Maurice Chevalier’s randy Viennese lieutenant is enamored of Claudette Colbert’s freethinking, all-girl-orchestra-leading cutie. Yet complications ensue when the sexually repressed princess of the fictional kingdom of Flausenthurm, played by newcomer Miriam Hopkins, sets her sights on him. The Smiling Lieutenant is a delightful showcase for its rising female stars, who are never more charming than when Colbert tunefully instructs Hopkins, “Jazz Up Your Lingerie.” —The Criterion Collection
b. Jan. 29, 1892, Berlin. d. Nov. 30, 1947, Hollywood. The son of a prosperous tailor, he was drawn to the stage while participating in plays staged by his high school, which he quit at 16. To satisfy both his own urge to act and his father’s desire that he take over the family business, he began leading a double life, working as a bookkeeper at his father’s store by day and appearing in cabarets and music halls by night.
In 1911 he joined Max Reinhardt’s famous Deutsches Theater, where he rapidly advanced from bit parts to character leads. To supplement his income, he took a job in 1912 as an apprentice and general-purpose handyman at Berlin’s Bioscope film studios. The following year he began appearing in a series of film comedies, emphasizing ethnic Jewish humor, in which he played a character named Meyer. He became very successful as a comedian and soon began writing and directing his own films. Gradually, Lubitsch abandoned acting to concentrate on directing… read more
Apart from the sour notes struck by Chevalier the movie is like a lovely waltz. Colbert and Hopkins are excellent (of course) & the acting - with all the batting eyelids, perfect for the musical form. One feels a tad uneasy about all the prinking for a man & the man in question such a shallow cad, but female solidarity, innuendo & the finding of the grace that shores up against ruin provide superadequate compensation
The charm and music won me over, but the last 15 minutes lost me. Claudette Colbert's character is the only one I feel is respected by the movie as a whole, the other two leads are reduced to one whose infatuation leads to discarding who she is in order to attract a man and another whose love is so petty as to be swayed by lingerie. Perhaps there is an intended irony here I am not getting, I am not certain.