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Prologue: in 1940, a shellshocked man fights to recall his past. Flashback: During the Nazi invasion of Poland, American reporter Carole Peters meets Polish airman Stefan Radetzky, also a piano virtuoso. Stefan is among the last to escape Warsaw; months later, in New York, he and Carole meet again, and marry. But the thought of his going back to fight is not only personally terrifying to Carole, but seems a great waste of his musical talent... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
An article in a British newspaper recently referred to this film not by its correct title but as "The Warsaw Concerto". (No film of that title has ever been made). This perhaps illustrates how the film's reputation has been eclipsed by that of its famous theme music. Richard Addinsell's music, later elaborated into a real concert piece, is still to be found in the classical repertoire more than sixty years after it was written, but the film has largely been forgotten.
This is not really surprising, as the film itself is not all that good. It is a standard wartime combination of romance and propaganda. Sometimes, as with "Casablanca", this formula could result in a classic film of lasting quality, but "Dangerous Moonlight" is not in the same class. The central character, Stefan Radetzky, is a world-famous Polish pianist and composer, who also holds a commission as a fighter pilot in his country's air force. Following the German invasion of Poland, Radetzky escapes to America where he pursues his career as a concert pianist and also falls in love with, and marries, a beautiful female journalist. Tensions in the marriage arise when Radetzky decides that it is his patriotic duty to travel to Britain and to join the Polish air squadron which has been created to continue the struggle against Nazism. His wife, however, feels that his place is to remain in America with her.
The film's propaganda function was twofold. Its makers aimed not only to keep up morale in Britain by highlighting the contribution to the war effort of our Polish allies, but also to influence public opinion in still-neutral America. The brilliant musician Radetzky stands as a symbol of that European high culture that was in danger from Nazi barbarism. The isolationist position of many Americans is made to look selfish and short-sighted. This position is adopted for a time by Radetzky's American wife Carol, until she comes to understand that her husband's duty is to fight for his country and that hers is to support him in that fight.
Like many propaganda films of the time, this one was obviously made quickly and on a small budget. The acting is not distinguished and the sets, such as the bombed ruins of Warsaw, are clearly artificial. One thing that is, however, surprisingly good is the scenes of aerial combat; I have heard it suggested that genuine footage of dogfights was used. Apart from the music, however, this is not really a memorable film. 6/10 (5/10 for the film, with a bonus point for the music).
A couple of goofs. The hero's surname was obviously chosen for its musical associations, but the normal Polish spelling would be Radecki. Radetzky is a Germanised form; Strauss's famous march was named after an Austrian general. At one point during the dogfight scenes we see a German bomber with its identification letters the wrong way round; these frames had obviously been inverted.
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