Bitter Sweet (1940)

Genres - Musical, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Operetta  |   Release Date - Nov 8, 1940 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Bitter Sweet is visually sumptuous and contains some wonderful music sung very well, but overall it's a disappointing and rather leaden operetta. A great deal of the blame goes with scenarist Lesser Samuels, who took far too many liberties in adapting Noel Coward's musical. Granted, the original source was not perfect, but it had more life and originality to it than does Samuels's version, which is about as filled with trite cliches as one could ever imagine. The result is a very dull screenplay, which means that it's up to the songs to save the day. The score, fortunately, is quite lovely, highlighted by the beautiful "I'll See You Again," "Tokay" and "If You Could Only Come With Me." Singing these and other numbers are Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, who are in truly glorious voice. When they are singing, Bitter Sweet comes to life and at times even soars. But when there's no music accompanying them, the actors fall several notches. Eddy is wooden, of course, as is famously expected of him. But MacDonald, who was capable of much better acting, comes across as fake and forced. There's good support from cad George Sanders and friends Felix Bressart and Curt Bois, but not enough to help matters. W.S. Van Dyke's direction is busy but without purpose. The film looks great, thanks to its sets, directions and photography, but underneath the gloss it has too little life.