Fun Size Review: The Merry Widow (1925)

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Mae Murray is a brassy American gal who catches the eye of pretty much every eligible bachelor in a sleazy little Mittel-European city state. Erich von Stroheim’s most accessible film, it contains excellent performances from both Murray and leading man John Gilbert. In the minus column, von Stroheim’s tedious “sophistication” that, at a glance, is indistinguishable from that of a fourteen-year-old boy with his dad’s lad mags.

(You can read my full-length review here.)

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[toggler title=”How does it end? (click here for a spoiler)” ]Gilbert gets shot but not badly. He and Murray marry and she gets to be queen. I wonder if this is what gave Wallis Simpson notions.[/toggler]

If it were a dessert it would be:

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A Gold Leaf Sundae. Gaudy and gilded but at it’s core, it’s just chocolate ice cream. Still, chocolate ice cream, yum!

Availability: Warner Archive released a very nice print on DVD with a Lehar-infused score. The whole ball of wax.

6 Replies to “Fun Size Review: The Merry Widow (1925)”

  1. My take on Stroheim with respect to what you call the “nudge nudge” factor was that he was not being coy or trying for cheap titillation, but rather that his characters (mostly the males, but not always) reflect his dismal view of humans — as animal-like or depraved in their actions. He is very blunt — perhaps excessively so — in portraying these characteristics. The best example might be Count Karamzin in Foolish Wives, a man who lusts after and rapes a poor handicapped teenage girl. (She had a club foot; and the “foot fetish” reappears in Merry Widow, of course!)

    1. Von Stroheim was an odd duck to be sure and he certainly did have a dim view of humanity. I do feel that his obsessive insistence on including this material shows a certain predilection on his part, similar to D.W. Griffith’s obvious obsession with ravishment in close quarters. By this point in Von’s career, I am ready to shout, “We get it, Erich!” at the screen.

      1. And as a true obsessive, he didn’t much care what others thought — he’d give you his concept of truth/reality again and again. Which largely explains why he spent his career post-1929 acting and writing, not directing again!

      2. Yes, indeed, which is where I part ways with the auteur theory. Except for very specific genres, film is a collaborative art. I can’t say that I weep for von Stroheim’s career or that I can blame studios for refusing to hire him. Again like Griffith, he won a lot of battles but lost the war.

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