CARNEGIE HALL(director/writer:Edgar G. Ulmer; screenwriters: Karl Kamb/story by Seena Owen; cinematographer: William Miller; editor: Fred Feitshans; music: Russell Bennett; cast: Marsha Hunt (Nora Ryan), William Prince (Tony Salerno Jr.), Frank McHugh (John Donovan), Martha O’Driscoll (Ruth Haines), Harold Dyrenforth (Walter Damrosch); Runtime: 144; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: William Le Baron/Boris Morros; Federal Films/United Artists; 1947)
“The dialogue is unintentionally funny.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A goofy fictional narrative is built around the legendary NYC concert hall, which is really just an excuse for the classical concert. Acclaimed B-movie director Edgar G. Ulmer is responsible for this mess. But any film that has in its lineup the likes of Artur Rubinstein, Jan Peerce, Ezio Pinza, Rise Stevens, Jascha Heiftz, Gregor Piatagorsky and Leopold Stokowski, can’t be a complete bomb. The classical music is outstanding, as expected. Rubinstein offers a brilliant piano rendition of Chopin’s Polonaise in A-flat and de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance. Heifetz offers us an equally brilliant rendition of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Harry James and Vaughn Monroe represent the world of pop, as crooner Monroe does his signature song of Ghost Riders in the Sky and there’s a jazz/swing piece by bandleader James. This film tried to please almost everyone, but ended up hardly pleasing anyone.
The story revolves around Nora Ryan (Marsha Hunt), who as a young girl emigrated from Ireland. While waiting for her aunt, a cleaning lady at Carnegie Hall, the concert conductor Walter Damrosch (Harold Dyrenforth) generously gives her a seat for the opening night performance and she falls in love with the music at first sound. The great Tchaikovsky conducts his Piano Concerto No. 1. Nora thereafter works as a cleaning lady at Carnegie and derives great pleasure helping young musicians. She marries orchestral pianist Tony Salerno (Hans Yaray), but soon after they have a son he dies in a drunken fall. She, in the meantime, self-educates on the workplace music and works her way up to be concert organizer for Carnegie; the son (William Prince) grows up breaking her heart by neglecting his classical piano talent to be a jazz pianist. They fight over it and he abandons his possessive mom, going out on his own to become rich and famous. Martha O’Driscoll, as Prince’s love interest, doesn’t have much to do besides play the adoring wife and peacemaker between mom and son. In this unbelievable tearjerker, it’s all predictable how the story will work out. The dialogue is unintentionally funny, but as an historical document the film plays well as a musical curio.
REVIEWED ON 1/29/2004 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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