Fourteen-year-old Tessa is hopelessly in love with handsome composer Lewis Dodd, a family friend. Lewis adores Tessa, but has never shown any romantic feelings toward her. When Tessa's ... See full summary »
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Fourteen-year-old Tessa is hopelessly in love with handsome composer Lewis Dodd, a family friend. Lewis adores Tessa, but has never shown any romantic feelings toward her. When Tessa's father dies, Lewis contacts her late mother's wealthy family so they'll take care of Tessa and her sisters. Lewis becomes taken with Tessa's haughty cousin Florence and the two soon marry and head off for Florence's estate in England. Meanwhile, Florence sends Tessa and her sister Paula off to finishing school. The girls run away from school and Tessa moves in with Florence and Louis. Florence soon becomes consumed with jealousy over the bond between her husband and Tessa. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
Lost Masterwork of Romantic Cinema Finally Re-released
After more than half a century of being withdrawn from circulation, this ripe example of romantic film making in the best high style that was so typical of Warner Bros' output in the 1940s, has finally been set free from copyright limbo by the TCM Lawyers, following a financial settlement with the heirs of Margaret Kennedy (author of the novel on which the film is based) and Basil Dean (the film director who co-authored the play with her, another key source for the screenplay).
Finally released for television last month (though only in the USA) it will soon make its long awaited debut on DVD. Was it worth the wait? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes.
The story (recounted by others here, so I won't weary you with another resume) inspired cast, director and especially the composer, to a rare degree and while the film retains obvious links to its stage origins and has a stylised, often unrealistic look, this approach suits the material eminently.
While the plot revolves around a curious triangle between a neurotic composer (Boyer) a worldly and wealthy woman (Smith) and a teenage girl (Fontaine) it has a subordinate agenda that most reviewers miss entirely.
Few are aware that Erich Wolfgang Korngold campaigned for this film and became closely involved in its production, even to the extent of influencing script development. Originally, he wanted Lewis Dodd to write a simple love song that would eventually develop into a romantic opera, but that idea was dropped, probably due to cost. It was replaced by a climactic transformation into a symphonic poem for mezzo soprano, wordless women's chorus and large orchestra.
Korngold kept the notion of an evolving musical work and made the battle between romanticism and dissonant modernity a key element that parallels the battle for the composer's soul, fought between the simple heart of the constant nymph with the cold, brittle modern woman played by Alexis Smith.
Korngold felt the battle between atonality and dissonance and more direct romanticism very keenly in his own life and relished the chance to create a score where romanticism triumphed.
The musical sequences are outstanding and when Sanger (Montagu Love) or Lewis Dodd (Boyer) play the piano, that is Korngold himself we hear on the soundtrack.
The elaborate Swiss mountain set incorporating the Sanger home was constructed on Warner's largest sound stage and was subsequently redressed to become the Yorkshire moors for the film DEVOTION, a risible biopic of the Brontes, made shortly afterwards and which was originally intended for Fontaine and her sister Olivia De Havilland. In the event, only De Havilland appeared - Fontaine preferred to make JANE EYRE at Fox instead.
CONSTANT NYMPH is enlivened by some familiar faces in the cast, including Peter Lorre, who is largely wasted, and Charles Coburn as an irascible Uncle - a part better suited to Sydney Greenstreet, who presumably wasn't available.
The finale, presenting Korngold's lush symphonic poem TOMORROW, is nicely done and the mezzo soprano seen on stage is actually Clemence Groves, a local Los Angeles concert singer who is also heard on the soundtrack and was the wife of George Groves, a key sound dept technician at Warners.
Those who are eagle-eyed will spot a poster for Korngold's legendary opera Die tote Stadt on the wall of Sanger's study, that is clearly visible in the scene early in the film between Dodd and Sanger, and placed on the wall by the film's associate producer Henry Blanke as a tribute to his friend Korngold, who didn't even notice it until told of the gesture at the film's premiere.
This is a one-of-a kind film that is unlikely to be remade. It's well worth seeing and has a hypnotic appeal that bears repeated viewing.
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