Great Lover The (1931)
Directed by Harry Beaumont (The Broadway Melody (1929)) this average drama stars Adolphe Menjou in the title role as an Italian opera star and infamous lover who “discovers” an American opera student played by Irene Dunne on his return cruise from Italy. Jean Paurel (Menjou) renowned as much for his womanizing as his Don Giovanni meets the attractive Diana Page (Dunne) asking him for lunch at the opera house the next day without realizing it was her voice that captivated him as their ship docked. Paurel’s dependable manservant is played humorously by Ernest Torrence; it’s this relationship the scenes between these two which keeps this film from being a washout. Once at the opera house Diana runs into an old friend from back home in Buffalo Carl Jones (Neil Hamilton) now going by Carlos Jonino as he too is trying to make it in this difficult singing profession. A love triangle ensues with the much older star competing with the younger Carlos for Diana’s affections while one of Paurel’s former lovers Savarova (Olga Baclanova) also an opera singer gets the door. Cliff Edwards and Hale Hamilton play the opera house’s managers who must deal with the eccentric performers which also includes Herman Bing playing a German who’s upset by his co-star’s (Elsa Janssen’s character) barking Spitz dog. Roscoe Ates appears briefly as a stuttering photographer on the ship. If you’re interested in opera a much better film would be Interrupted Melody (1955) with Eleanor Powell which is actually a true story!
Though the film initially begins with Paurel typically “courting” Diana for his bed an incident at his apartment occurs when Savarova comes to call which scares him causing him to reject the inexperienced wannabe and causing her to leave hurriedly. Upon further reflection while reminded of his age he falls in love with her innocent desire to learn his craft from him. Meanwhile Diana has “returned” to Carl who wants her to give up her dream and be his wife. However when they’re out on a date Paurel catches up with them and whisks Diana off her feet to join his party which includes the aforementioned opera house managers and eccentric stars. There with Paurel’s accompaniment on the piano she performs so splendidly that Paurel insists to the managers that Diana replace Savarova (who had left after Diana’s singing) opposite him in Don Giovanni. When they balk at the idea he claims “I created Savarova for Romeo & Juliet in just as short a time period”. The two get engaged.
*** SPOILERS ***
Their first performance’s 1st act goes well. Between acts Paurel gives Diana his good luck charm. She returns to her dressing room where she caught kissing Carlos by an overjoyed Savarova who runs to tell Paurel. Paurel gets upset enough to yell at his former lover enough to damage his already ailing throat. He cannot continue so Carlos replaces him and both the youngsters receive rave reviews. Briefly Carlos clings to the thought that he and Diana will be together and will travel to Italy until faced with reality and seeing the love Diana has in her eyes for Carlos he makes a noble sacrifice and allows her to stay and perform in the opera house manager’s next production with Carlos.