I bring this up today because when I was growing up there were certain things that you could be sure of. One of those was that any television channel that owned the MGM film library would definitely run "Maytime" on May 1st. Even if they never ran another Jeanette MacDonald film all year (although "San Francisco" generally showed up in April on the anniversary of the Quake), "Maytime" would be on the schedule for May the first.
Even when viewed today, "Maytime" is one of the most romantic films ever committed to celluloid and it is easy to understand, watching it, why is resonated with audiences in the middle of the Depression.
MGM pulled out all of the stops. The production is opulent, rich in detail and lavishly photographed. The costumes by Adrian are second to none and Sydney Guilaroff worked his usual magic in creating hairstyles that fit the period and the stars. Director Robert Z. Leonard proved he was a master of the period film and the cast, headed by Miss MacDonald, Eddy and John Barrymore, bring a depth and drama to the proceedings that belies the typical notions of Operetta.
Miss MacDonald, virtually unrecognizable as an elderly woman in the film's opening and closing, earned kudos from the Screen Actors Guild for her brilliant acting. She plays a former Opera Singer, long retired and living a reclusive life in the kind of small town that could only be created on the MGM lot. She advises a young aspiring singer to not forsake love for a career, sharing her own tragic story in the process.
Filled with a wide-array of glorious music, even those who thumb their noses at the notions of musicals and especially Operetta, will be caught up in the story that unfolds over two plus hours. It is impossible not to be moved.
After viewing "Maytime", it's easy to understand why, for several years, Jeanette MacDonald was the biggest female star on the MGM lot. Bigger than Shearer, Crawford, Garbo and Loy. In fact in 1939, two years after this film was made, Miss MacDonald was crowned "Queen of the Screen" in a nationwide poll of 22 million readers representing 52 leading newspapers.
TCM is screening "Maytime" later this month and in a week or so it's coming out on DVD. Treat yourself to this masterpiece - a wonderful slice of the Golden Age of Hollywood - a film that is sure to bring a tear to even the most jaded moviegoer.