Maytime (1937 film)

Maytime is a 1937 American musical romantic drama film produced by MGM. It was directed by Robert Z. Leonard, and stars Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. The screenplay was rewritten from the book for Sigmund Romberg's 1917 operetta Maytime by Rida Johnson Young, Romberg's librettist; however, only one musical number by Romberg was retained.

Original film poster
Directed byRobert Z. Leonard
Produced byRobert Z. Leonard
Hunt Stromberg
Gregor Rabinovitch (uncredited)
Written byNoel Langley
Claudine West (treatment)
Based onMaytime
1917 operetta
by Rida Johnson Young
StarringJeanette MacDonald
Nelson Eddy
John Barrymore
Music byHerbert Stothart
Edward Ward
CinematographyOliver T. Marsh
Edited byConrad A. Nervig
Distributed byLoew's Inc.
Release date
  • March 26, 1937 (1937-03-26)
Running time
132 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,183,000 (Domestic earnings)[1]
$1,823,000 (Foreign earnings)[1]

The film's storyline greatly resembles that of Noël Coward's operetta Bitter Sweet, right down to the "frame story" surrounding the main plot. Three years later, MGM filmed a Technicolor version of Bitter Sweet, but altered the plot slightly so that audiences would not notice the similarities.


At a small town May Day celebration, elderly Miss Morrison (Jeanette MacDonald) tries to console her young friend Kip (Tom Brown), whose sweetheart Barbara (Lynne Carver) has been offered a job on the operatic stage. Later, Barbara goes for comfort to Miss Morrison, who reveals that years ago she was the internationally famous opera diva Marcia Mornay. Miss Morrison then relates her story: Marcia, a young American singer in Paris, is guided to success by famed but stern voice teacher Nicolai Nazaroff (John Barrymore), who introduces her at the court of Louis Napoleon.

That night, Nicolai proposes to Marcia and she accepts, even though they both know that she is not in love with him. Later, feeling restless, Marcia takes a ride, and is stranded in the Latin Quarter when her driver's horse runs away. In a tavern, she meets American student Paul Allison (Nelson Eddy), who is also a singer, but not as ambitious as Marcia. Though they are attracted to each other, she at first refuses to see him again out of loyalty to Nicolai, but soon promises to lunch with him the next day. They enjoy their lunch together, but Marcia again says that they can no longer see each other and leaves. Paul then steals tickets to see her perform in the opera Les Huguenots that evening, and after he is thrown out of his seat by the manager, he goes to her dressing room and only leaves when she promises to join him at St. Cloud for a May Day celebration. During the celebration, Paul tells her he loves her, but she says that she owes Nicolai too much and could never break a promise to him. They then part after vowing always to remember their day together.

Seven years later, Marcia, who has married Nicolai, has become the toast of the operatic world, but upon her triumphant return to America, she realizes that her life is hollow. Though faithful and devoted to Nicolai, her lack of passion for him has made them both unhappy. In New York, Nicolai arranges for Marcia to sing 'Czaritza' (a fictional opera with music from Tchaikovsky's Symphony Number 5), co-starring with Paul, who has become a baritone of some note. Nicolai does not realize that she is still in love with Paul. At rehearsal, they act at first as if they have never met before, but Nicolai begins to suspect the truth when Archipenco (Herman Bing), Paul's singing teacher, talks about meeting Marcia in Paris many years before. Nicolai then recognizes Paul as the young man who left Marcia's dressing room after the performance of Les Huguenots .

On a brilliant opening night, Nicolai becomes jealous over the obvious emotion in Paul and Marcia's onstage love scenes, but doesn't know that they plan to run away together. Later, at their hotel, when Nicolai questions Marcia, she asks for her freedom, which he promises to give. Marcia soon discovers, however, that Nicolai has gone after Paul with a gun. At Paul's apartment, Nicolai shoots him just as Marcia arrives. Paul then dies in her arms, telling her that memories of their May Day together did last him all his life. It is presumed that Nicolai will be arrested for Paul's killing.

At the conclusion of her story, Miss Morrison helps Barbara realize that she and Kip belong together. As she watches the young lovers embrace, Miss Morrison quietly dies. Her spirit is finally united with her own sweetheart in death.


Awards and honors

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards.[2]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:



  1. Turk, Edward Baron (1998). Hollywood Diva: A Biography of Jeanette MacDonald. University of California Press. p. 365. ISBN 978-0-520-22253-3.
  2. "The 10th Academy Awards (1938) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-09.
  3. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
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