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Betta St. John,
A mother (Marsha Hunt) wants her son (William Prince) to grow up to be a pianist good enough to play at Carnegie Hall but, when grown, the son prefers to play with Vaughan Monroe's orchestra. But Mama's wishes prevail and the son appears at Carnegie Hall as the composer-conductor-pianist of a modern horn concerto, with Harry James as the soloist. Frank McHugh is along as a Carnegie Hall porter and doorman, and Martha O'Driscoll is a singer who provides the love interest for Prince. Meanwhile and between while a brigade of classical music names from the 1940's (and earlier and later)appear; the conductors Walter Damrosch, Bruno Walter, Artur Rodzinski, Fritz Reiner and Leopold Stokowski; singers Rise Stevens, Lily Pons, Jan Peerce and Ezio Pinza, plus pianist Arthur Rubinstein, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and violinist Jascha Heifetz. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Johns arrives on stage for rehearsal and is introduced to Ruth who is standing opposite of him with the piano in between. Close up of Ruth's face shows her looking to her left as she speaks to John who is center to her. See more »
A clichéd melodrama with some unforgettable musical moments
This is a movie about a young man and his mother. She sacrifices everything so that he can study to be a classical pianist. He falls in love with big band music and decides to pursue that. His mother is heart-broken. In other words, one long, slow cliché that has been done better elsewhere.
If that's all there were to this movie, I would say "forget it." But in between these scenes of melodrama there are live performances by some of the greatest classical musicians of the 1930s and 40s, indeed some of the greatest classical musicians of all times. Their performances, often truly great ones, are not wedged in in bits and pieces. Rather, we get to watch Arthur Rubinstein perform the entire Chopin Military Polonaise - and then de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance. We get to watch Jascha Heifitz perform the entire last movement of the Beethoven Violin Concerto - and with what fire! We get to wonder as Leopold Stokowski completely distorts the tempo markings for an entire movement of a Tchaikovsky symphony, producing a series of remarkable moments that, for this listener, never came together as a whole - but still, what daring to pull Tchaikovsky apart like that. Stokowsky and Rubenstein both remind us of an era when classical musicians were also stage performers. Rubenstein bangs away at the keyboard with fantastic arm gestures. Stokowski is very clearly conscious of the angle from which he is being filmed. These are spectacular musicians devoted to the music, yes, but these are also colossal, theatrical egos.
We get to see Ezio Pinza stand there in a costume that would be grounds for a law suit, yet sing Don Giovanni's Brindisi like no one else - and the opening of Il lascerato spirto, from Verdi's Simon Bocanegra, the only musical fragment in the movie.
I saw this - most of it - on TCM. It is evidently available on DVD. I hope the DVD recognizes the dual nature of the movie and has the tracks arranged so that one can skip over the melodrama and just enjoy the remarkable musical performances.
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