Rhapsody (1954)


(director: Charles Vidor; screenwriters: Augustus and Ruth Goetz/Fay Kanin/from the book “Maurice Guest” by Henry Handel Richardson; cinematographer: Robert Planck; editor: John D. Dunning; music: Johnny Green; cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Louise Durant), Vittorio Gassman (Paul Bronte), John Ericson (James Guest), Louis Calhern (Nicholas Durant), Michael Chekhov (Prof. Schuman); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lawrence Weingarten; MGM; 1954)

“Tedious soap opera story filled with classical music.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Charles Vidor directs in an uninspired workmanlike manner this tedious soap opera story filled with classical music from the likes of Liszt, Rachmaninov, Chopin and Tchaikovsky. The overblown love triangle story gets in the way of the music, which was the only worthwhile thing in the film. Fortunately there’s a lot of music. This movie was a chance for MGM to showcase its newest star, the 21-year-old radiant beauty Elizabeth Taylor. Vittorio Gassman is the Italian actor not known at the time to American audiences except through his marriage to Shelley Winters (they later divorced), who was given a chance to play the romantic lead. The film did not help Gassman advance his career in American films, so he returned to Italy to become a big star in his native country. John Ericson’s previous gig was in the Broadway play Stalag 17, where he played the part William Holden popularized on the big screen.

Louise Durant (Elizabeth Taylor) is the spoiled rich daughter of the wily Nicholas Durant (Louis Calhern), who in the opening scene informs dad that she’s off to Zurich to study the piano at the conservatory in order to be with her aspiring European violinist boyfriend Paul Bronte (Vittorio Gassman). Paul is returning to study again with Professor Schuman (Michael Chekhov). New to the conservatory is the American ex-GI James Guest (John Ericson), an aspiring pianist student who is broke.

When Paul ignores Louise in order to practice for his solo number with the Zurich Philharmonic, which was arranged by the professor, Louise is pursued by love sick puppy Guest. But Louise doesn’t like to lose what she wants, so she brings Paul to meet her vacationing dad in St. Moritz hoping this will lead to marriage. Dad finds Paul egotistical, glib, concerned only about himself and with limited charm. The old guy nailed him perfectly (dad seems the same way), but Louise finds the talented Paul attractive. But when Paul devotes himself completely to the violin and ignores her, she impulsively marries Guest as a means of revenge even though she still loves Paul. The melodramatics involve Guest putting his musical career on hold so he can give his vain wife all the attention she needs, but feeling bad about giving up his music he becomes a self-loathing drunk. But Louise feels guilty about this and encourages Guest to practice again with Professor Schuman. When hubby gets rehabilitated, he plays at a concert and Louise falls in love with his playing. Poor Louise must now decide which of these two talented musicians she loves more as she told hubby she plans to run away with Paul, now a famous international violinist, after the concert.

I found no rhapsody in this soaper story, but the music was pleasing. It was excellently performed by Claudio Arrau on the piano and by Michael Rabin on the violin.