The Chocolate Soldier on TV

Sometimes curiosity just gets the better of me.  I rather enjoyed Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of Oscar Straus’ The Chocolate Soldier so I was prepared to take a look at the 1955 made for TV version directed by Max Liebman.  I probably shouldn’t have bothered.  There’s so much weird here.  First off the plot is changed out of all recognition, besides being cut down to 77 minutes.  Nothing much is left apart from the basic idea of the heroine Nadine falling for the Swiss soldier who is chased into her bedroom rather than her bumptious fiancé Alexius.  His escape and return are replaced with a silly impersonation of a visiting general and a farcical court martial.  In mucking about with the plot most of the humour and essentially all the satire is lost leaving just a very silly and dated Broadway style romcom.

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I also think it’s very oddly cast.  Nadine is a classic opera soubrette role and it doesn’t really suit 42 year old Met diva Risë Stevens who looks and sounds way too mature.  Worse, the young Swiss Bumerli is played by 49 year old Eddie Albert who looks at least that old.  There’s some extremely silly choreography in the opening scene but the ballroom scenes and a very odd interpolated commedia dance sequence are actually rather well danced and are probably the best things in the film.  So, it doesn’t really stand on its own merits or as a record of Straus’ work.  I’m not sure what the point is really or why it got a DVD release after all these years.

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Technically it’s what you expect of a 1955 TV broadcast.  The picture is grainy $:3 black and white and the sound is mono, though not all that awful.  No documentation, extras or anything.  It’s all a bit of a waste of time.

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