At a first look, I thought The Love Parade was just another musical showcasing Maurice Chevalier and his unbridled romantic antics. This film is actually considered the first musical film with songs mixed in with the story. Director Ernst Lubitsch had only previously worked on silent films and in order to avoid many static filled hurdles present in the time of early talkies, all the film was recorded with no audio and the sound was dubbed later. A rather ingenious idea when you hear how hindered the audio can be in other films of the time.
In this first crack at musical comedy, Chevalier plays Count Alfred Renard and flees Paris after having too many affairs with women. He goes to Sylvania, where the beautiful Queen Louise (Jeanette MacDonald) is being pestered constantly about when she will take a husband. Naturally, she and Alfred start a romance, with all the queen’s servants watching nervously, knowing Alfred’s womanizing reputation.
When they marry, it seems that Alfred has miscalculated his role next to the Queen. He will not become a king, instead he will be a prince and have no royal duties or responsibilities. In fact, it will be the queen, his wife who will control everything and Alfred must obey and be docile. Even at wedding ceremonies today, you can hear that dreadful word “obey” said to the bride, but when Alfred hears that word spoken to him at the alter, he’s so shocked he hesitates to answer.
From then on, the film becomes a royal newly wed struggle of reversed gender roles. The guards won’t take any orders from Alfred, only the Queen. All day, the Queen has important things to attend to, while Alfred has nothing on his agenda unless the queen schedules him some tennis or bridge for him. He gets sick of his manhood being shelved quickly and at the royal couple’s first public appearance, he threatens not to show. But refusing to go would begin a political chain reaction that results in Sylvania going broke. The eventual compromise Alfred and the queen find only infuriates my feminist bone.
For the most part, this film is just the same old Chevalier stick, but it’s still fun and cute if you enjoy some lighthearted musical breaks. Things get most interesting during the gender bending, for the thirties this must have turned a few heads. I applaud the daring idea so early in film history, but even this early the cop out must have hurt some young women. I wonder how many people left that theater nodding to each other saying, “See, that’s why a man should always be in charge.” I don’t think I’d let any of Chevalier’s characters be in charge of anything more important than a hamster.
“He has nothing to say,nothing to do. …Well, I wouldn’t say that.”