Friday, April 13, 2012

The Toast of New Orleans (1950)

I recently watched this second film of Mario Lanza's, and when I say 'watched,' I mean that rather literally, as I didn't actually get to hear much of the movie beyond the singing. This is the problem when there's a four-year-old around and I wanted to watch it with my sister, and we fit it in... but the volume on the dvd seemed very quiet and was overridden by household and playing child noises. And, I admit, it was easy enough to follow without the dialogue, and it wasn't good enough to re-watch on my own with the volume at a proper level.

That's not to say it wasn't enjoyable along the same lines as That Midnight Kiss. In fact, it really does play exactly like they said "Wow, we got a hit on our hands, let's repeat the formula!" which I believe is what had really happened. This go-around shifts setting, and adds David Niven (who's rather delightful as the bemused opera director), but is otherwise very similar, right down to an inexplicable twenty-second (literally) happy wrap-up that comes out of nowhere. Lots of singing, quite a bit of dancing (Rita Moreno co-stars), and lots of light, romantic entertainment.

Highlights for me were Lanza singing the Flower Song from Carmen and the finale of the movie, which was a performance of the love duet at the end of the first act of Butterfly. He makes a perfect Pinkerton, both in looks and voice. In this movie, Mario Lanza reminded my sister and me of a cross between Desi Arnaz and William Shatner. With a really good voice.

We also had great fun waiting to see what dress Kathryn Grayson would be wearing next. These barely begin to capture the gowns and dresses she wore in this movie!

(my personal favorite was this green velvet gown.)

Another movie I'm glad I saw, but wouldn't need to own.

The DVD also included an hour biography on Mario Lanza, which we watched at a different time, and were actually able to hear. What a sad, short life he had! It made me very sad to watch this man of incredible talent and see how the world he inhabited, and his own tremendous insecurities, brought him down. How after he was planted in Hollywood, he did want to go sing on stage, but was scared to, particularly as he was compared so often to Caruso -- how would anyone ever measure up to those expectations? His weight was a constant issue. As they said, he sang better when he was heavy, but he filmed better when he was thin, so he would go on these horrible diets and lose 60 lbs. in a couple months, really unhealthy. And there was alcohol, a whole lot of it. He died at just 38 years old; his wife died a mere 5 months later. So sad.

There were quite a few clips from his later movies, were he was more serious and actually go to act, and I really want to see those now. And boy, when he sings opera straight, wow. He really did have an amazing voice. These stills were in the biography and I really liked them.

(Mario and Tyrone! Love this shot, particularly as Tyrone is still my Hollywood wish-he-was-an-opera-tenor Hollywood star.)

(Mario and his wife - so cute)

(Mario and his wife again... love them reading Hemingway, even if it is a publicity shot)

(This shot is so beautifully framed, and so sad. Seems to capture how trapped he was.)

I also really like this one quote. He was talking about that moment when he would go on stage:

"I feel that it's such an exciting thing. It's a thing that brings so much beauty, to those who, at the moment, love what they're experiencing. And in it's way, isn't it true that it's beautiful, that moment of excitement?"

This expresses something that I find lacking a lot today, an appreciation of beauty. A need and a love of beautiful things/moments/etc. I recently tried to explain why I would cry at beautiful things -- such as an especially pretty moment in an opera, or a sunset, or a gorgeous view. The person I was speaking with just looked at me blankly. But beautiful things did not move them, did not matter to them, in a way they matter to me. I listen to this quote from Mario Lanza and it just resonates.


  1. Anonymous10:18 AM

    Dear D. Koren, It was good to come across your reviews of Lanza movies! You might be interested in visiting

    You'll find photos, audiovisual clips, flmography and discography, rare interviews, essays written by fans as well as by Lanza expert Derek McGovern, PhD, and Armando Cesari--author of the foremost Lanza biography, Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy.

    It's a great place for anyone interested in this amazing tenor.

    1. Thank you very much for commenting and providing the link! Really appreciate it. I'm visiting it right now, listening to some of the recordings for starters (the "Parigi O Cara" is fabulous!). I will definitely explore the rest of the site as well.

  2. I love David Niven! I'm just sayin' :-)

    1. I didn't know you loved David Niven! He is very cool. I'm always delighted when he pops up in a movie. I think because the first thing I saw him in was Guns of Navarone, I tend to think of him as an action hero first! LOL!

  3. I have been reading your blog for some time and I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for doing such a fine job in keeping classic cinema alive. I have added you to my blog roll and I hope you do not mind if I nominate you for the sunshine award.
    I have attached the above link to my name if you want to accept the nomination. Thanks for being an inspiration.

    1. Hi Ann! Thanks for commenting! I'm glad you've been enjoying my posts. And thank you for the nomination for the sunshine award as well! I will check that out, as well as your journal. I love finding new journals to read! I will also add you to my blog roll, as soon as I figure out how in this new interface! See you around!

    2. Also - just an FYI, I'm having trouble commenting on your blog. It won't accept my login, so I need to figure out what to do.