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Marjorie Lawrence crowds her life with excitement and achievement from the day she leaves her Australian home and goes to Paris to study voice. After a triumphal debut at the Paris Opera she becomes famous overnight, and her debut at the Met in New York establishes her as one of the great singers of her time. With all her dreams come true, tragedy strikes in the form of infantile paralysis and she faces a life of confinement to a wheelchair. Although she reaches the depths of despair, she manages through the love and devotion of her husband, Dr. Tom King (Glenn Ford), she begins to build a new career by singing to servicemen who, like herself, are confined to wheelchairs. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Like others commenting on this film, I saw "Interrupted Melody" many years ago, and it left a deep impression on me. I found when watching it again that I had retained so many of the scenes in my memory.
"Interrupted Melody" tells the story of Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence (played by Eleanor Parker), who was stricken with polio at the height of her career. The singer then has to find the courage to reclaim her will to live, her voice, and her career.
This is one of the few films, including anything of Lanza's, where entire arias and/or operatic scenes have been performed - and correctly. Singing for Ms. Parker is dramatic soprano Eileen Farrell, whose voice also acts. In the beginning, when the young Marjorie is in a vocal competition, Farrell takes her powerful chest voice out and instead carries her middle voice down to the low notes, giving the impression of a young, untrained singer. Truly inspired.
This has to be the high point of Eleanor Parker's career. I had a chance to see her nearly 30 years ago in a preview performance of "Pal Joey" - regretfully, there were many problems and she and her costar left the show before it opened. It was a shame, because Parker's Vera was wonderful. Here, she plays the young Marjorie with energy and determination, capturing the soprano's nervousness at being away from home when she goes to school in Monte Carlo. Later, she plays the perfect diva not afraid to state what she wants. Finally, she's the crippled Marjorie with no will to live, finding solace entertaining wounded soldiers who are worse off than she is. All through the film, she looks absolutely stunning, and her lipsyncing in Italian, French, and German is perfect.
The music is glorious - "Tristan und Isolde," "La Boheme," "Samson et Delilah," "Carmen," "Il Trovatore," (the fastest I've ever heard it), "Madama Butterfly," "Don Carlos," and "Gotterdammerung" - truly a feast for the ears with Eileen Farrell's magnificent singing.
Some have questioned whether or not Lawrence actually sang both mezzo and soprano roles. Lawrence did sing "Carmen," which can be sung by a dramatic soprano. Also, Lawrence probably started out as a mezzo - it was not until she trained in Paris that her upper range was extended. She sang Wagner, Strauss, Puccini, and Verdi in the big opera houses. "Samson and Delilah" was perhaps done for the film so we could see Eleanor Parker being sexy and seductive in a gauzy costume. The thing is, Lawrence's specialty was Wagner and you can't only have heavy Wagner scenes throughout a movie. The glamorous soprano did her own dancing in "Salome," and played the immolation scene in "Götterdämmerung" by riding her horse into the flames as Wagner had intended, making her one of the few, possibly the only, soprano to do this. She also did Thais, which calls for sex and beauty - "Thais" was the inspiration for the role Susan Kane bombed in during "Citizen Kane."
Glenn Ford plays Lawrence's husband, Dr. Thomas King, and the marriage of a successful opera star and fledgling pediatrician is realistically portrayed with all its difficulties. In real life, Tom King was an osteopath and a Christian Scientist. Ford has a background role much of the time, but also some very dramatic moments and some romantic ones. His gentle, easygoing style fit the character well. A very young Roger Moore is Marjorie's manager-brother.
If you love opera, or if you love a story of courage and the power of the human spirit, this film is for you. Have a box of tissues nearby - the ending is very powerful.
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