39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A ROMANCE TO DIE FOR...
This is a superb melodrama about a young man, Paul Boray, from the wrong side of the tracks, who plays a mean violin, and the unhappily married society matron, Helen Wright, who becomes his patron and then his lover. John Garfield is well cast as Paul Boray, the ambitious violinist. Joan Crawford does a star turn as the glamorous and beautiful patron of the arts, who...
Published on December 9, 2001 by Lawyeraau
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missing a Crescendo
Humoresque is the story of Paul Boray (John Garfield) and Helen Wright (Joan Crawford). Boray is a violinist; since he was 11 years old, his life has been dedicated to the instrument. When he performs in the home of the wealthy Wright, sparks fly, and though she is married the two begin a love affair. She helps him to succeed in the music world, and as the two get closer,...
Published on May 5, 2006 by Samantha Glasser
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A ROMANCE TO DIE FOR...,
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This is a superb melodrama about a young man, Paul Boray, from the wrong side of the tracks, who plays a mean violin, and the unhappily married society matron, Helen Wright, who becomes his patron and then his lover. John Garfield is well cast as Paul Boray, the ambitious violinist. Joan Crawford does a star turn as the glamorous and beautiful patron of the arts, who underwrites Boray's big break and ends up falling passionately in love with him. Theirs is a turbulent relationship. He is singularly devoted to his music, and she is an alcoholic, plagued by self-doubt. They are star crossed lovers whose romance is destined to end tragically.
The film has a magnificent musical score courtesy of violinist virtuoso Isaac Stern. Pianist Oscar Levant is a double threat in this movie, as he, too, does a star turn as Boray's best friend, acting as a comedic foil. He also dazzles on the ivories, playing away so that the viewer wonders why he, too, does not have some society dame underwriting a show for him, such is his talent. All in all, a well cast and well acted film. Fans of Joan Crawford and all those with an appreciation of classical music will especially enjoy this well made film.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You're a hangman's noose to me.",
This review is from: Humoresque (DVD)
Paul Boray (John Garfield) grew up in the slums of New York with one dream in his mind: to play the violin. His mother buys him a violin for a birthday present and from then on Paul practices constantly. As he grows older he becomes a highly-skilled violinist, but with no wealthy friends his great potential has no where to go. Until he meets the wealthy and unhappily married socialite Helen Wright (Joan Crawford), who is instantly drawn to Paul after hearing him play. Helen is used to getting everything she wants in life, and Paul's fiercely independent attitude upsets her.
Despite a rocky start they soon agree on one thing: with the right friends Paul could become one of the most famous violinists of all time. So Helen introduces Paul to her wealthy friends and in no time at all Paul is booked with numerous concerts. But Paul is much more than a smart investment to Helen, and the more they see of each other the less they can deny their passionate feelings for each other. Paul's family disaproves of their relationship, but Paul won't listen to anyone try to stop him from seeing Helen.
Forgetting the fact that a charming young woman (Joan Chandler) is already in love with him, and that Helen is married, he begins a dangerous affair with her, not realizing the consequences it could have in regards to his career. His best friend (Oscar Levant) also shares a love for music, but can do little to convince Paul that the affair is destined to fail. Paul's career as a violinist is so busy that he doesn't always have time to spend with Helen, and she begins to resent this more and more.
When Helen's husband grants her a divorce, she rushes to Paul to tell him the good news, only to realize that Paul's first love is and always has been music. Even after all the arguing and fighting Helen and Paul have gone through, they're still deeply in love with each other. After being told off by Paul's protective mother though, she decides that she isn't willing to come between Paul and his beloved music. Paul is then left to pick up the pieces of his shattered life and try to move on with his career.
Humoresque starred two of the greatest stars of the 1940's, John Garfield and Joan Crawford, in one of the most unforgettable screen romances of all time. Garfield was of course famous for playing tough guys, and to see him play a sensitive violinist (with a dark side of course) so convincingly proved just how great of an actor he was. Crawford was likewise fantastic playing another "bad girl" without morals. As for Oscar Levant, I think he deserved a best supporting actor oscar for his wonderful performance. He was really a scene stealer and his sharp wit combined with his great talent as a piano player made him a huge asset to the film.
And of course there's the beautiful music of Humoresque which is practically a character in the movie. Rarely have I heard so many masterpieces of classical music in one movie. John Garfield's violin playing was actually done by Isaac Stern, but the incredible contortionist style method they used was so convincing that when Garfield toured the country on publicity tours for this movie he was frequently asked to play the violin! They explain the technique they used to make his violin playing scenes convincing in the brief featurette "The Music of Humoresque." Although the original soundtrack is unavailable, there is an awesome CD by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg titled Humoresque which features a modern version of the film's soundtrack. If you love classic romances with great actors then add this dvd to your collection!
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joan Crawford's finest film and performance.,
Not only was Joan Crawford at the height of her beauty and glamour when she made Humoresque - she was also at the height of her acting ability, having just won the Oscar for Mildred Pierce. It would be unfair to say Humoresque is a better film than Mildred Pierce, considering how different the two films are. Mildred Pierce was gritty and dark and strived for harsh realism. Humoresque is romantic and tragic - beautifully written, acted, and filmed. There are moments in movies that linger in your mind a long time after viewing.. The finale of Humoresque is one of those moments. I'm certain I will never forget Joan Crawford's melancholy walk along the sea shore in the moonlight. It is one of the most artistic scenes ever captured on film...and all the emotion Joan goes through is genuine and deep. It is definitely a glimpse through to the heart of Joan Crawford, vulnerable and beautiful, defiant and strong. For in real life, Joan Crawford was never loved. And her character in Humoresque was, as Joan described, "a woman with too much time on her hands and too much love in her heart." Perhaps that was the real Joan Crawford, a woman clinging to her career and the fans that loved her, when nobody else did. People have long criticized Joan Crawford, but who would you be if nobody loved you?
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Good Can Come Of This Relationship,
In HUMORESQUE we see a dedicated young musician (John Garfield) meet a wealthy possessive woman (Joan Crawford) who takes an obsessive interest in him and his career as a violinist. We know that nothing good can come of this relationship and we are surely looking at a tragedy in the making. In spite of all the warning signs we feel compelled to watch this movie to the end.
The acting of both Garfield and Crawford is superb. The role of Helen Wright seems to be the perfect vehicle for Crawford. Oscar Levant excells as a pianist and Garfield's friend. The rest of the strong supporting cast includes J. Carrol Naish, Joan Chandler and Tom D'Andrea. Garfield's violin is played by Isaac Stern.
HUMORESQUE received an Oscar nomination in 1946 for Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture. Jean Negulosco directed many other fine movies during his career including JOHNNY BELINDA, ROAD HOUSE and THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FILM'S AND JOAN CRAWFORD'S FINEST MOMENT,
I first watched "Humoresque" on December 10, 1990. The date was etched in my brain because I have NEVER been so overwhelmed by pure genius in my life before or since. I have given this movie as a present to all my friends (birthdays, holidays, etc.). I have watched this film as my birthday present TO MYSELF. Everyone who sees this film agrees---BRILLIANT. Joan Crawford and John Garfield play the ultimate codependant couple, long before modern pop-psychology popularized and distorted the term "codependancy." Joan Crawford had won her Academy Award for 1945's "Mildred Pierce" in 1946, during the filming of "Humoresque," and it shows. Joan Crawford was never more confident, brooding, steaming, sensual, intelligent or intense on film than in "Humoresque." Everything was perfect for this, the ultimate film noir----black and white cinematography, art direction, set decoration, costume design (legendary MGM costume/fashion designer Adrian came out of retirement just to do Joan Crawford's gowns), make-up, script, cast, and of course, Joan Crawford's acting and perfectly architectured face. Every scene and every line are executed perfectly. Post-"Mommie Dearest" film fans should watch this and other Joan Crawford films to get a clearer assessment and appreciation for her work, if not for the human being herself. Oscar Levant is hilarious as John Garfield's piano-playing best friend, Sid. Virtuoso violinist Isaac Stern played violin on the soundtrack (WHICH HOPEFULLY SOME RECORD COMPANY WILL RELEASE ON CD SOMEDAY), and physically played onscreen in John Garfield's closeups by placing his arm up Garfield's sleeve. The final sequence with Joan Crawford's suicidal heroine walking into the sea to the strains of Garfield's radio performance of Wagner's "Liebstod" on violin (accompanied by full orchestra) is as cathartic as catharsis will ever be on film. This sequence was recently acknowledged when the director of Madonna's video, "The Power Of Goodbye," borrowed upon it as the basis for the storyline of the video, with a different choice at the end. It just shows how far we have come as a society in the ability to examine self-esteem issues, such as codependancy. If you only buy one video in your life, buy this one. Watch it again and again and again....you will not regret it. I promise.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "She's as complex as a Bach fugue!",
This review is from: Humoresque (DVD)
At last, HUMORESQUE is on DVD in a fairly decent print! This film, made during the mid 1940s classical music craze that gripped Hollywood (contemporaneous examples include A SONG TO REMEMBER, DECEPTION [with Bette Davis, actually shot on adjoining stages at Warners!], SONG OF LOVE and RHAPSODY IN BLUE) is one of the best and most elaborate. It is hard to imagine a film like this being made today, with huge tranches of classsical works taking up screen time and being rendered so wonderfully. Crawford is at her most maudlin and overacts sublimely. The real outstanding performance however is John Garfield who, in spite of looking like a hoodlum, convinces as a violin prodigy. The unintentionally funny lines (penned by Clifford Odets, no less, mining his play GOLDEN BOY into the bargain!) come thick and fast e.g. "Bad Manners! The infallible sign of genius" or "Martinis are an acquired taste...like Ravel!".
A grand Warner cast of stalwarts lends support and Franz Waxman adapts and arranges some marvellous music, played exquisitely by Isaac Stern. Oscar Levant contributes his usual laconic humour and also some terrific pianism. Once again, Ernest Haller works miracles with his extraordinary photography [check the anazing shot of Garfield through a Brandy glass at the party scene near the beginning - it took a day to light it]. Jean Negulesco directs with some flair, effortlessly conjuring up 1940s New York making you wish it was as hip and sophisticated today ~ and the final knockout sequence where Crawford walks into the sea (a la A STAR IS BORN) to the strains of Wagner's Liebestod in a superb arrangement for violin, piano & orchestra by Waxman, is so over the top, you can't help but love it. Superbly photographed and edited, it is almost orgasmic! No matter that Crawford's radio would have needed speakers the size of Carnegie Hall for her to be able to hear the music on the beach...that's Hollywood !
The DVD looks pretty good but the print used has clearly suffered with age. No digital restoration was possible as the original camera negative has not survived. Nice featurette on the music and a typically lavish, overblown trailer are the welcome extras. I wish there had been a commentary track as there is so much I wanted to know - for instance, was any of it shot on location and if so, where? All in all however, it's a one-of-a-kind movie and should be in every buff's collection. 5 STARS!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you don't cry during this film, you're made of plastic,
This review is from: Humoresque (DVD)
Joan Crawford had it. Star quality. When I first saw her in 'Grand Hotel' I was surprised how much I was watching her character instead of the equally riveting character played by the great Greta Garbo. Both were STARS. But Crawford was able to project a different kind of sensuality than Garbo - a vulnerability, a plucky girl-next-door quality.
In Humoresque, an older Crawford was still able to achieve this level of performance paired off with the younger male star. Let's face it - women have a great advantage acting (perhaps women are always acting) - besides being better looking than men, they can emote more without going out of gender role. A distinct advantage vis-a-vis men who must restrict their emotional range or be accused of over acting.
It's a horrible thing to fall in love. And that is just what Crawford's character does. Falls in love with the worst of all possible choices: a musician. Musicians only love music. The music in the film is worth the price of admission alone. Who amongst you would throw the first stone at a fine violinist playing 'Zigeunerwisser' or any of the other fine war horses of the classical violin repertoire?
She falls in love with the young 'artist of the month' whom she offers to help jumpstart his career, renting a concert hall for his first recital. She is married to a wealthy but understanding man who loves her but lets her do what she wants - drinking, philandering ... Most men do what she wants and accept her ridicule. The character of the musician does not; he's a tough New Yorker who gives her as good as he gets - and she finds herself loving him despite herself.
Love is madness, and when he starts being successful with his concert tours but neglects to phone her for weeks, she falls apart emotionally. It is profoundly humiliating to realize someone else can hurt you badly simply by declining to keep in touch. Silence is the perfect expression of contempt, isn't it? She drinks, she mopes about her 'cottage' in the Hamptons, she is crazy in love with a man who doesn't seem to reciprocate her feelings.
In our time, she might see her doc and get a prescription for Zoloft to be rid of the lovesick blues and of obsessive thoughts of him. But this is before Thorazine, even, and she's just out of luck there. So she drinks. Drinking was the preferred way to deaden the unbearable pain of rejection in love in the days before designer drugs were available from your neighborhood spice man.
To complicate things, her musician had an old girlfriend from the conservatory where he studied music as a young man. Additionally, there was the dreaded 'american mom' in full armor. She just had to tell this grown son of hers, repeatedly, that the woman he finally fell in love with was no good. She even slaps him upside the head as he shows her around his ritzy new apartment with a view; it seems he has too many portraits of Crawford's character in view. That's the way, Mom. Make your boy marry a good girl, like you, maybe.
Meanwhile, and I just love a line the character played by Oscar Levant comes up with at her cottage in the Hamptons, "You're not the kind of woman who lets her husband get in the way of her marriage." A lot funnier said than written. Levant did a lot of great piano playing in the film, dropping dozens of one liners like that. He almost stole several acts. This is a very forties film. In black and white. Whatever happened to the colorization process? Oh, well.
Finally, Mom tells the rich girl to keep her hands off her son. And dutifully, Crawford's character retreats to her cottage in the Hamptons, gets drunk one last time, wades into the surf in a stunning, shimmering black cocktail dress and is never seen again. I told you love was dangerous!
Her lover, after cancelling one measly concert out of despair at her death, decides not to ruin a promising career and returns to the concert stage. Men! Emotional IQs of 30, at most. Well, that's all folks. If your eyes were still dry at the end of this film, you're safe - you'll never fall in love.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smooth as a Stern Cadenza,
An apex of studio movie-making. 40's soap opera simply doesn't come any slicker than this. The black and white photography is rich, glossy, and superb, the luminescent glow behind Crawford's close-ups almost transforming this middle-aged warhorse into a fallen madonna. The screenplay anticipates Garfield's role in "Body and Soul" as he claws his way up from poverty using a bowstring instead of fists. For a tough guy, we still believe in his poetic soul and no one from that era was better at combining the two. Then too, no film has communicated an on-screen classical score more effectively than this, as Crawford is alternately beguiled, seduced, and overwhelmed by pulsating strains from the great composers. And, of course, there's that all-time smashing finale so lushly romantic, I'm still picking seaweed from my hair. I'm glad the screenplay gives an obscure contract player like Ruth Nelson a chance to show her thespic talents. Her face-off with Crawford over the direction of Garfield's affections is an epic one, though she's probably a shade too aristocratic for the long-suffering motherly role. Moreover, there are the many memorable throw-away lines, one could expect from a stellar cast that includes Hollywood's master cynic, the mordant Oscar Levant. In fact, his self-effacing personality and casual witticisms are so distractively entertaining, they threaten to undo the entire melodrama. For fans of Levant, it's a showcase, and I wouldn't be surprised if many of those sarcasms were his own. (If only the writers could have dispensed with that dreary stereotype of the wholesome-girl-in-waiting, this time the fresh-faced Peggy Knudsen.) With this film, director Negulesco proves he could spread the soap suds as smoothly as a Douglas Sirk or a John M. Stahl. Without a doubt, this is the Hollywood dream-factory hitting on all eight cylinders in ways that just don't happen anymore.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great On Many Levels,
I've seen this movie at least a dozen times over the years and never tire of it. So rivetting is Garfield and Crawford's performances that even without the great music it would have still been a great tragic love story (and I'm not one who cares for this genre). The volatility between the two lovers is what makes this movie so great; perhaps because they're complete opposites, or perhaps because the relationship is illicit. No matter, the chemistry between Garfield and Crawford is difficult to deny.
Another point. As a violinist myself Garfield does the most believable job of ANY actor I've seen in ANY movie, and I've seen almost all, that actually appears to be playing, it's almost unbelievable.
Finally, Oscar Levant, who was a great pianist in his own right, especially as an interpreter of Gershwin, does a splendid job as the comic counterbalance to Garfield's brooding intensity, and thought he actually stole some of the scenes with his sarcastic wit.
This movie has it all: great music, great story, great acting. Truly one of my favorites from that era.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Garfield fiddles while Joan burns,
John Garfield (né Julius Garfinkle) was a rough guy with a sensitive edge, so the part of Paul Boray in "Humoresque" was made to order for him: a kid from the streets who becomes a famous concert violinist. Garfield's attractive but implacable persona (he was considered for the role of Stanley in the original stage production of "A Streetcar Named Desire") meant that he could turn on the charm or turn off the customer at a flick of the switch. Paul Boray knows he has enormous talent and he's ready to share it -- but not his life. When he meets a wealthy neurotic who finds him irresistible you just know there's going to be trouble, particularly when the socialite is none other than Joan Crawford at the peak of her dramatic power. Kids today tend to make fun of Crawford's acting,especially the post-1950 excesses; but the fact is she had an unusually intense presence and a razor-sharp sense of concentration and timing. This is undoubtedly her best performance: her last ten minutes you will never forget. (Incidently, her character doesn't appear till thirty minutes into the picture.) Garfield and Crawford dominate the story (the scenes where she watches him perform leave little to the imagination), so there's not much left for anyone else to do. Ruth Nelson is strong as Paul's disapproving mother, and a young actress named Joan Chandler (you can see her in Hitchcock's "Rope") is winning as Paul's pre-fame sweetheart, who waits patiently in the wings -- or, in her case, the orchestra section. Oscar Levant as Paul's accompanist-friend does the cynical curmudgeon thing he was later to do in "An American in Paris". It's not as amusing here, partly because this is a serious drama and partly because Levant was five years younger. He has a great line though: when a society matron asks him his relationship to Paul, he says it's the same as that of George Sand to Chopin. The poor woman doesn't register a blink. The screenplay, co-written by Clifford Odets, is controlled with a depth of feeling that later evaded director Jean Negulesco, when he started doing glossy Fox comedies; and it's a shame that "Humoresque" was evidently ignored by the Academy. With its moody atmosphere and magnetic stars, it's one of the finest films of the Forties.
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Humoresque by Jean Negulesco (DVD - 2005)