THE MERRY WIDOW (MGM, 1925), starring John Gilbert and Mae Murray, inspired the following scene between “Effie Butler” and her guardian, “Reverend Gideon Baldwin,” in Chapter 17 of THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER.
“So tell me about the Confederate ball.”
“Well . . . from what I understand, most of the men are re-enactors, so they’ll be wearing Confederate uniforms, and most of the ladies will be dressed like me. A band will play period pieces that we can dance to.”
“Can you waltz?”
“No, but I wish I could.”
“What time is your date?”
“Good. I’ll teach you.”
He directed her to the center of the room and rearranged the furniture, clearing space beneath the chandelier. Then he turned the CD player on and as “The Merry Widow Waltz” began to play, bowed before her. “May I have this waltz?”
His kingly manner surprised her as she drifted into his arms and waited for him to begin. Effie tried to concentrate on the steps he was teaching her, but the scent of his aftershave and the touch of his hands were distracting. In attempting to follow his lead, she tripped over his foot. He laughed, so did she, and they resumed waltzing.
“Where did you learn to waltz, Mr. Baldwin?”
“In high school and my name is Gideon.” He smiled, revealing a perfect set of teeth, and Effie felt the full force of his magnetism.