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William K. Howard
Johnny Mack Brown
Prof. Joseph Elsner guides his protégé Frydryk Chopin through his formative years to early adulthood in Poland. At a recital in a duke's home Chopin insults the new Russian-installed governor, and must flee the country. The professor takes him to Paris, where he eventually comes under the wing and influence of novelist George Sand and rises to prominence in the music world, to the exclusion of his old friends and patriotic feelings towards Poland. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
For a movie that's about the life of Fredric Chopin the guy who's playing Chopin gets third billing in the film. Cornel Wilde had to settle for third place behind Paul Muni and Merle Oberon. But he's the one that came away with the Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
We're lucky this film got made at all. Paul Muni was a great actor, but sometimes could be very difficult. While he was at Columbia where this film turned out to be the second of three he did there, he formed a friendship with Glenn Ford. But in 1943 Ford went into the Marines and didn't return to Hollywood until 1946. Cornel Wilde who had enlisted earlier got out earlier and when the Chopin project was ready to roll he was assigned the part.
Which disappointed Muni and he made no secret of it to Wilde. Wilde who had admired Muni as an actor and looked forward to working with him was miffed to say the least.
Harry Cohn in his infinite wisdom also banned Bella Muni from the set of A Song to Remember. Muni did EVERYTHING with his wife and she really was his best critic. At Warner Brothers they put up with her. If she said a take was no good, Muni had them do it over. Worked for Emile Zola and Louis Pasteur. But Cohn banned her. As a result Muni was criticized for overacting his role of Joseph Elzner, Chopin's teacher and mentor. It's not his finest hour on the screen, though I love to see him in anything.
Muni also had his supportive side. Nina Foch who played Chopin's sister speaks of Muni's kindness and encouragement to her to stretch herself as an artist.
No acting involved for Merle Oberon as novelist George Sand. The male trousers of George Sand fit Oberon quite well. So does the character. Oberon and Sand were both known to get around in their day.
In real life Fredric Chopin had no conflict between his art and his politics. Though Poland was not a nation for about 130 years, the people in the various countries that occupied Polish soil never forgot they were a nation and would be one again. On instructions after his death, Chopin's body was buried in his adopted city of Paris, but his heart was removed and buried in Poland.
Chopin composed some of the best music that was ever heard on this planet. Jose Iturbi played the various Chopin melodies that will live on until this planet's sun does a supernova.
Cornel Wilde was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to Ray Milland's drunk act in The Lost Weekend. A Song to Remember was nominated in several categories, Best Story, Best Sound, Best Color Cinematography, Best Costumes, Best Musical Scoring. But didn't take home the big prize for anything.
Overlooking some of the historical inaccuracies and Paul Muni's overacting, A Song To Remember is a film to remember.
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