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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Her Majesty, Love
Her Majesty, Love
Warner Archives // Unrated // January 19, 2016 // Region 0
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted March 4, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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Leonard Maltin's normally very reliable Movie Guide surprisingly gives Her Majesty, Love (1931) a pitiful one-and-a-half star-rating, describing it as an "unbearable musical [with W.C. Fields providing] only uplifting moments."

My reaction was quite different, finding it rather charming if overly familiar. It was one of just three movies to star Marilyn Miller, Broadway's biggest female star of the 1920s and early ‘30s, whose tragic personal life (first husband killed in a car crash, abusive second husband, battles with alcoholism and depression) contrasted her sunny, Cinderella-like stage and film roles. Her premature death (following nasal surgery, at age 37) robbed the movies of a tremendous, enormously appealing talent.*

Miller's first film, Sally (1929), was adapted from her hugely successful stage musical and still delights, though this early Technicolor production survives only in black-and-white. Miller's second movie was another Broadway adaptation, Sunny (1930), but by this time the public had wearied of endless early talkie musicals, and many of the show's numbers were cut or dropped altogether for the film.

Miller's third and final picture, Her Majesty, Love, directed by William Dieterle, was a remake of a German film released earlier that same year, Her Majesty the Barmaid (Ihre Majestät die Liebe), and barely qualifies as a musical at all. There are no big dance numbers, and most of the singing is limited to a few duets sung by Miller and co-star Ben Lyon. In an awkward device, a crooner warbling near the dance floor of the Berlin Cabaret, where much of the story is set, pinch-hits for most of Lyon's singing.

Meanwhile, beyond Miller, the movie's advertising heavily promoted not so much Lyon as its four big comedy stars in supporting parts: Leon Errol, Ford Sterling, Chester Conklin and, making his talkie debut, W.C. Fields. The result is that Her Majesty, Love is partly a musical, partly a comedy, partly neither of these things. It's a vehicle for Miller, except that she does almost no dancing and barely gets to sing, and neither is it really a W.C. Fields comedy, though he's prominently featured.

Nevertheless, the picture is, on its own terms, sweet and funny, and interesting to watch for Miller, who oozes a sweet charisma almost unique to movies of this period, and especially for Fields's performance. It's not clear if he had a hand in the writing of his character, but what really fascinates is that it fits almost perfectly with Fields's later characterizations and his iconic film persona is, already, about 90% in place.


Miller plays Lia Toerrek, a Hungarian (but American-accented) barmaid in a swanky Berlin cabaret. All the men there, including Baron von Schwarzdorf (Leon Errol) covet her affection (i.e., they want to get her into bed), but she brushes off their flirtations. However, she finds herself instantly attracted to Fred von Wellingen (Ben Lyon), the playboy son of a respectable, wealthy family who owns a ball bearing company. He offers to marry her if she'll dance one dance with him and she accepts his proposal.

The family, however, is steadfastly against the scandalous marriage, especially after they meet Lia's never-named father (W.C. Fields), a former circus juggler-turned-barber who gets drunk, juggles plates and deftly tosses chocolate éclairs in the midst of their high society ball. Fred's older, sanctimonious brother, Otmar (Ford Sterling) tempts Fred out of marriage with a tantalizing contract to effectively run the company, but will he go through with it?

In his later, starring vehicles, Fields often played the disreputable drunk who nonetheless is utterly devoted to his adult, unmarried daughter. She usually has an opportunity to marry into money, at least until Fields's character obliviously ruins things with his unpretentious warmth, which they unfairly judge as vulgar and socially unacceptable. All of that is present here, and Fields is quite hilarious. His screen image isn't fully formed. He wears a walrus mustache and, in some scenes, wire-rimmed eyeglasses, and his drunk scene is just a bit overdone. He'd soon learn that less was more, making him funnier while appearing even drunker.

Chester Conklin is somewhat wasted as an older relative of Fred's that the family mostly ignores, but Ford Sterling, like Conklin a Mack Sennett veteran (Sterling played Chief Teeheezel of the Keystone Cops), is something of a revelation. I'd seen him in hundreds of silent comedies but didn't recognize him here. His timing is spot-on as Fred's older brother and yet it's the performance of a great character comedian, not a silent clown whose specialty was broad slapstick.

Australian-born Leon Errol was, like Fields, a big Ziegfeld star, and he'd later become a fixture of both two-reel comedies and comedy programmers like the "Mexican Spitfire" movies with Lupe Velez. (He'd also work again with Fields, in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.) As the hot-blooded, six-times-married Baron, Errol is likewise delightful.

Video & Audio

A Warner Archives release, Her Majesty, Love looks pretty good, not great, for an early talkie. The film is in its original full-frame black-and-white with decent Dolby Digital 1.0 mono sound and no subtitle options. The disc is region-free and comes with an original trailer, its only Extra Features.

Final Thoughts

Surprisingly entertaining, and fascinating for W.C. Fields's appearance and for Marilyn Miller's shining presence in one of only three film roles, as well as for its supporting cast of early film comedians in supporting roles, Her Majesty, Love is Highly Recommended.


* An interesting bit of trivia: Miller's third and last husband was Chester "Chet" O'Brien, a chorus dancer who later became a stage manager on various hit Broadway shows. He ended his long career as floor manager and occasional actor after more than a dozen years on Sesame Street, in 1992. Odd to consider this one degree of separation between Marilyn Miller and Big Bird.

Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian and publisher-editor of World Cinema Paradise. His new documentary and latest audio commentary, for the British Film Institute's Blu-ray of Rashomon, is now available.

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