Paramount on Parade (1930)

February 6th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Dorothy Arzner, Otto Brower, Edmund Goulding || Cast: Jean Arthur, Clara Bow, Gary Cooper, Fredric March, Maurice Chevalier | US Musical 102’

Paramount on Parade displays little of the imagination of Universal’s The King of Jazz and certainly lacks the star quality of Metro’s The Show of Shows and is amateurishly staged as if on a proscenium and played to the camera throughout; but the masters of ceremonies Jack Oakie and Skeets Gallagher sauntering through the proceedings cheerfully breeching the fourth wall seem to be having as much fun as the audience.

The sets are pretty basic with the idiosyncratic exception of the tinted spoof murder mystery and the various Technicolor sequences which ironically lack a soundtrack (although perhaps that’s a blessing in the case of Harry Green as a Jewish matador). Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper are rather wasted – particularly as the points when they get to sing are both now silent – and you have to look hard to spot Frederic March.

With the fleeting exception of Kay Francis in Technicolor as Carmen Maurice Chevalier is easily seen to the best effect (in sequences evidently the work of Ernst Lubitsch), especially performing an Apache Dance with Evelyn Brent; but Mitzi Green, Nancy Carroll and Clara Bow also get to make their mark.

Apart from the scenes with Chevalier it’s hard to know who actually directed what, but the presence of Ludwig Berger – addressed as ‘Dr. Berger’ – in the Technicolor episode The Gallows Song identifies him as the man responsible for the colour composition that so impressed Alexander Korda that he later invited him to work for him at Denham on The Thief of Baghdad. @RichardChatten

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