Originally an operetta, Naughty Marietta is the story of a rebellious eighteenth century French princess, Madame d’Annard (Elsa Lanchester). When told that she is being forced to marry Don Carlos de Braganza (Walter Kingsford) and will be imprisoned for refusing, she takes the identity of one of her servants, Marietta (Jeanette MacDonald) who is to sail for New Orleans the next day. In exchange, she left the real Marietta enough money to marry her love.
The ship for New Orleans is filled with young available women, destined to become wives to the new settlers. Over the long voyage, the ladies swoon and dream of the strapping farmers and soldiers they will find. However, Madame d’Annard, now answering to Marietta, does not want to marry or be tied down, which seems confusing to the other women. The time for worrying about the new Marietta’s agenda is cut short when the ship is captured by ruthless pirates.
With my love for pirates, I thought the film was about to really perk up for those of us who would be more into a swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, this is short lived and a group of strapping men from the colony, led by Captain Richard Warrington (Nelson Eddy) save the ladies. Between the rescue and arrival to New Orleans, Richard and Madame d’Annard begin a sort of anti-friendship. They sing together for the sake of the original operetta and 1930’s cinema, he flirts and she continually shoots him down. But when men start wanting to marry her, after all that’s what this heard of women were brought for, and she refuses, it takes the help of an anti-friend to convince the men that she can be an entertainer. Everything seems perfect, until French authorities show up looking for the missing princess.
There are some silly moments the move the plot that simply would never work, but they are all in good fun. When the ship to New Orleans is about to set sail, the way Madame d’Annard tries to convince the authority of her fake identity is hilarious, especially when she pretends the drunk in the crowd is her brother. Later, when Richard is helping the princess escape, they go by rowboat, slowest means of transportation possible, and he starts to sing very loudly. Stealth is not their strong suit. Of course, when Madame d’Annard is not very good at reading a letter aloud, she decides to sing it instead. Whatever, if I were stuck on that ship any bit of entertainment would be appreciated.
Naughty Marietta is simply a cute tale of mistaken identities, though we do not get much story of what happens to the real Marietta. The focus is the princess, her nearly independent woman ideals, a love story to save her and singing. The movie is fun and has some great moments, but lacks enough substance to keep an Oscar loving film junkie satisfied.
“There went that chin to the moon again.”