Grace Moore, who indeed is a wonderful singer, plays Maria Barrett, a struggling American opera student who moves to Italy, where opera comes from, to learn the trade. After one cool scene where she joins a chorus of musicians in the street in song (those Italians, you know--always singing), she settles for a job as a singer in a cafe. As she sings there one night, the famous maestro Monteverdi dines with his assistant after swearing off dating his students. He falls immediately for Maria, though, and demands that she come live with him as his sole student.
He molds her career, much like Rocky's trainer did, and the two of them spend their time bickering and feigning disinterest in each other. There are a ton of sports-movie clichés, except that the training is music, not any sport. All along, his assistant and maid can see clearly that the two are in love. Inevitably, there is strife. His ex-lover and ex-student Lally arrives on the scene, scheming to win him back and to win a place at the New York Metropolitan Opera. A series of coincidences and her plotting leads to Maria striking off on her own, but don't we all know how it's going to end?
The movie features music from Bizet's Carmen and Puccini's Madame Butterfly, and director Schertzinger helped write the score. This was one of the strangest musicals I have ever seen; and it is a musical, I guess. There is a lot of singing, only part of it related to being onstage. It's not the "I'm going to go over here and sing a song" kind of musical, though, so it was more bearable to me. The acting, though, left something to be desired. Moore was definitely trained as a belter; her lines overpower those around her, and she always seems to be using her outdoor voice. The director and studio heads were probably so entranced that they just plugged their ears. This movie is definitely an example of how popular and even critical tastes can change over the years. The thought of it getting a nomination for Best Picture today is unthinkable. (I hope people will look at Gladiator's wins in this same manner years from now.)
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