EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|A SONG TO REMEMBER (director: Charles Vidor; screenwriters: Sidney Buchman/based on a story by Ernst Marischka; cinematographers: Allen M. Davey/Tony Gaudio; editor: Charles Nelson; music: Chopin; cast: Cornel Wilde (Frederic Chopin), Paul Muni (Prof. Elsner), Merle Oberon (George Sand), Stephen Bekassy (Franz Liszt), Nina Foch (Constantia), George Coulouris (Louis Pleyel), Maurice Tauzin (Chopin at 11), Michael Visaroff (Russian Governor), Ivan Triesault (Mr. Chopin); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sidney Buchman/Louis F. Edelman; Columbia Pictures; 1945)|
|"The music is fine, but
the story is not."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Vidor ("Gilda"/"The Joker is Wild"/"The Swan") directs this inadequate
biopic on the
great Polish composer Frederic Chopin (1810-1845).
The music is fine, but
the story is not. Chopin's music was played by the distinguished
pianist Jose Iturbi. It's based
on a story by Ernst Marischka and is written by Sidney Buchman.
We're introduced to Chopin
Tauzin) as a
child prodigy of 11. He has working-class Polish
parents, and is tutored by kind-hearted eccentric
German music teacher Prof. Elsner (Paul Muni). It
then skips to 11 years later, when as a young adult of
22 Chopin (Cornel
Wilde) is part
of a Polish revolutionary group seeking separation
from Czarist Russia. After playing a piano concert at
a count's house, Chopin insultingly confronts the
unexpected late arrival of the Russian Governor
General of Poland (Michael
calling him "a Czarist butcher" and refusing to play
for him. To avoid arrest, he flees to Paris with his
music teacher. There Franz Liszt (Stephen Bekassy) befriends the Polish musical genius and
impresario Pleyel (George Coulouris) signs him to a contract.
Chopin soon gains
musical fame. Unfortunately he falls in with the
selfish French author George Sand (Merle Oberon), dressed in
drag, and gets too drunk on the good life in Majorca
to remember the Polish cause. When Chopin is forced to
return to Paris because of his poor health, Sand
battles with the teacher for Chopin's soul. Although
frail, Chopin finally remembers he's a Polish freedom
fighter during the Polish uprising and goes on an
exhausting concert tour of European capitals to raise
money for his fellow revolutionaries fighting for
freedom back home. The film's most
talked about scene occurs when the tubercular Chopin
begins hemorrhaging as he performs for the first
time his Polonaise. At his final concert on the
tour, Chopin will literally die for the cause.
The stilted melodrama inspite of all its inaccuracies, kitsch, and the hammy unconnected performance by Muni, not only became a box-office hit but had the robust Wilde win as Best Actor (this is the pic that made Wilde a star). It also received 5 Academy Award nominations: Cinematography, Editing, Music Scoring, Sound Recording, and Original Story.
REVIEWED ON 7/12/2011 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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