The Love Parade premiered in New York City on Tuesday, November 19, 1929 at the Criterion Theater, opening with all of the fanfare (Maurice Chevalier in attendance[i]), and the jubilant expectation of the first-nighters at a grandiose-opening of the newest play on the Great White Way or the generous welcome-home-celebration for the World-Series Champion. Movie-goers paid $2.00 a ticket, which was a significant drop from the opening night rate of $11.00[ii] to view the first sound-film operetta; Parade did not open on its own, for it faced three plays[iii] that premiered on the same night,[iv] albeit, a field of fairly weak contenders for the entertainment-seekers’ dollars. To set all of this aforementioned knowledge in a practical historical perspective, these outrageously high prices at the Criterion Theater were paid-out just three weeks after the Stock Market Crash of Tuesday, October 29, 1929.[v] Parade had healthy box-office receipts, adding to the bottom line of Paramount, whose profit for 1930 was $18, 381,178; yet, the company dropped precipitously to a deficit of $15,857, 544 in 1932,[vi] but, for the time being, Parade had helped to stave off the eventual Paramount bankruptcy proceedings, which began in 1933.[vii]
Rave reviews were the standard for this musical masterpiece, a world-wide crescendo of plaudits were heard for this melodious movie; it garnered six Academy Award nominations for: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Sound Recording[viii]. Ernst Lubitsch was named to The Film Daily Top Ten Director list, for the fifth consecutive year[ix].
If we take the reporting of the Internet Movie Data Base, then The Love Parade saw its last showing at the Criterion Theater, on Sunday, February 16, 1930, with The Vagabond King opening on Monday, February 17, 1930, but there is conflicting information regarding the Vagabond’s premier, in articles published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, dated for February 15, 17, 19 and 21 of 1930 (as well, the Ogden Standard-Examiner [x] had the same report as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle), Wednesday, February 19, 1930 is mentioned as Vagabond’s opening night, (it was also scheduled for Palm Beach, Florida, on February 19, 1930[xi]),Film Daily[xii] confirms this, while a paper in Arkansas had the New York Premier scheduled for Thursday, February 20, 1930 with one hundred cities simultaneously seeing The Vagabond King opening on Friday, February 21, 1930, expanding to two hundred theaters thereafter. This wide-release pattern was an innovation for 1930, with Paramount, the Famous Lasky Corporation and Publix Theaters[xiii] joining forces to make the national opening possible[xiv]. It is odd that the very modernization (one which we now all take for granted) that helped The Vagabond King at the box-office was also a culprit in the Paramount financial debacle. Publix Theaters and the stock market crash of 1929 brought Paramount to her knees; the increase in theaters for the Publix chain had been achieved partly by using fixed-date redeemable stock as payment to the sellers, then when the guaranteed repurchase dates arrived, the price (in the post market crash era) was too steep, sending Paramount into receivership in 1933, with bankruptcy and reorganization to follow in 1936[xv].
The Love Parade was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, (see Lubitsch’s The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg, 1927, although silent, a close kin to Parade in texture, staging and comedy); Victor Milner deftly photographed the movie, the witty screenplay was written by W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Oscar Potoker and Max Terr , Travis Banton designed the glorious costumes, Eugene Joseff, supplied the costume jewelry, Hans Dreier was in charge of the lavish set designs, as Parade’s art director, while Franklin Hansen handled the sound recording, his sound synchronization (Lubitsch shot Parade silent and added the sound track later) was very good. The song lyrics by Clifford Grey were earthy, humorous and catchy, and the melodies by Victor Schetzinger demanded attention, whether intimate such as the solos and duets, or as with the March of the Grenadiers, ‘bigger than life.’ Parade had four principal characters: Count Alfred Renard (Maurice Chevalier), Queen Louise (Jeanette MacDonald), Jacques (Lupino Lane, second-cousin of Ida Lupino[xvi]) and Lulu (the vivacious Lillian Roth), each was magnificent in their portrayals, (with Lane and Roth almost stealing the film) never missing a beat or an opportunity to shine. When all was said and done, The Love Parade was quite a phenomenon, lightening in a bottle, captured on the Silver-Screen. Of course, there never was before, nor has there been anyone since with a voice like Chevalier’s, and likewise, there has been no one in film with his unique vocal delivery; partner that with the lovely face and voice of Jeanette MacDonald and you have magic, voila! Truly, a lovely favorite of mine, Lubitsch directing with his usual Savoir-faire, from the ‘fresh’ start to the welcomed and expected ending; The Love Parade, C’est Magnifique!
I have included two contemporary reviews by: the New York Times and Variety. The Love Parade is available in a four film collection by Criterion; the same set is less expensive at Amazon.com. Life and Love are the big Parade!
By C. S. Williams
[i] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York, Tuesday, November 19, 1929
[ii] The Reading Eagle, Reading PA, Sunday, February 2, 1930; The Evening Independent, St. Petersburg, Florida, Thursday, November 28, 1929
[iii] Of the three plays only It Never Rains at Theatre Republic did well, with 185 performances; Claire Adams at the Biltmore Theatre (only 7 performances); Robin Hood, an operetta at Jolson’s 59th Street Theatre, moving to the Casino Theatre on 12/23/1929, (a total of 31 performances). Source: Internet Broadway Database
[iv] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York, Wednesday, November 20, 1929
[v] Daily News Standard, Uniontown, PA, Tuesday Evening, October, 1929
[vi] The Paramount Story, by John Douglas Eames, Random House Value Publishing, 1987, page 37
[vii] Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders, Volume 4, by John N. Ingham, Greenwood Press, 1983, page 1701
[viii] Best Picture, Best Actor (Chevalier), Best Director (Lubitsch), Best Cinematography (Milner), Best Art Direction (Dreier) and Best Sound Recording (Franklin Hansen).
[ix] The Film Daily, Sunday, August 3, 1930
[x] Ogden Standard-Examiner, Friday Evening, February 21, 1930
[xi] Ogden Standard-Examiner, Friday Evening, February 21, 1930
[xii] The Film Daily, Tuesday, February 18, 1930
[xiii] Hope Star and Daily Press, Hope Arkansas, Thursday, February 20, 1930; Ogden Standard-Examiner, Friday Evening, February 21, 1930
[xiv]The Paramount Story, by John Douglas Eames, Random House Value Publishing, 1987, pages 36-37
[xv]American Studies at the University of Virginia, Some Enchanted Evenings: American Picture Palaces, The Thirties: Depression and Art Deco
[xvi] Disaster and Memory: Celebrity Culture and the Crisis of Hollywood Cinema, by Wheeler W. Dixon, Columbia University Press, 1999, page 63