Sweethearts (1938 film)

Sweethearts is a 1938 American Technicolor musical romance film directed by W.S. Van Dyke and starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. The screenplay, by Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell, uses the “play within a play” device: a contemporary Broadway production of the 1913 Victor Herbert operetta is the setting for another pair of sweethearts, the stars of the show. It was the first color film for Nelson or Jeanette (as well as MGM's first three strip Technicolor feature).[5]

Theatherical Poster
Directed byW.S. Van Dyke
Produced byHunt Stromberg
Written bybook: Fred de Gresac
Harry B. Smith
Robert B. Smith
Screenplay byAlan Campbell
Dorothy Parker
Laura Perelman
S.J. Perelman
Based onSweethearts (1913)
by Fred de Gresac
Harry B. Smith
Robert Bache Smith[1][2][3]
StarringJeanette MacDonald
Nelson Eddy
Frank Morgan
Music byVictor Herbert
Herbert Stothart
CinematographyOliver T. Marsh
Allen M. Davey
Edited byRobert Kern
Distributed byLoew's, Inc.
Release date
  • December 22, 1938 (1938-12-22)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,017,000 (Domestic earnings)[4]
$1,230,000 (Foreign earnings)[4]


Broadway stars Gwen Marlowe (Jeanette MacDonald) and Ernest Lane (Nelson Eddy) are appearing in a 6-year run of Victor Herbert's operetta Sweethearts (Ray Bolger dances the role of Hans). They are also very much in love after six years of marriage. Norman Trumpett (Reginald Gardiner) is a successful Hollywood talent scout under pressure to recruit Marlowe and Lane for his studio, which their Broadway producer Felix Lehman (Frank Morgan) is equally determined to prevent.

The couple's attempts to rest and be together are repeatedly thwarted by professional and personal demands made on their time, talents and money by Lehman and their own theatrical families - who also live with them. Frustrated beyond endurance and seduced by Trumpett's idyllic (and false) description of working conditions in Hollywood, they decide to quit the show and take the Hollywood offer. (In guise of buying a new wardrobe for the trip Jeanette MacDonald models fashions of 1938.)

This spells “the end” for the Broadway production, news so devastating that constantly feuding playwright Leo Kronk (Mischa Auer) and composer Oscar Engel (Herman Bing) stop fighting long enough for Lehman, Kronk and company to hatch a counter-plot. By convincing Marlowe that Lane is having an affair with his pretty secretary Kay Jordan (Florence Rice) they split-up the happy couple, putting an end to the Hollywood deal and allowing Lehman to mount two separate touring companies of the show, each with one star and one understudy.

Delighted with the outcome, Engel produces Kronk's new play - which closes in a week. From a Variety review of the play Marlowe and Lane realize they were tricked and join forces to confront Lehman.... but nonetheless resume the Broadway run of Sweethearts together.



The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Sound Recording (Douglas Shearer) and Best Music, Scoring (Herbert Stothart).[6] The film was MGM's first feature-length color film, and it received an Honorary Academy Award for its colour cinematography.[7]


  1. The Federal Reporter. West Publishing Company. 1921. pp. 213–.
  2. Ken Bloom (18 October 2013). Routledge Guide to Broadway. Routledge. pp. 116–. ISBN 978-1-135-87117-8.
  3. http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/DetailView.aspx?s=&Movie=4014
  4. Turk, Edward Baron "Hollywood Diva: A Biography of Jeanette MacDonald" (University of California Press, 1998)
  5. http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/438/Sweethearts/articles.html
  6. "The 11th Academy Awards (1939) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
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