Capriccio
1938

Capriccio

Capriccio (Original Title)

This film is a lost musical parody treasure that could bear to be rediscovered. Operetta meets swing, and the conventions of cross-dressing and sexual gender confusion gets the Comedia della arte treatment. Lilian Harvey plays a young heiress in long-ago France (the costumes are Empire and Regency) named Madelon, whose grandfather brings her up as one would a young man, so that she can make it alone and rebuff all who would chase her for fortune. Upon the grandfather's death, she is fooled by her guardian into a betrothal with a fat prefect when she is deceptively shown a picture of his young and good-looking rogue cousin. Before the wedding can take place, Madelon discovers the ruse and escapes in the disguise of a page boy. On the road, she coincidentally meets the attractive young cousin and his best friend, who have just left the wedding celebration. The three become comrades after a scuffle with some ruffians and then set off on many adventures, including a visit to a brothel, during all of which the two men are under the impression that Madelon is a young man. After some problem with the law, they are all brought into court where all must be resolved.

This film is as light and fun as a soufflé--a terrific riff on operettas and the gender-switching gimmick. Lilian Harvey is in top form-and the film is whimsical, beautifully decorated and somewhat weird-at one point Harvey sings an entire song about her love affairs with women, dressed in male drag to a group of enrapt ladies of the night in a salon. The musical numbers are both wonderful and weird -- There's a very strange number in which a mother sings a song about the supposed rape of her daughter in order to compromise Harvey's character (whom she thinks is a young duke) into marriage. She sings the song pleasantly and jauntily trills the word "vergewaltigt" ("rape") over and over. The pacing is great and Viktor Staal is the perfect rogue leading man for Harvey. It's a pity they were not paired again. The film was hated by Hitler and Goebbels, but the director was powerful and it was released to glowing reviews and an enthusiastic public. After a very short time in theatres, it was pulled out of circulation.

1h 45min
August 11, 1938
Admin comments

This film is a lost musical parody treasure that could bear to be rediscovered. Operetta meets swing, and the conventions of cross-dressing and sexual gender confusion gets the Comedia della arte treatment. Lilian Harvey is in top form-and the film is whimsical, beautifully decorated and somewhat weird-at one point Harvey sings an entire song about her love affairs with women, dressed in male drag to a group of enrapt ladies of the night in a salon.

Everything about this film including the humorous songs and dance numbers rivals ( I would say surpasses) the best of any Hollywood equivalent of that era. Note the scene at Ale Inn, where Madelon, playing Don Juan, is now in drag and is having a sword fight with the customers. About four customers are white, one is black. This is supposed to take place in France during the Napoleonic period, so I don’t think there were any blacks around there at that time. I guess Nazis embraced affirmative action in the movies way earlier than the USA.

Tags
Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By signing in, you agree to our terms and conditions and our privacy policy.

By creating an account you agree to Noxe's our terms and conditions and privacy policy.