San Francisco Sentinel’s fine arts critic will introduce MGM’s “Queen Of The Lot”
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel
On Saturday afternoon, January 13th, at 3:00 PM, the Legion of Honor presents MGM’s monumental screen classic from 1938, “MARIE ANTOINETTE”. Starring legendary Hollywood beauty Norma Shearer in her most celebrated role, this special event screening is in conjunction with the Legion’s current exhibit, MARIE-ANTOINETTE AND THE PETIT TRIANON AT VERSAILLES. The film will be presented in the beautiful Louis XVI style Florence Gould Theatre located on the Legion’s lower level. Seán Martinfield, fine arts critic for the San Francisco Sentinel, will introduce the film and discuss Norma Shearer’s reputation as “Queen of the Lot” at MGM Studios. The film is included with an Admission Ticket to the museum. The Legion of Honor is located in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park at 34th Avenue and Clement Street.
NORMA SHEARER – Marie Antoinette (MGM, 1938
Co-starring with Norma Shearer is the 24-year old Tyrone Power, then a rising contract player with 20th Century Fox. He was hand-picked by Miss Shearer for the role of the Queen’s lover, “Axel de Fersen”, and granted equal billing with her in the opening screen credits. He was also given a substantial boost in salary.
TYRONE POWER and NORMA SHEARER
“MARIE ANTOINETTE” features a star-studded supporting cast including John Barrymore as “Louis XV”, Robert Morley as “Louis XVI”, Gladys George as “Madame DuBarry”, Joseph Schildkraut as the “Duke D’Orleans”, and Anita Louise as the Royal Governess, “Princesse de Lamballe “. Direction was assigned to W.S. Van Dyke – revered by studio executive Louis B. Mayer as “One-Take Woodie” – whose previous credits included the Thin Man series, the first two Tarzan features starring Johnny Weissmuller, and the musicals of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Van Dyke hit it off immediately with Norma Shearer who was not only MGM’s “Queen of the Lot” but also a major share holder in the company stock. Under his watchful eye, Shearer won “Best Actress” at the Venice Film Festival and garnered her sixth Academy Award nomination. Celebrated English actor Robert Morley received his only Oscar nomination in the “Best Supporting Actor” category. Cedric Gibbons was nominated for “Best Art Direction” and Herbert Stothart for “Best Score”.
GLADYS GEORGE, as Madame DuBarry
The film is based in part on the 1933 biography by Stefan Zweig, MARIE ANTOINETTE: The Portrait of an Average Woman. Taking a Freudian position, the story examines the life of the young Archduchess of Austria, betrothed and wed to the future king of France while still a teenager, and consigned to a sexless and childless union until seven years later. Zweig posits that the Queen’s unfulfilled sexual passions are channeled toward reckless gambling, extravagant fashions, diamonds and pearls, and eventually a handsome young Swedish Count. MGM quickly purchased the rights to the book, called in F. Scott Fitzgerald among others and began developing it as a vehicle for Norma Shearer, wife of producer Irving Thalberg, and one of the studio’s top money-making stars. Her contemporaries, Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford – eventually labeled as “Box Office Poison” – were dropped from the studio roster. Thalberg died in 1936 after the release of ROMEO AND JULIET starring his wife and Leslie Howard (later cast as “Ashley Wilkes” in GONE WITH THE WIND). Shearer pushed for the completion of “Marie Antoinette”, Sydney Guilaroff (Norma’s personal hair stylist) dressed the wigs, and fashion designer Adrian was given a blank check to create the most opulent period wardrobe ever to grace the silver screen.
GILBERT ADRIAN, NORMA SHEARER, and W.S. VAN DYKE
Production began December 30, 1937 and was completed the following May. The film premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre on July 8, 1938 and was released into general distribution August 26th. “MARIE ANTOINETTE” proceeded to gross over three million dollars, a larger profit than any other MGM production up to that point.
The Archduchess of Austria arrives at Versailles
THE WEDDING NIGHT – Robert Morley and Norma Shearer
Watch the original 1938 trailer to: MARIE ANTOINETTE
Click here for additional information on the January 13th screening at the Legion of Honor: “MARIE ANTOINETTE”
Click here for more information on the exhibit: MARIE-ANTOINETTE AND THE PETIT TRIANON AT VERSAILLES
Visit Seán on YouTube: SAMSON & DELILAH – Meet Seán Martinfield
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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: email@example.com.
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