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A brilliant young doctor grows away from his family and his community when his older brother convinces him to make his fortune as a Park Avenue doctor. He spends his time prescribing placebos to people who are not sick leaving no time for his clinic and his passion of genuine healing. When tragedy strikes, he sees where his obligations lie, but will it be too late? Written by
Sister Grimm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
My boy, there are two kinds of men in our profession. Some are gifted with the spark of genius; some of us are... just doctors.
[walks to the door and opens it, then turns back toward Felix]
Felix Klauber, you're more capable than I, but if you don't go through with this operation, I will.
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A previous viewer commented that there isn't anything "Pre-Code" about "Symphony of Six Million." Ohhhh, yes there is - the frank and loving embrace of Jews and Jewishness, especially the familial bonds of aspiration, hope and love so strong and heart-rending that conflict and guilt are its inevitable by-products.
Such an overtly Jewish photo play wouldn't have been acceptable in the Hollywood of just a few years later. No one would come right out and say so, but the likely reason was the sensibilities of the newly militant Catholic audience, then being stirred up by the likes of Father Charles Coughlin's anti-Semitic radio talks. Also to be catered to were the quieter prejudices of Middle Western Protestants, for whom Will Hays stood in as proxy on the Code committee.
The story being pretty boilerplate, the charm of this film is all in the atmosphere, which is laid on pretty thickly. Crucial to this are able supporting players, especially Gregory Ratoff and Anna Appel as Papa and Mama Klauber. Ricardo Cortez is a bit stiff as the conflicted, noble Felix, but his swarthy, polished earnestness hits just the right note for the well-to-do My-Son-The-Park-Avenue-Doctor, 1932 edition. Irene Dunne as Jessica, Felix's crippled love interest, is lovable mostly for being Irene Dunne, whose refined features and diction don't gibe at all with her role as a ghetto girl. It says a lot about the men who once ran the movies that an obviously Jewish romantic female lead was something they couldn't, or wouldn't, portray. Authentic Jewish womanhood was still inseparable from the family matriarch, played with affecting melodrama by Appel.
TCM's Robert Osborne pointed out that "Symphony" was one of the first talkies with a full original score. At David Selznick's behest, Max Steiner wrote nearly continuous music for the film. It's heavy going at times: Felix's inner drama is too often greeted by heroic heralds of brass, and the lugubrious harmonic-minor strings accompanying Irene Dunne's entrances are like a nice glass Schmalz poured over a sumptuous Sunday chicken dinner.
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