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Film / Monte Carlo (1930)

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Monte Carlo is a 1930 musical Romantic Comedy film directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Jack Buchanan. Loosely based on the novel Monsieur Beaucaire by Booth Tarkington, with additional elements drawn from a German play called The Blue Coast, it is best remembered today for the classic song "Beyond the Blue Horizon."

Penniless countess Helene Mara (MacDonald) has run out, for the third time, on her wedding to the wealthy Duke Otto von Liebenheim. The duke vows to the disappointed wedding guests that he'll bring her back. Meanwhile, Helene, dressed only in a fur coat over her underwear, hops aboard a train bound for Monte Carlo, planning to gamble her way into a fortune. On her way to The Casino, she catches the eye of Count Rudolph Farriere (Buchanan). To get close to her, he poses as her new hairdresser.

Rudolph quickly learns that Helene is losing at the gambling tables, and that her bills are mounting. When the duke arrives to take her back home, she is tempted to finally marry him as a way of solving her financial difficulties. Rudolph asks her to let him take her last thousand francs and gamble with it, saying he has a foolproof system. They spend a delightful evening out on the town, and then he leaves for the casino. A few hours later, he returns with a large amount of money (which he has actually brought from his room). Helene kisses him passionately, and they agree to talk more the next day.

However, in the morning, the countess is embarrassed at having been so familiar with a mere servant. They quarrel, and he walks out. That evening, she goes to the opera with the duke and sees a performance of Monsieur Beaucaire, about a noblewoman who falls in love with a prince posing as a hairdresser. She also notices Count Rudolph sitting in one of the expensive boxes reserved for nobility. When the duke falls asleep, Helene goes to Rudolph's box, and he reveals his true identity. As she starts to ask if he can forgive her, the main character of the play onstage says the same thing to the prince. In the play, the prince leaves the woman because she rejected him when she thought he was a commoner; but Rudolph tells Helene, "I don't like that ending. I like Happy Endings." The movie ends with the two of them departing from Monte Carlo on a train, singing a Triumphant Reprise of "Beyond the Blue Horizon."

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • At the Opera Tonight: The final sequence.
  • The Casino: Where Helene and Rudolph first meet. She nearly wins a good deal of money on her first day, only to lose it on the last spin of the roulette wheel.
  • Catch the Conscience: Though it was not the reason for the performance, Rudolph realizes that Monsieur Beaucaire will have this effect on Helene. Seeing the poster gives him the idea to make sure she sees him at the opera house.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Duke Otto.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: On his first day as hairdresser, Rudolph insists on giving Helene a scalp massage despite her protests. She starts out by saying, “No, no, no, no!” and progresses to rapturous moans of “Oh, that feels good … Ohh! Oh, that feels even better.”
  • Flowers of Romance: In an early attempt to impress Helene, Rudolph sends her flowers.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Helene wears an evening dress and cape trimmed with ostrich feathers. On her way to the casino, she also carries a large ostrich-feather fan.
  • Gambler's Fallacy: Helene loses money because she continues to bet on a winning number.
  • Happy Ending: Lampshaded by Rudolph, in contrast to the Show Within a Show.
  • Marriage of Convenience: The only reason Helene ever considers marrying Duke Otto is because he's extremely wealthy.
  • Naked in Mink: Or Nearly Naked In Mink, at least. When she runs away, Helene leaves her wedding gown draped over a chair and boards the train wearing only a fur coat over her underwear.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Paul talks about his job as Helene's hairdresser, but Rudolph thinks he is her kept lover. (Paul rhapsodizes about how beautiful Helene looks in her negligee and mentions that he switched hotels at her request—"Well, you know what one will do to please a woman!" His only complaint is that she has no money...)
  • Pimped-Out Dress: For a night out with Rudolph, Helene wears a dress with ruffles, sparkles, and Fluffy Fashion Feathers. It has a matching Pimped-Out Cape.
  • Runaway Bride: Helene. The movie opens with her third runaway attempt.
  • Serenade Your Lover: Rudolph sings "Give Me a Moment, Please" to Helene over the telephone.
  • Show Within a Show: The performance of Monsieur Beaucaire.
  • Simple, yet Opulent: Helene's dress for the opera has simple lines and virtually no decoration, but is made of some very shiny material like lamé.
  • "Somewhere" Song: "Beyond the Blue Horizon."
  • Stealth Insult: When Duke Otto sings "She'll Love Me and Like It," about how he's going to bring Helene back and make her shape up, the wedding guests repeat his words in a way that turns them into insults.
    Otto: I have a nasty temper, though I keep it in control
    For, after all, I really am a simple-hearted soul.
    Chorus: He's a simp, he's a simp, he's a simple-hearted soul!
    Otto: But when my seeds of kindliness have failed to bear me fruit,
    I then become, I must confess, a nasty-tempered brute.
    Chorus: He's a nas [an ass], he's a nas, he's a nasty-tempered brute!
  • Subordinate Excuse: Rudolph poses as Helene's hairdresser after more conventional means of wooing her (such as the flowers and the telephone serenade) fail to produce results.
  • Suddenly Suitable Suitor: Rudolph becomes this to Helene when she finds out he is actually a nobleman.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: After Helene rejects Rudolph, he puts on his hairdresser's coat, kisses her passionately, picks her up and dumps her on a chaise longue, and stalks out.
  • Triumphant Reprise: Helene first sings "Beyond the Blue Horizon" while on the train for Monte Carlo. At the end, Helene and Rudolph sing it together on a train leaving the city.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Duke Otto.