I am nowhere near in age to the generation that grew up hearing Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, but for those who are—and maybe even some who aren’t—you might enjoy the new-on-DVD copy of “Naughty Marietta.”
First released in 1935, this historical musical features MacDonald as a French princess who is being forced into a marriage she doesn’t want and who, by a bit of trickery, gets herself on a boat full of mail-order brides headed for New Orleans. The ladies make it across the ocean safely, but just as they are about to land, a band of pirates stop them with some very bad intentions. Fortunately—and I don’t think I’m spoiling much here—Nelson Eddy and his band of singing mercenaries swoop in, singing “Tramp, tramp, tramp.” This, of course, is the beginning of romance, but it has a ways to go before everything turns out all right. The royal authorities from France soon appear (how this happens so quickly in that era is never explained, but remember, it’s a musical…), so Marietta has to run and hide some more, with the help of Eddy, who is still waiting for his affections to be reciprocated.
I’ve always liked musicals, and while this wouldn’t be at the top of my list, it is certainly an enjoyable film. The music is more operatic than, say, jazzy—despite its New Orleans setting—and the singing is top-notch. The ending is full of “frontier” optimism, a perfect way to wrap up a “riches-to-rags” story like this. (Rated G)