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: Carnegie Hall (1947)  ( 1274 )
dave jenkins
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« : October 19, 2022, 05:19:42 AM »

Carnegie Hall (1947) - 7/10. A widow (Marsha Hunt) works as a cleaning woman in Carnegie Hall while raising a son who she hopes will grow up to be a great pianist. The son, though, would rather play jazz.  Edgar G. Ulmer directed this film.

Watched this for the first time and it's a very unusual film. What I heard is that Ulmer wanted to film performances at Carnegie Hall but couldn't get a feature out of it unless there was a story. So he found a story, which kind of works, but is the least interesting aspect of the film. Funnily enough, this came out in 1947, the same year as The Red Shoes. What was everybody smoking that year?

This is available on an out-of-print Kino DVD. Included on the disc is the written text Carnegie Hall: Its Music and its Teaching Possibilities - Detailed Program Notes compiled by the National Film Music Council 1947. Apparently, educators back in the day thought the movie had possibilities for the classroom. For our purposes, it now provides us with a detailed synopsis of the movie. Cue copious filching:

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The Second Movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is the first music heard . . . . It is played during the showing of the titles and is then replaced by the familiar sounds of the tuning up of an orchestra as the camera takes us into the hall . . . . Inside we hear "Tony Salerno" [Hans Yaray] rehearsing the Last Movement of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor.

Nora (Marsha Hunt), a woman who works in the Hall cleaning, gets noticed by Tony. They have a first date.

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Nora recalls her first visit in 1891, an orphan child just arrived from Ireland. Flashback: A concert is in progress celebrating the opening of Carnegie Hall. The orchestra is playing the Lenore No. 3 Overture by Beethoven.

Tschaikovsky is the guest conductor. He raises his baton and we hear a portion of the First Movement of his Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor.

Tschaikovsky himself couldn't do the scene (production limitations), so they had to use an actor, but for all the rest of the film the performers and conductors play themselves.

The story returns to the film's opening period, 1909. Tony takes Nora to a party where all the guests are musicians. Like all good musicians on their night off, they provide their own music.

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They play part of the Second Movement of the Schumann Quintet in E Flat Major. They begin with the second theme. While the first theme is also heard as the movement continues, the former remains in the listener's memory as it is used in the background music of the subsequent scene where Tony carries Nora in bridal dress over their threshold.

Time passes. Young Tony arrives. His father is killed in a fall. Nora devotes her life to her son's musical education. A Carnegie Hall program tells us it is the Seasn of 1913-14. We hear the orchestra from within playing a brief excerpt from the Seond Movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

At home, young Tony is practicing the First Movement of Haydn's Sonata in F Major.

Tony next plays a portion of Mendelsshon's Spinning Song.

Then comes the first big musical treat, the Prelude to Die Meistersinger performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Bruno Walter.

The film continues to be a musical feast presenting, practically uninterrupted by the story, eight musical masterpieces. Part of the exquisite Rachmaninov Vocalises are heard as we are brought into the hall, after reading a billboard announcement that Lily Pons is to sing at Carnegie Hall. We are shown a program and learn she will also sing The Bell Song from Lakme by Delibes.

We pass through a dissolve to Ms. Pons in performance.

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The Swan from the Carnival of Animals by Saint-Saens is next performed by Gregor Piatigorsky. This well known melody is glamorized by having an ensemble of harps relaces the usual piano accompaniment. It gives the young cellists [in the audience] an excellent opportunity to watch the fingering and bowing of this great artist and all of us a chance to hear and watch Piatigorsky play his famed Stradivari cello.

Not only do famous musicians appear in this film, famous instruments cameo as well! At the time the film was made, that cello was 250 years old.

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Rise Stevens performs two operatic arias well suited to her vocal and dramatic talents. Like Miss Pons, she is accompanied by a concert orchestra conducted by Charles Previn, Director of Music at Radio City Music Hall. We first hear her as she is completing the introduction and starts the principal melody of Delila's famed song which finally seduces the powerful Samson in the second act of Saint-Saen's opera.

The Seguidilla from Act I of Carmen by Bizet follows.

The Fourth Movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is introduced by a broadcast of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Artur Rodzinski. We are taken into the hall over the radio antennae as the orchestra is playing the last part of the Third Movement which goes directly into the Fourth.

The picturization is excellent with many interesting views of the orchestra in action and splendid opportunities for studying Rodzinski's conducting.

For many, the high point of this picture will be the playing of Artur Rubinstein. Here we have no wandering cameras. There is no need for them, for Mr. Rubinstein's playing is the essence of action and drama. It is a visualization of piano playing in the grand manner. His prodigious technique is exemplified throughout, particularly in the difficult passages for the left hand in the Chopin Polonaise. The quick flash of his small eyes gives us glimpses of the working of his mind, the mind that makes his masterly musicianship possible. On the other hand his poetic temperament is mirrored in the melodic passages as the camera shifts from the keyboard and allows us to look directly in his face.

Nora has been promoted to an office position and Tony has grown to young manhood. At his piano in their new apartment in Carnegie Hall Tony (now William Prince)  is heard jazzing Chopin's Waltz in C# Minor Op. 64 No. 2. In horror Nora reprimands him . . . To please her, Tony plays Chopin's Nocturne (posthumous).

This scene sets forth the conflict that will dominate the rest of the picture: whether, to please mom, Tony should stay the course for his Carnegie Hall classical debut, or whether to seek personel fulfillment by striking out on his own as a jazzer.

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Tony, while accompanying Jan Peerce in Carnegie Chamber Hall, meets Ruth (big band singer Martha O'Driscoll) who is there for an audition [which we miss]. Peerce sings O Sole Mio by diCapua.

Meanwhile, Tony drinks Ruth up with his eyes. Hey, Mom never told me about women!

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Tony takes Ruth to the studio of Ezio Pinza. The famous basso is having difficulty in completing his costume for Don Giovanni. Surrounded by ladies, he entertains them by singing a portion of the lament "Il Lacerto Spirito." Qucily changing the mood, he sings the rollicking song "Finch' Han Dal Vino," Act I Scene IV of Mozart's Don Giovanni.

An interesting bit of comedy is introduced here. Tony needs money to take Ruth out and wants to touch Pinza for it. He scribbles a plea on the sheet music and asks the man to check a passage. Pinza reads the note and wordlessly indicates he's always ready to help a couple of lovers out. While singing he moves about the room searching for a five dollar bill. He finds it in a woman's purse and then surreptitiously passes it to Tony, hiding the action with the expressive gestures he uses as he sings. It's pretty funny.

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With Pinza's rich vibrant voice still ringing in our ears, the story takes us to the night club where Ruth is singing. We hear Vaughn Monroe sing "Beware My Heart" in the crooning baritone in vogue for such music [then].
Ruth introduces Mr. Monroe to Tony, and learning Tony is a pianist, invites him to sit in with his orchestra. Monroe is so impressed with Tony's playing that he invites him to join the band for an upcoming tour. Tony says yes, but what will mom think?!!!!!

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We return to Carnegie Hall to hear a glorious performance of a major portion of the First Movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major, performed by Jascha Heifetz, with Fritz Reiner conducting.

After the performance, Heifetz finds Nora backstage and congratulates her on the work she is doing to encourage new musicians. Nora demures. "It's not me," she says, "It's Carnegie Hall." "Nora," says Heifetz, referring to her lifetime commitment to the place,"you ARE Carnagie Hall." This should have cued the Twilight Zone theme, but Nora just smiles.

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The last conductor, Leopold Stokowski, is no stranger to moviegoers. Here Stokowski is, as usual, a combination of showman and artist. The camera dramatizes his hair and focuses particularly on the expressiveness of his hands. Carnegie Hall offers a fascinating study of hands: the dramatic demanding hands of Rodzinski, the sureness and agility of Piatigorsky's left hand, the strong muscular hands of Rubinstein, the facile flexible fingers of Heifetz and the weaving emotional hands of Stowkowski. Students will be interested in observing his conducting of the final measures of the Second Movement of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. There is no definite beat or release; instead a contour of curves which gradually fade the music beyond our hearing.

At the end a young American composer appears on the podium to conduct his own composition, "57th Street Rhapsody," featuring Harry James on trumpet, a bit of sub-Gershwin. Can you guess who that putative young composer is?

This is definitely not a film for Groggy. Drink, OTOH, might like it.

« : November 17, 2022, 12:11:51 PM dave jenkins »


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« #1 : October 23, 2022, 01:19:35 AM »

Just saw the movie - thanks for the birthday gift of the dvd!

I enjoyed your review more than the film :)

Not a huge fan of many of the pieces. I have particular taste  ;)


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« #2 : October 23, 2022, 09:57:57 AM »

Just saw the movie - thanks for the birthday gift of the dvd!

I enjoyed your review more than the film :)

Not a huge fan of many of the pieces. I have particular taste  ;)

That is for sure.


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