Delightful dance and song start out The Lottery Bride in Oslo, Norway. Local college boys and their girlfriends are having a lively party at Hilda’s (Zasu Pitts) cafe. An American man named Hoke (Joe E. Brown) shows up to work at the cafe, coordinating entertainment.
Hoke decides to hold a marathon dance, which Jenny (Jeanette MacDonald) enters in an effort to win the cash prize and keep her brother (Carroll Nye) out of jail. But the dance gets raided by the police, leaving Jenny’s brother to flee from Oslo. Jenny’s boyfriend Chris (John Garrick) leaves as well, after finding her crying into the arms of another man and mistaking it for something more serious. He moves north to a mining town where his brother already lives.
Consequently, Jenny is tossed in jail for helping her brother escape. She’s soon bailed out by Hilda and Hoke and decides to become a mail-order bride to get away from Oslo for good — ending up in a familiar northern mining town.
The Lottery Bride is higher on drama than I expected it to be, but balanced by very nice mood-building musical numbers and the great comedic duo of Hilda and Hoke, who come close to stealing the show with their banter.
If you’re into corny jokes, you’ll instantly love the character of Hoke, who delivers witty but cheese-smothered lines such as “You can tell a college man, but you can’t tell a college man much.” Badum-ch! None of the other characters understand his jokes, which makes them even funnier to those of us who can appreciate a bit of cheese.
As wonderful as Pitts and Brown are as Hilda and Hoke, it is Jeanette MacDonald who truly shines, as is a common occurrence in her films. Always believable and with a huge screen presence, she wins the audience over with little to no effort. One scene in particular, on Jenny’s first night in the mining town, succeeds in endearing the audience to her character’s plight while also making MacDonald’s acting talents very obvious to the viewer.
Clocking in at only a little over an hour*, The Lottery Bride is a film that makes the best of its short running time, packing in a plethora of emotion, very important plot events and well-executed songs. It has wit and romance while also bordering on melodrama. The score: 4/5
*IMDb lists the original run time as 79 minutes, including a technicolor finale. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the extended version, so this is a review of the shorter Kino DVD release.