Today is Sunday, so it’s time for this week’s second article in our semi-weekly series, 100 New Code Film. Many people are completists regarding certain actors or directors they like, meaning they watch every film that person made. I am a striving to be the first official American Breen Era (1934-1954) completist. I am striving to watch every Hollywood movie made during this time. It is quite an undertaking, since thousands of new films were made during that time. These special films were self-regulated by Joseph I. Breen’s Production Code Administration, which ensured that all films complied with the Motion Picture Production Code.
Today’s topic is Spring Parade from 1940. This weekend, we are hosting The Joe Pasternak Blogathon. In honor of this event, I decided to write about two movies which he produced as my new Code film articles for this week. Although there are still many of this great producer’s films which I haven’t seen yet, few of them are available on the streaming services I usually use. I have now seen all his Code films available on Amazon Prime Video. However, I found another of his films which is offered on a free Roku channel, Spring Parade (1940) with Deanna Durbin. I watched this film this morning.
A peasant girl from the Hungarian mountains goes to the fair to sell her goat. She receives a fortune which predicts that she will marry an artist in Vienna. After winning a lively dancing competition, she falls asleep on a bed of hay, not knowing that it is atop a wagon. The wagon heads off while she remains asleep. When she wakes up, she realizes that she is on a wagon headed for Vienna. The kind baker driving it offers to let her work in his shop for a week before he brings her back to her hometown. She agrees, feeling excited at the possibility of her dream coming true. She quickly meets a handsome soldier, whom she initially dismisses because he is not an artist. However, when she discovers that he is a composer, she wonders if her fortune may come true after all.
This movie stars Deanna Durbin, Robert Cummings, and Mischa Auer. Supporting actors include Henry Stephenson, S. Z. Sakall, Anne Gwynne, Samuel S. Hinds, and Allyn Joslyn.
This movie was directed by Henry Koster. It was produced by Joe Pasternak. The production company was Universal Pictures. The screenplay was written by Bruce Manning and Felix Jackson. The original story was by Ernst Marischka. This film’s score included four original songs, three with music by Robert Stolz and one with music by Hans J. Salter. The lyrics for all four were written by Gus Kahn. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Black-and-White Cinematography for Joseph A. Valentine, Best Recording for Bernard B. Brown, Best Original Song for Robert Stolz and Gus Kahn for “Waltzing in the Clouds,” and Best Score for Charles Previn.
This is a good Code film. It is totally decent and wholesome. It has that charming innocence and fun quality which defines Joe Pasternak’s productions. It is full of innocent, wholesome romance. All the costumes are decent. Kissing happens behind pillars, blocked from the audience’s view. Hard-working people’s dreams come true. It shows that good people are often rewarded. This sort of film is the sort of wonderfully uplifting entertainment which you just can’t find anywhere outside the Breen Era.
I highly recommend this film. It is so cute and enjoyable. I watched it with my parents, my sister, and my grandmother, and we all enjoyed it immensely! The acting is wonderful. We all agreed that this is one of favorite Deanna Durbin films so far. She is so cute, perky, and charming in this film. She is sweetly naïve yet simply wise. Ilonka’s (Deanna Durbin) dealings with big city people are hilarious. Robert Cummings is an excellent leading man in this story. As Harry Marten, he is funny, disagreeable at times, and delightfully enthusiastic about his music. My mother and grandmother agreed that he isn’t usually one of their favorite actors, but they liked him in this part. S. Z. Sakall is so charming as the Baker who helps Ilonka in Vienna. His two nephews, who are learning to be bakers, are credited as Butch and Buddy (Billy Lenhart and Kenneth Brown). These little rascals are adorable. The music is wonderful. The opening song, “It’s Foolish But It’s Fun,” is charmingly sung and reprised by Ilonka. Butch and Buddy later reprise it with funny lyrics. The most memorable song is “Waltzing in the Clouds,” which Harry composes with Ilonka’s help. I recognize this song from somewhere; I suspect it was used as background music in a later Joe Pasternak production. The costumes are lovely, adding to the foreign setting. I really enjoyed this movie, and I’m sure other musical fans will, too!
For the Blogathon
This is my third entry in The Joe Pasternak Blogathon. It is only fitting that I should write about a Deanna Durbin, since Mr. Pasternak and Miss Durbin helped each other find stardom in America. The Hungarian producer molded the young Canadian soprano into a movie star, and her films’ success established him as a successful Hollywood producer, saving Universal Pictures from bankruptcy. This film’s European setting must have been a taste of home for Mr. Pasternak, since it begins in Hungary and goes to Vienna. The Old World setting fills it with European charm, complete with Strauss waltzes. Interestingly, it is a remake of a film of the same name which Mr. Pasternak made in 1934 in Germany, using the same screenwriter, Ernst Marischka. This is a great example of the type of musical which Joe Pasternak made so well. There is no random “bursting into song.” Whenever people sing, it makes sense within the story’s context that the characters would be singing. Also, instead of having everyone sing, as in Broadway-style musicals, usually the leading musical star was the only person to vocalize. Henry Koster directed this film. He came with Joe Pasternak from Europe to work for Universal in Hollywood in 1936. Although he spoke no English upon arriving in America, he became a very successful Hollywood director, directing dozens of films for Joe Pasternak. They were a great team, working very successfully with Deanna Durbin during her early days at Universal. If you want a taste of this wonderful trio’s talent, watch Spring Parade!
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