Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The third of MGM's profitable Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy songfests, Maytime opens in the early 20th century, with a young girl arguing with her boyfriend over her wishes to become an opera singer. The girl's neighbor, a lonely old woman whom we gradually recognize as a convincingly "aged" Jeanette MacDonald, tells the girl of her own career in opera. The old lady was once the radiant young diva Marcia Mornay. In 1868 she was the toast of Europe, thanks to the tutelage of her voice instructor Nikolai Nazarov (John Barrymore). He proposes marriage, and Marcia accepts, more out of gratitude than love. In a euphoric pre-nuptial state, Marcia finds herself on Paris' Left Bank, where she meets handsome café crooner Paul Allison (Nelson Eddy). They meet again at a lavish Maytime festival, falling in love (to the accompaniment of Sigmund Romberg's most dazzling duets) in the process. Sadly, Marcia returns to Nazarov, while Paul goes off to America to lick his wounds. Seven years later, Marcia, making her New York debut in a fictional opera based on the works of Tchaikovsky, finds that the leading baritone is none other than Paul. Unable to envision life without her new love, Marcia begs Nazarov for a divorce. He smiles slyly and promises to give her her freedom-whereupon he heads to Paul's apartment and kills the poor fellow. The flashback done, Marcia advises her pretty young neighbor that one can never have both love and a career. Out of tragedy grows the happy ending, in which the spirit of the now-deceased Marcia is reunited with Paul in a blossom-filled Hereafter. On paper, Maytime may seem to be the ultimate in Hoke, but even in recent revival showings the film never fails to cast its spell over an audience.
engagement, instructor, love-triangle, love-vs-career, neighbor, opera-singer, voice [singing]