HUMORESQUE (director: Jean Negulesco; screenwriters: story Humoresque by Fannie Hurst/Zachary Gold/Clifford Odets; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Rudi Fehr; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Joan Crawford (Helen Wright), John Garfield (Paul Boray), Oscar Levant (Sid Jeffers), Paul Cavanagh (Victor Wright), J. Carrol Naish (Rudy Boray), Ruth Nelson (Esther Bory), Joan Chandler (Gina), Richard Gaines (Bauer), Tom D’Andrea (Phil Boray), Peggy Knudsen (Florence), Robert Blake (Paul Boray as a Child); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Wald; Warner Brothers; 1946)
“A turgid affair with John Garfield having to choose either socialite Joan Crawford or his bow strings.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A turgid affair with John Garfield having to choose either socialite Joan Crawford or his bow strings. When Beethoven drowns out the melodramatics (there are 23 different classical excerpts) the lush soap opera is fine; when it doesn’t, the weepie soap opera becomes unbearable.
Jean Negulesco effectively directs this timeworn tale but it’s a cold and dreary affair. It’s based on a Fannie Hurst story about a Jewish-American poor kid, Paul Boray (John Garfield), and his rise to the top of the heap as a violinist and the tragedy that awaits him once there; Clifford Odets chimes in with an overblown screenplay.
Told in flashback, as a Manhattan concert hall poster of famous violinist Paul Boray has cancelled pasted across it. Paul laments to manager Bauer “I’m always outside looking in.” He yearns for when he was a simple kid. The story goes back to when he was such a child and lived in a slum neighborhood where his father Rudy (J. Carrol Naish) eked out a living supporting the family of five in the Depression by running a small grocery store, and for his birthday Paul’s doting mother Esther (Ruth Nelson) ignored her husband’s objections to purchase the $8 violin Paul picked out at Jeffers’ toy store. Obsessed with the violin, he studies with Rozner at the music institute and rigorously practices until he becomes an accomplished musician. Gina (Joan Chandler) is also a student there, and confesses her love to him. But it goes nowhere, as Paul’s always more interested in his music than her. At socialite Helen Wright’s (Joan Crawford) party Paul plays the violin (Isaac Stern does the dubbing for all his violin pieces) while his best friend Sid Jeffers (Oscar Levant) accompanies him on the piano and acts as his inner voice. The unhappily married beautiful woman with a penchant for leading a meaningless life, drowns her sorrows in drink and surrounds herself with young studs. Older hubby Victor is aware of his wife’s discretions but is not strong enough to deal with her neurotic behavior. Victor is her third husband. She becomes Paul’s patron, and says he’s someone “born to be angry.” Childhood friend Sid comes along for the ride as piano accompanist, resident cynic, and sarcastic quipster, giving the film a gold mine in witty dialogue such as his line to Helen “Does your husband interfere with your marriage?”
In the ambitious violinist’s rise to the top, he forgets about Gina and how much his mother meant to him. His mother takes a dislike to Helen, saying she’s no good for him. Anyway Paul is set to marry the lonely alcoholic Helen, but she takes a suicidal ocean walk at her beach house when he’s in concert playing “Liebestod” from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde.
REVIEWED ON 3/31/2005 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ