Metropolitan opera baritone star Lawrence Tibbett headed the cast of The Rogue Song, a lavish production of Franz Lehar’s popular operetta “Gypsy Love.”
Set in 19th-century Russia, the film, directed by actor Lionel Barrymore, stars Tibbett as Yegor, dashing leader of an outlaw band called “The Robbing Larks.”
During one of his trips to Moscow, Yegor falls in love with beautiful Russian princess Vera (Catherine Dale Owen). But when Yegor’s sister (Florence Lake) is betrayed by Vera’s brother Prince Serge (Ulrich Haupt), the bandit kills the prince and kidnaps the princess.
Upon her rescue, she orders Yegor’s arrest and has him flogged. As the defiant bandit sings away while the whip tears across his back, Vera realizes that she’s still in love with him. Knowing that they can never be married, Vera bids Yegor a tearful farewell as he rides off into the sunset with his comrades.
To elevate the film’s commercial appeal, MGM borrowed the team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy whose comedy routines were staged by Hal Roach. The duo play members of Yegor’s outlaw gang.
As written and directed by the uncredited Hal Roach, the comedy scenes make little sense and have no bearing on the plot, which is incoherent to begin with.
In their routines, they try to eat a wheel of cheese while being plagued by pesky flies, or attempt to shave one another while being distracted by pretty girls and chickens. Due to their popularity, they were billed above star Lawrence Tibbett on some movie marquees.
The Rogue Song was one of MGM’s topgrossing films, for which Lawrence Tibbett received a Best Actor nomination (See below).
Tibbett, who was also known for his youngish virility (he was often described as baby-face), made a few musical movies in the 1930s, and always professed that opera was his real passion.
Rumors continue to persist that Tibbett’s father-sheriff was killed by cattle rustlers, and that the actor himself fell out of grace with the mob. This latter story is mentioned in Barry Levinson biopic, “Bugsy,” starring Warren Beatty.
In the 1970s, the film’s soundtrack was rediscovered, and in the 1980s a collector found a worn Technicolor dupe of a three-minute routine. A black-and-white print of the film was found in a Czechoslovakian archive, with all the musical numbers and Laurel & Hardy scenes removed.
Oscar Nominations: 1
Actor: Lawrence Tibbett
Oscar Awards: None
The winner of the Best Actor Oscar was British George Arliss for the biopic, “Disraeli.”