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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.
This romantic story of a Polish concert pianist/fighter pilot was never
really very good. The dialog is often less than sparkling, the sets tend
look cheap and the few outdoor shots are often just painted backgrounds.
There is an impressive shot of Spitfires taking off to do battle but the
climatic dog fight is rather poorly choreographed. The script is rather
lumbering with a couple of non too subtle nudges at American, Irish
Anton Wallbrook as the pianist is his usual suave self, only sometimes he is not too convincing when he is supposed to be playing the piano, also I am sure that no refined European gentleman would have a conversation with a lady (especially one as beautiful as Sally Gray) with a cigarette dangling from his lips. That was probably the director's fault.
What makes this film memorable of course is the music. One of the most famous movie scores in history. Even now "The Warsaw Concerto" is a standard item on pop-classical concerts.
Just a few words about Sally Gray. She was one of the most beautiful and seductive actresses in British movies during the forties who was generally wasted in her roles. Perhaps it was her personal choice but I was surprised that she was never snapped up by Hollywood. I always thought what a great Hitchcock heroine she would have made. Alas, it never happened.
"Dangerous Moonlight" is one of those movies that catches one by surprise.
I was working in my home office one night when I started hearing this piano
music coming from the living room television. Enjoying it so much, I quit
working and went in to listen and then to watch. Then after checking the
television schedule, I set the VCR and taped the movie. I have since
watched the movie several times and continue to enjoy it.
Anton Wallenbrook plays his part quite well and gives one a very interesting story of talent and guilt. Sally Gray makes an equally good performance as a normal insensitive American lady reporter who does not understand the implications of war. Derrick DeMarney is also good as the best friend of Stefan Radetsky, by being his conscience and confidant.
You can enjoy this movie watching it once, but don't cheat yourself, watch it a few times.
Opens in UK hospital with Walbrook as war-injured Polish officer agonising over recall of composition:flashback to meeting with N.Y. news correspondent (who quickly supplants US with UK accent) Sally Gray(actress's name) as he ruminates over concerto composition.Further recall to selection by Air pilots' squad to come to US to garner funds for Poland in 1940.Wrenching decision to return East and and as RAF pilot runs out of ammunition and wilfully crashes into German bomber,bringing us back to original scene in hospital room. Conflicts developed very nicely:between hero and other pilots;between hero and close friend over the heroine;between hero and wife about return to UK;and within himself over his future mission:to stay fundraising in US or join RAF.Goes without saying about excellent haunting" Warsaw Concerto" excellently played,very moody amd evocative. When this film came out in '41 the Concerto was criticised as a copy of Grieg's p.concerto in A mi., or Tchaikowski's 2nd in C. All the same it is worth several viewings.
This film is the one which introduced the 'Warsaw Concerto', one of those almost classical pieces ('The Dream of Olwen' is the other major one) which are effective and burrow their way into your consciousness. Anton Walbrook is traumatised by something that happened when he was a flyer, and Sally Gray is the love interest who is trying to get him back. The performances are finely tuned but really it is the music which is the star. The film itself is typical of its type, over-dramatised British 40s drama at its worst. As such it is watchable but far from great!
This is another case where if this movie was available on DVD with
English subtitles, I might enjoy it. As it was, seeing it on VHS I had
to strain to understand half the dialog of Anton Walbrook, who plays a
Polish man, "Steve Radetzky." His combination British-Polish accent was
tough to decipher and it totally takes away from enjoying the film.
Also a warning for those who read on the VHS box about the "great action scenes." Those don't take place until the very end of the movie! It's hardly a great film to begin with, with a very dated look to it with the hokey backgrounds scenes somewhat cheap production values.
One thing that is not cheap or dated: the fine music. Our main character is a pianist as few people ever complain listening to someone play "The Warsaw Concerto." I've also never complained looking at Sally Gray's face!
However, your best bet is to buy the CD for the music and skip the film, although at slightly over an-hour-and-a-half, it's not a long film one has to endure to get through....but don't expect a lot of excitement here.
Anton Walbrook and Sally Gray fall in love in "Dangerous Moonlight," a
1941 British film also starring Derrick Marney. The story is told in
flashback. When we first meet the famous Polish pianist-composer Stefan
Radetzky (Walbrook), he is an amnesia victim to whom the doctors have
given a piano in the hopes that he will remember something. We then see
what brought him to this point. He is a fighter pilot who first meets
Carol (Sally Gray), a beautiful American reporter, in Warsaw while he
is grounded. There is an instant attraction; six months later, when the
Germans have invaded Poland, Radetzky comes to America to give concerts
in order to raise money for Polish refugees. He and Carol meet again
and decide to get married. He finally decides to go back and fight, but
Carol doesn't want him to leave.
Sally Gray had a nervous breakdown after this movie that kept her off the screen for five years, but I doubt it had anything to do with "Dangerous Moonlight." Later on, she became a Baroness and retired, even turning down an offer from Hollywood. She's lovely in the film, though doesn't make much of a stab at an American accent. Given that the character comes from money, though, her accent is probably fine, as young women in the better schools were taught that British-type accent anyway. Anton Walbrook is very suave and attractive.
This is a propaganda film that seems to have dashed out without much of an eye to detail - it has German planes flying upside down, and I doubt very much if "Radetzky" spelled that way is Polish. The goal of the film was to keep up morale and also to encourage the U.S. to stop its policy of isolationism. Since it wasn't released in the U.S. until April of 1942, England had already gotten its wish.
What makes "Dangerous Moonlight" memorable is the music, notably the Warsaw Concerto, purportedly written by Radetzky, in reality written by Richard Addinsell. Pianist Louis Kentner dubbed the piano for Walbrook and plays the Chopin Polonaise as well. The Warsaw Concerto is very haunting music, just beautiful.
If you're not familiar with Sally Gray, and you like beautiful music, you might want to check out this film. As a bit of trivia, the Beatles song "A Day in the Life" was actually written about Sally Gray's stepson, who apparently crashed John Lennon's car.
Without a doubt, the very best film music ever composed. All Warsaw Concerto fans should purchase this movie because there are other musical motifs present in the film score which are not present in the printed score for piano and orchestra. You will be mesmerized by the music alone and won't be paying much attention to the film. The film is somewhat mediocre. Bravo to Richard Addinsell!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Off the wall British WWII propaganda movie that has
Polish musical whiz composer and pianist Stefan, or just call me Steve
for short, Radetzky (Anton Warbook) give up the good life of traveling
around the world, that still isn't controlled by Nazi Germany, giving
concerts for Polish relief. Steve instead is all fired up to join the
famed Polish "Suicide Squadron", the films original title, back in
Britain to participate against the German Luftwaffe in the "Battle of
We already know what the outcome of Steve's contribution as a Polish suicide or kamikaze pilot was by seeing the totally out of touch with reality Steve in a London hospital room in the fall of 1940. It's there that Steve for hours at a time mindlessly bangs away at a piano, that was provided for him by the hospital staff, thus keeping everyone, doctors nurses and patients, there form getting their much needed sleep! With the hospital and the surrounding neighborhood suffering from around the clock bombings by the German Luftwaffe!
It's then that we, in a long long flashback, get to see what were the reasons for Steve's mental deterioration that started a year ago when the Germans invaded his homeland Poland in September 1939. That's when Steve's now estranged wife American newspaper reporter and classical music lover Carol Peters, Sally Gray, ran into Steve in bombed out Warsaw playing a piano as if, with bombs falling all around him, he doesn't have a care in the world. This strange scene gets even stranger when Carol, shocked at Steve's strange behavior, tells the what looks like completely out of it piano player how he could be so flippant while his country is totally in flames. An outraged Steve, finally showing some emotion, reminds Carol that with no petrol left in the country how could he, a polish airman, be able to take off and battle it out with the hated Germans when his plane's gas tank is completely empty!
It's then as if a miracle happened there comes the news that there are some 30 planes available with full gas tanks to both fly west on a suicide mission into the German heartland or fly east to neutral, at the time, Romania to await further instructions from the Polish Government in Exile! It comes as no surprise that Steve is chosen by lot to be the lucky, or unlucky in Steve's case, guy to be one of two Polish airman to take a flight out of harms way into friendly Romania! What Steve didn't know at the time is that the drawing was fixed in his favor to keep him the great Stefan "Steve" Radetzky, a Polish natural treasure, from getting himself, together with his great musical talents, killed in the war. It was determined by higher ups, from Prime Minister Winston Churchill on down, in the British Government that Steve would be a much better weapon against the Nazis in him going around the world giving concerts to inspire people to support the war instead of him risking his life in fighting it. It's in Americia while giving a concert in New York City that Steven is reunited with Carol, who at first he didn't recognize, and the two musical lovebirds are married in what seemed like before the day is even over!
Supposedly, with a title like "Suicide Squadron", a war movie we finally get to see some action, air to air combat over the British skies, with a really charged up Steve dropping both his music and Carol, who now wants him to stay behind the lines and not risk his life fighting the Nazis, and go join his beloved "Suicide Squadron" that's now attached to the British RAF in the life and death battle with the German Luftwaffe in the "Battle of Britain".
***SPOILERS*** After waiting for almost the entire movie to get to see some war action the films action sequence, that lasted about three minutes, was not only boring but mindless as well. Steve now airborne with a set of ill fitting pilot goggles, that make his look as if he were crossed-eyed, engages the enemy knocking two Nazi fighter planes out of the sky with his fighter plane's machine gun but also slamming into a slow moving Nazi attack bomber, kamikaze style, before it could drop it's bombs on an RAF airfield. Of course, as we saw at the beginning of the movie, Steve survived the carnage almost unscathed with only a slight loss of memory for all his troubles in trying to unsuccessfully kill himself for Poland.
The ending is about as corny as it can get in this very corny film with Carol suddenly showing up unexpectedly at Steve's hospital room where his memory miraculously recovers as he finally gets his Mojo, piano playing ability, back! Now a totally cured and rejuvenated Steve start to knock out his masterpiece that he composed while under the gun in far off Warsaw over a year ago: "The Warsaw Concerto"!
Dangerous Moonlight is one of those almost completely forgotten films,
apart from the music, and tracking the film down for the first time it
is not particularly hard to see why that is.
The music by Richard Addinsell is the one component that people remember about the film, and it is also the best and only outstanding element about it. The Warsaw Concerto is very popular, is a concert show-piece and is still heard on the radio a lot, and judging from the hauntingly stirring and quite oddly beautiful way it's written for good reason too. Anton Walbrook is typically suave (though this is a long way from being one of his better performances), while lovely Sally Gray brings some poignancy to her role and Derrick DeMarnay is a suitably sympathetic confidant, his chemistry with Walbrook being particularly strong. The film is sometimes moving, and the aerial combat sequences are quite good.
On the other hand, Dangerous Moonlight was apparently made quickly and cheaply and it shows in some less than smooth photography, some choppy editing (like in the climatic dog fight) and some clearly artificial-looking sets. The script is lumbering and heavy-handed with some ham-fisted melodrama (Walbrook's dialogue is not always easy to understand too), the sometimes moving but thin story is really quite dull, over-dramatised and little more than nonsensical and heavy-handed propaganda, the film is routinely directed and the climatic dog fight agreed is choreographed pretty poorly. Apart from the three leads the rest of the acting is either wooden or overwrought, and Walbrook and Gray's chemistry while sometimes affecting doesn't ignite as well as it could have done.
In conclusion, loved Addinsell's music, but Dangerous Moonlight as a film on the whole left me cold. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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