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The Merry Widow based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Finally, the best film version (or really, any version) of Franz Lehar, Viktor Leon and Leo Stein's "The Merry Widow." Of course, it could not be otherwise, as film's greatest director and screenwriter, Erich von Stroheim wrote and directed this first film version. Von Stroheim's able direction drove the great dancer (but previously mediocre actress) Mae Murray (as Sally O'Hara) to give an engaging acting performance, as well as launch John Gilbert (Prince Danilo) to stardom, and expose audiences to the wickedly snide Roy D'Arcy (Crown Prince Mirko). But this love triangle was not enough for von Stroheim. He added the aging, degenerate Baron Sixtus Sadoja (played by Tully Marshall) who woos and wins Sally, over his two younger handsome rivals. The scene where Sally's 3 suitors view her on stage is a never to be forgotten moment in cinema history. All this occurs before von Stroheim starts with the original flimsy plot, about 2/3rds of the way through the movie. Unlike his previous films, where he meticulously re-creates Paris (Devil's Passkey), Monte Carlo (Foolish Wives) and Vienna (Merry-Go-Round); or uses the authenticity of location shooting in "Greed" (San Francisco, Big Dipper gold mine and Death Valley), in "The Merry Widow," von Stroheim (really acting as his own set designer) gives us a lavish, fictional kingdom, with exacting, believable details. Unfortunately, "lavish" is not the word to apply to the packaging of this DVD. There are not "chapters," as apparently the transfer to digital was done with a software "default" that arbitrarily placed a new chapter every 10 minutes. There are no "bonus features," an especially impoverishing situation for new and younger viewers, as "silent" movies are becoming more an acquired taste. It would have been nice to have a scholar's commentary option, perhaps using Professor Arthur Lennig, the foremost von Stroheim authority. The rich back story of von Stroheim's "Merry Widow" is missed: his redemption (financially) by this most successful box office hit (following on the heels of "Greed"'s ungreedy returns), his row with star Mae Murray, which made headline news in its day, and which resulted in his firing by MGM's Mayer during production, only to have Mayer forced to re-hire von Stroheim when the crew refused to work for the new director, amidst shouts, "We want von Stroheim!" But, we should grateful this "The Merry Widow" is now available on DVD. The same cannot be said of the lost "The Devil's Passkey," nor of his masterpieces, "Greed" and "The Wedding March." With "The Merry Widow" if you want von Stroheim, you now got von Stroheim!