Review: ‘The Smiling Lieutenant’

Ernst Lubitsch, Ernest Vajda and Samuel Raphaelson form a plenty smart trio working behind a camera. Any script or treatment springing from this source is bound to hold many things that are good and very few that are not.

Ernst Lubitsch, Ernest Vajda and Samuel Raphaelson form a plenty smart trio working behind a camera. Any script or treatment springing from this source is bound to hold many things that are good and very few that are not.

The film’s real weakness is not theirs. The drought is in the disappointing Oscar Straus score of four numbers.

Its story is a pert yarn of free morals and makes no attempt to be otherwise. Maurice Chevalier steals Claudette Colbert, a violinist, from Charles Ruggles. She moves in and stays until the officer becomes circumstantially embroiled with Miriam Hopkins as the unsophisticated and plain but willing princess whom he has to marry. Thereafter it’s something of a contest to lure the lieutenant into the princess’ chamber.

On performance Hopkins ranks equally with Colbert in doing the unattractive princess who sees her lieutenant and wants him at any cost. Colbert also plays well but lacks the opportunity to make the foremost impression. Neither of the girls seems happy when singing.

No question as to George Barbier’s valiant assistance as the king. He makes everything count and handles many a laugh on his own.

1931/32: Nomination: Best Picture

The Smiling Lieutenant

Production

Paramount. Director Ernst Lubitsch; Producer Ernst Lubitsch; Screenplay Ernest Vaida, Samson Raphaelson, Ernst Lubitsch; Camera George Folsey; Music Oscar Straus

Crew

(B&W) Available on DVD. Extract of a review from 1931. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Maurice Chevalier Claudette Colbert Miriam Hopkins Charles Ruggles George Barbier
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