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The Glass Mountain (1949)

| Drama | May 1950 (USA)
An aspiring composer, in the British Air Force for WWII, is downed in Italy and rescued by an Italian girl. He returns home to his wife, inspired to write an opera and aware that he's fallen in love with his rescuer.



(written for the screen by), (written for the screen by) | 3 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Michael Denison ...
Tito Gobbi ...
Tito (segment 'Antonio' in opera)
F. Terschack ...
Arnold Marlé ...
Fenice Administrator
Sydney King ...
Charles (as Sidney King)


An aspiring composer, in the British Air Force for WWII, is downed in Italy and rescued by an Italian girl. He returns home to his wife, inspired to write an opera and aware that he's fallen in love with his rescuer.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A poignant love story rich in the vivid drama and great music!




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Release Date:

May 1950 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Montanha de Cristal  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


On release the film was an enormous success with the post-war courting audience, and Nino Rota's theme became a best-selling favourite for those couples. It was no.1 at the British box-office, and tapping into the nostalgia, had a re-release in 1950 and in 1953. See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: E N G L A N D 1 9 3 8 See more »


Referenced in Zwischen Kino und Konzert - Der Komponist Nino Rota (1993) See more »


La Montanara (Song of the Mountains)
by Antonio Ortelli (as Ortelli) & Luigi Pigarelli (as Pigarelli)
English Lyrics by Sonny Miller (uncredited)
Played by Louis Levy & His Symphony Orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

Best Remembered for its Music
26 January 2016 | by See all my reviews

This film has two things in common with "Dangerous Moonlight" from a few years earlier. Both are about a composer (here British, in the earlier film Polish) who becomes an officer in the RAF during World War II. And both feature a piece of music which has proved far more memorable than the film itself. Richard Addinsell's "Warsaw Concerto" has become a part of the mainstream classical repertory; Nino Rota's theme here, "The Legend of the Glass Mountain", has not quite reached those heights, but it is still the thing for which the film is best remembered.

Richard Wilder, a young composer, finds fame and fortune when he writes a popular song which becomes a smash hit. His great ambition, however, is to compose a great opera, but has not found a subject when his career is interrupted by the outbreak of war. Wilder joins the RAF, and when his plane is shot down over the Italian Dolomite Mountains he is rescued, and his life saved, by a group of anti-fascist partisans. Among them is a young woman named Alida with whom Wilder falls in love, even though he has a wife at home in England. After the war, Wilder returns to England and begins work on his opera; the subject-matter is a legend which Alida told him during his stay in Italy about a local mountain known as the "Glass Mountain" and about two doomed lovers. He finds it difficult to work in England, however, so he returns to the Dolomites hoping for greater inspiration. While there he meets Alida again and the two resume their affair. Real life begins to imitate art, as the Glass Mountain legend also concerns a love-triangle involving two women and one man.

One thing that struck me was how old-fashioned Wilder's music sounds; we are supposed to accept him as a contemporary of Benjamin Britten and William Walton, yet his opera is a piece of lush Victorian Romanticism. I also wondered how many British composers have had their operas premiered at Venice's La Fenice Opera House in an Italian translation. Nevertheless, the opera scenes are well-handled and Rota's music (supposedly Wilder's) is very attractive. The male lead in the opera is taken by the famous singer Tito Gobbi, here playing himself.

The film looks very dated today, yet was a great success when first released in 1949. There is nothing particularly wrong with the story; indeed, I could imagine it serving as the basis for a very good film in other hands, possibly those of Powell and Pressburger who had recently made one of their greatest movies, "The Red Shoes", another romantic drama set in the world of the performing arts. (In that case ballet rather than opera). "The Glass Mountain" might have benefited from being filmed in colour like "The Red Shoes" rather than black and white, but even in monochrome the mountain scenery still looks beautiful.

There are, however, three problems with the film. The first is its slow, pedestrian pace; the running time is only 88 minutes, but it seems much longer. The second problem is that the ending seems horribly contrived. The third fault is one that it shares with a number of other British films from the forties and fifties. Two examples which come to mind are "Brief Encounter" and "The Browning Version", both of which, like "The Glass Mountain", deal with people who have fallen in love with someone other than their spouse. In all three films the style of acting seems far too restrained for a story dealing with such strong passions. I am aware that this was a time when the convention of the "stiff upper lip" meant that people were less willing to show their emotions in public than they would be today. The trouble is this lot seem to find it impossible to show any emotion in private either.

The main offender in this respect is the horribly wooden Michael Denison as Wilder; the script tells us that he is supposed to be in love with Alida but he never makes us believe it. I kept wishing that the director had made him repeat his scenes over and over again until he finally showed some conviction. Perhaps the problem was that Denison was acting opposite his real-life wife, Dulcie Gray, who was playing Wilder's wife Ann. By all accounts their marriage was a long and happy one, so Denison may have found it psychologically difficult to express any passion for Ann's rival. Gray herself seems equally guarded, although Valentina Cortese is rather better. Admittedly, she seems to struggle with the challenge of acting in a language other than her own, but at least she is able to say "I love you" as though she means it.

Despite its popularity in its heyday, "The Glass Mountain" is largely forgotten today, although it occasionally turns up on television and I understand that it is available on DVD. Musically it is a success, but dramatically it must be accounted a failure. 5/10. (4/10 for the film itself, with a bonus point for the music- the same score as I gave to "Dangerous Moonlight).

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