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A Song to Remember [VHS]
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The short life and passionate music of romantic composer Frédéric Chopin provide the foundations for this 1945 drama, which proved influential in its gaudy, undeniably watchable formula of historical exaggeration and shrewdly simplified motives for its principals. In an Oscar-nominated performance, Cornel Wilde presents the Polish native as a passionate nationalist driven by his love of his native country and his hatred of its czarist regime, a thematic focus that can be forgiven in light of the political backdrop at the time of the production. Already a prodigy in his native land, where he's mentored by a shamelessly scenery-chewing Paul Muni as Professor Elsner, Chopin flees to Paris where his flashing eyes, dark nimbus of curls, and florid technique earn him stardom, while his involvement with the writer George Sand (a beautiful Merle Oberon, even when draped in then-provocatively masculine garb) introduces a romantic crescendo. Still, the tortured pianist-composer pines for his homeland, frets about its political fate, and begins to wither under the rigors of his new career as ur-superstar; in a typically over-the-top but riveting image, we see drops of blood spatter across the keyboard as he thunders through a recital, gallantly ignoring his failing health to spread his music and, by extension, awareness of Poland's fate. Numerous subsequent musical dramas (including two more Song-titled biographies from the same studio) would ply a similar mix of grand gestures and larger-than-life emotions, yet the most interesting comparison to be made is with 1991's Impromptu, a more acerbic spin through the Sand/Chopin affair (and the Parisian demimonde including Alfred DeMusset, Franz Liszt, and Eugene Delacroix) directed by frequent Stephen Sondheim collaborator James Lapine. --Sam Sutherland
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but it has none of the special features you might reasonably expect.
Not even the bare minimum - No subtitles, No movie trailer.
Even so it's an entertaining film, with a beautifully restored Technicolor picture and clean sound.
I have no idea why, but at the end of World War II, Hollywood producers suddenly showed an interest in Classical Music.
1945-47 saw the production of film biographies of:
-- Frederic Chopin (Columbia) "A Song to Remember", the film under review
-- Robert Schumann & Johannes Brahms (MGM) "Song of Love"
-- George Gershwin (Warner Brothers) "Rhapsody in Blue"
-- Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Universal) "Song of Scheherezade"
-- Niccolo Paganini (Gainsborough Pictures - UK) "The Magic Bow"
- The pianist playing Chopin's music in "A Song Without End" is not identified.
No, it's not Cornel Wilde.
It's José Iturbi, who was under contract to a different studio.
- This movie actually produced a hit song:
"Till the End of Time", recorded by Perry Como, based on Chopin's Polonaise in A-Flat Major, Op.53 (lyrics by Buddy Kaye).
- In 1945, maybe one in fifty Hollywood productions was filmed in color.
I used to think that "A Song to Remember" was the first technicolor bio-pic of a classical composer.
Until I discovered "The Great Mr. Handel" which was filmed in technicolor in 1942.
Amazingly, it was filmed in Great Britain during the darkest days of World War II.
COMPOSER BIOGRAPHIES ON FILM
I had some time on my hands, so I thought I'd prepare a list of classical composers featured in Hollywood films
(also some British films.)
Limited to major studio productions.
45 films produced between 1934 and 2006 (23 composers).
All but eight are available on DVD or Amazon Video.
-- See the first four Comments (dated June 9-15, 2016) following this review.
Movie posters from some of these films are posted below.
Buy THIS MOVIE & have a number of tissues on hand. You will certainly have an enjoyable treat for a bygone era of enjoyment!
If first saw this movie when I was 8 and decided to relive it. It gave me an appreciation for him and his music and now even more delightful to watch as I know all of the composers mentioned. Great way to teach your kids about music and for adults as well.
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