Friday, July 4, 2008

The Cuban Love Song (1931)

The Cuban Love Song (not to be confused with the late-'20s MGM tune "The Pagan Love Song"), stars opera baritone Lawrence Tibbett as a WWI-era marine falling for Cuban Lupe Velez, while Karen Morley (unadvisably, if you ask me) waits for him to return to the states.

Imagine William Haines as an unfunny opera singer and you'll get the gist of this movie starring yet another annoying jerk we're supposed to cheer for (an early MGM specialty). At least with Haines you had laughs; here, you have "The Peanut Song" sung so many times you wonder if you'll ever eat peanuts again.

Tibbett's voice is a real force; he was one of the all-time great opera singers. I'm sure someone can tell me why he was wasting his time in Hollywood and recording popular tunes on 78s when he could have been onstage singing Verdi and Puccini. At any rate, MGM let Tibbett go after The Cuban Love Song flopped.

Lupe Velez is fine in a role more restrained than her later comedies, and Tibbett is backed up by the bizarre comic relief team of Ernest Torrence and Jimmy Durante (!).Torrence is wasted, and Durante is...Durante.

Warning: Mary found this film quite offensive, exploiting women in general and Cubans in particular; she thinks it may be the worst MGM we've seen. Recommended only for fans of the actors involved, or opera-singing sailors getting tattoos.

Not currently available on DVD. Has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.