had so many opportunities to stand up to & be honest with any number of people, but no, he didn’t, because he sucks. What a useless character. (Saw that one coming, though – because, duh! Chevaliered.)
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