Mr. Imperium (1951) starring Lana Turner, Ezio Pinza, Marjorie Main, Barry Sullivan, Cedric Hardwicke, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Codee directed by Don Hartman Movie Review

Mr. Imperium (1951)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Ezio Pinza and Lana Turner in Mr. Imperium

Imperfect Imperium

When you think of movie musicals there is a very good change you will think MGM as for a while the two went hand in hand with MGM delivering many of the most popular musicals in cinema's long history. But whilst MGM made some of the most popular musicals they also made a lot of ordinary musicals and "Mr. Imperium" or "You Belong to My Heart" as it is also known is one of the most ordinary. In fact calling "Mr. Imperium" a musical is for me a stretch as other than a few scenes where the powerful Ezio Pinza belts out a song there are no big musical numbers. And to be honest there is no big story either with a very obvious tale of romance between a playboy Italian Prince and an American actress. As such "Mr. Imperium" is not a bad movie but just one which is easy to forget.

Whilst on holiday in Europe actress and singer Fredda Barlo (Lana Turner) finds herself being chatted up by a handsome man who turns out to be crown Prince Alexis (Ezio Pinza). But when Alexis learns that his father the King has been taken critically ill he is forced to return home immediately without saying bye to Fredda and his personal assistant decides that an American actress is not suitable to be the next King's wife. 12 years later and now in exile following a revolution Alexis tracks down Fredda in the hope that they can pick things up having discovered what his assistant did. But whilst both are still very fond of each other will circumstances end up keeping them apart.

Marjorie Main and Debbie Reynolds in Mr. Imperium

I'm not being cruel but the story of a wealthy Prince falling for a civilian be it American or any nationality is not new and wasn't back in 1951 when "Mr. Imperium" was made. As such the storyline is for the most familiar as we watch Prince Alexis fall for pretty American actress Fredda, wine and dine her and turning the dial to 11 as he charms her only for it to be in vain when he has to return home to become King when his father is suddenly taken ill. And it doesn't take a genius to work out that an official will make sure that the relationship between Fredda and Alexis ends there only for them to be reunited later on. It is really that obvious and to be honest whilst watching Alexis woo Fredda allows for some picturesque scenes it's not the most captivating romance.

Where "Mr. Imperium" is interesting is when they reunite some 12 years later with King Alexis in exile following a revolution. There is a little corny cleverness as they reunite just as Fredda is making a movie about an American who meets a Prince and thinks Alexis would be perfect to play the role of the Prince. And there is a little unexpected cleverness to the ending, nothing which is that memorable but not exactly as you may expect.

But the thing is that as a romantic musical it's not that romantic and as a musical it doesn't have really that many musical scenes relying on Ezio Pinza to deliver a few big songs. It means that whilst technically a musical it's not in the same league as those big MGM musicals which everyone loves. And to be honest unless you enjoy the deep operatic singing of Enzio Pinza you are going to struggle to get any enjoyment from it.

What is very obvious is that whilst Lana Turner got the top billing as American actress Fredda Barlo "Mr. Imperium" is a vehicle for Ezio Pinza to show off his acting talents. Sadly it doesn't show of his talents because everything he does seems so forced to the point he is almost playing to the camera. The knock on effect of this is that there is zero chemistry between him and the lovely Lana Turner and so the romantic side of things is forgettable. What is nice is an enthusiastic performance from a teenage Debbie Reynolds whose energy is one of the movies few plus points.

What this all boils down to is that "Mr. Imperium" whilst technically an MGM musical is not one of their better ones. In fact it is barely an average musical with only a few musical numbers which rely on Ezio Pinza's operatic voice to make them work. It doesn't help matters that the storyline is familiar and there is next to no chemistry between its stars making the romantic side of the story quite flat. But the good news is that "Mr. Imperium" is one of a few movies which copyright wasn't renewed and as such is available in the Public Domain making it readily available to watch if you are curious enough.