Mary Robbins is a moderately educated, beautiful, young woman who owns the saloon called “The Poker”. She is the only woman in the town of Cloudee-making her the fancy of all the men there, especially to Sheriff Jack Rance. On the way to Monterey to sing at a mass officiated by Father Sienna, her stagecoach is held up by the infamous masked bandit, Ramerez. He too takes a fancy to Mary, and decides to secretly follow her, taking on the identity of an officer named, Lieutenant Johnson. While in Monterey, he dances, sings and courts Mary, who has now fallen in love with him. He then has to make a quick getaway. In the mean-time, Sheriff Jack has set up a trap to catch Ramerez at “The Poker”. When Ramerez does arrive he soon discovers that Mary is the owner, and quickly changes to the identity of Lieutenant Johnson. How long can this charade last?
Focusing on Nelson Eddy, it was with some astonishment to read his pre-film operatic bio. A remarkable 33 total repertoire which he essayed during the late 20s and up to that “fateful” 1920 concert when he stepped in at the last minute to replace an ailing Lotte Lehmann.
That success led to his film contract, a new career as a film star and a semi-end to his exhaustive operatic career.
Yet, he may have done his most impressive singing during his leading stint with the Philadelphia Civic Opera. I was impressed to discover he sang under the distinguished batons of Stokowski, Reiner, Respighi and Toscannini. And reading his press reviews online pointed to his having critics and public alike in the palm of his hands.
By the time his film roles came around, his voice seemed to have taken on a slight strain and occasional throaty quality. But his first rate musicianship never let down.
He, along with Jeanette MacDonald, respected the legato line, shaping each vocal phrase with sensitivity and beauty.
Their solo and duo renditions in “The Girl of the Golden West” show their artistic integrity. Tenutos, ritards, and fermatas are all given their due, all the while integrating their vocalism with their character and dramatic situations.
As for Eddy, he went on to make some nineteen films, then did the impossible: sustained a triumphant fifteen year post-film career as a nightclub singer. The public apparently couldn’t get enough of this fine baritone, who worked as a true star with nary a career lull until he literally dropped dead onstage.
In “The Girl of the Golden West” Eddy is seen to advantage, along with MacDonald, and what could be a dated piece turns into a tender romance.
Sigmund Romberg’s original songs are fetching, particularly the love ballad, and Herbert Stodart’s orchestrations are rich and luminous.