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Balalaika
IMDB Rating: 6.5/10 from 195 votes
Release: 29 December 1939 (USA) /

Balalaika

Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance
Director: Reinhold Schünzel,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Prince Peter Karagin, an officer in the Cossack army, sees and hears lovely Lydia Marakova in the cafe Balalaika in St. Petersburg and wants to meet her. When he hears she likes to fraternize with a lower class of people, he gives a student 50 rubles for his clothing. She eventually accepts his persistant presence and they fall in love. Peter uses his influence to get Lydia an audition at the opera house, where she is hired and is scheduled to perform later. The Prince, however, is not aware that she, her father and brother are part of a revolutionary movement. Their mutual deception is quickly shattered when Peter and the Cossacks violently break up a revolutionary rally in the public square, where Lydia's brother is killed. Soon afterwards, she learns that the rebels plan to assassinate Peter and his uncle, General Karagin, at the opera house on opening night, and still in love, she warns Peter not to go to the performance. He cancels the reservations, but General Karagin decides to... Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

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Critic Reviews


I am generally a soft touch for movies that have fictional characters in a well-known historical setting, and this one is no exception. Based on a 1936 underrated musical that opened in London, and set on the eve of both World War I and the Russian revolution, it involves a Russian Prince, Nelson Eddy, and a singer and revolutionary, Ilona Massey, who deceive each other as to who they really are, and fall in love. But even after they discover their true identities, they remain in love until separated by the war and then the revolution.

The sets and costumes are first-rate and director Reinhold Schunzel keeps the film moving at a nice pace and handles the crowd scenes extremely well. Mild comedy is provided by Charlie Ruggles and Frank Morgan. Although I'm not much of a fan of Nelson Eddy - he's somewhat bland in his acting - he does have a good voice, so I did enjoy lots of his singing. The stirring "Ride, Cossack, Ride" while the Cossacks are on horseback riding towards the camera, which keeps moving back to avoid a collision, is beautifully photographed. His rendition of "Silent Night" in German, while in the trenches during WW I, answering the Austrian enemy soldiers singing of that song, was a wonderful tender sequence. Eddy also sings the Toreador song from Bizet's "Carmen" which will surely will be liked by opera fans.

But I loved best the last 15 minutes or so, when the Russian emigrés who have gathered in Paris after the war, meet at the Paris version of the Balalaika Cafe to celebrate the Russian New Year. Instead of the joy you would expect on such an occasion, you see the sadness in everyone's eyes at having had to leave their homeland. Frank Morgan sings about his "Land of Dreams," and it moved me to tears.

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