There’s a bit of a dark side to being a movie blogger, even an amateur one. If you’ve got the right focus, most days you just love to watch movies, and whatever you’re watching is something you not only want to watch, but you generally know you’re going to enjoy. Then, there’s the other days; the days where you’re watching something out of obligation, where it feels like a chore. I knew, or had a very certain idea, that when I decided to watch Naughty Marietta, a musical featuring a lot of operatic music a la One Night of Love, that it was going to feel like one of those days, the chore days. Needless to say, the very instant the opening credits first appeared, and that haughty operatic singing forced its way into my ears, I was certain that I was going to hate this film. I got to the first number, and I knew I was in a real bind; I hated it, all right.
Marie is a French princess who is set up on an arranged marriage to a Spanish duke. Incensed at the removal of her choice in the matter, Marie masquerades as her housemaid Marietta and flees the country on a boat to New Orleans full of unwed ladies looking for husbands and new lives in the colonies. En route, their boat is taken by pirates, and the ladies are then rescued by a band of mercenary troops led by Richard Warrington, who takes a shine to “Marietta”, and she to him, despite their mutual declaration that each of them do not want to marry anyone. You see where this is going: Marie’s past catches up to her, and she and Warrington must find a way to be together despite everything that threatens to keep them apart, etc etc. You’ve seen this film before, if only in its individual pieces, and I’m sorry to say that Naughty Marietta does not provide a good enough experience to warrant you seeing those pieces in this particular arrangement. From the first number, where the princess meets her composer friend and starts singing with him, only to join in with a singing group on the floor above, which expands further into the whole town singing outside the building to Marie about what a joy it is to sing with her, I was positively disgusted with the sheer exuberance put on display by this film; it was like the most chipper, upbeat musical you’ve ever seen accidentally-on-purpose swallowed a handful of uppers and started inhaling helium, all for the seeming entertainment value for the audience. Everyone sings as the only pastime, or they write songs and sing about writing songs with anyone around who joins in, or they sing to express their emotions or feelings, or… well, or they just sing for the hell of it. Sometimes this works, and it’s charming and lifts the spirits, and sometimes films take it too far, and this film definitely takes it too far. Even with its moderate running time, I still had to watch the film in very unpleasant installments, just to get through the whole thing, and that does not make a good film in any respect for me. I also couldn’t help but feel that the film was significantly hindered by the technology of the day, namely that the film was in black-and-white and definitely appeared to not know what to do with the format. I got the distinct impression that when color would come to film, that it would be the saving grace of the musical genre, thanks to the muddy and flat template on display by Naughty Marietta.
I can’t believe this was directed by the same guy that did The Thin Man the year prior. What the freaking hell, W.S. Van Dyke? Even the parts of this film that weren’t singing were piddling at best, so really, there’s nothing enjoyable about this film at all. This was nominated for Best Picture? I shudder at my future viewings of the other nominees if this was one of the best films of the year. It’s that rare film that is not only bad in every way, but is so bad that it raises my ire, forcing me to be exceptionally mean to it in my desperate attempts to give the film the comeuppance and chastising I feel it deserves, and Naughty Marietta is just such a film. I don’t really know what else to say. Don’t watch this. Please. I don’t wish this experience on any true lover of cinema.
Arbitrary Rating: 4/10