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In June 1941, famed American symphony conductor John Meredith (Robert Taylor) is touring Soviet Russia with his manager Hank (Robert Benchley) when they go to a small rural town where famed Russian composer Tchailkovsky was born. John meets Nadya (Susan Peters), a sweet peasant girl with an ear for classical music and they soon get married. When war breaks out, John want to flee back to the USA, but Nadya wants to stay and fight the invading Germans who are closing in on the village. Written by
I'll be the first to admit that this film was a bald effort at propaganda. I'll also admit that the conditions depicted in Russia were far from reality. However, this isn't the first effort at propaganda by Hollywood, nor is it the first (or the thousandth) that takes a wide berth from reality.
If you look at the movie's setting (happy Russians with a benevolent leader) as fantasy, and imagine the Russia shown in the movie as a mythical nation, then you have a dandy story here. Propaganda aside, the storyline here is excellent; it's engrossing, well-written and intelligent. The acting is superb, from top stars Taylor and Peters down to the bit players and extras. The dance scenes are well choreographed.
The music, mostly that of Tchaikovsky, is superb, and the soundtrack is masterfully woven into the background throughout the story. The music is well-played and well conducted by Albert Coates (who also did the piano work). As for the piano, Susan Peters does a good job of finger placement that could fool all but the trained eye into thinking that she could actually play the piano (she couldn't at the level shown in the movie). The one fault herein is Taylor's attempts to imitate a conductor: suffice it to say that it's out of sync and overstated to the point of absurdity.
As a side note, many of the members of the Peter Meremblum orchestra (prodigal young musicians, many of whom went on to careers in music, and a few of whom became very well-known in the world of music) appear throughout the movie, mainly as extras and as kids in the village and youths in the Moscow Conservatory. The orchestra also performed some of the background music.
All in all, this is an excellent movie if one can overlook the propaganda and anti-realism and treat it as a fantasy/fiction.
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