I woke before dawn, clicked on the bedroom tv, and the movie, just starting, was Maytime. Immediately I was back more than three-quarters of a century, a child in the dark in a little movie theatre in a little village.
Would the story of Jeanette Macdonald and Nelson Eddy, their one perfect day in May with those apple blossoms filling the screen, still strike me as wildly romantic? Would I still cry at the end? Would those voices still seem marvelous?
Well, I did notice a few things that had escaped me when I was 12. He does sing through his nose a bit, and I can't really judge her because I can no longer hear high notes at all. I don't know all that much about opera, but I question whether a world-famous prima donna would really star in everything from Delibes to Wagner. I no longer think "You must give up your career for love" is a valid piece of advice -- that was so 1930s.
And when Eddy is shot by jealous husband John Barrymore (over-acting with Shakesperean grimaces) I just know we're now going to get that standard Hollywood scene.
Yes, here it comes: she rushes to cradle the dying man's head in her arms and yes, she never thinks to stanch the flow of blood or call for a doctor. Instead on cue she leans into the camera to catch his dying words. Clearly, with perfect delivery, in that thrilling baritone he says "You'll never be alone. I'll always be with you." After which his eyes suddenly close and his head drops abruptly on her arm.
I meant to reach for my notepad and jot down the exact words so I could report them to you accurately. But I couldn't. I was crying.