A Song to Remember (1945)

110 mins | Biography | 1 March 1945

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HISTORY

The working titles of this picture were The Song That Lived Forever , At Night We Dream , Chopin , The Love of Madame Sand and Forever and Ever . Several reviews charged the film with being "perversely inaccurate in depicting Chopin's life." In reality, Chopin (1810-1849) was the progeny of a Polish mother of noble birth and a French-born salesman father, and not the offspring of Polish peasants as the film depicts. Chopin's first published work appeared when he was fifteen years old and by the time he graduated from the lyceum at seventeen, he was recognized as a talented composer and the leading pianist of Warsaw. Chopin had performed two successful concerts in Vienna before deciding to leave for Warsaw after the city was placed under harsh Russian military rule. Consequently, Chopin arrived in Paris as an acclaimed pianist rather than the unrecognized student of Joseph Elsner as presented in the film.
       Although onscreen credits state that the screenplay was adapted from a story by Ernst Marischka, a letter contained in film's production files at the AMPAS Library, written by the assistant secretary of the Screen Writer's Guild, claims that "the information submitted to the guild indicates the story was derived from a French picture about Frédéric Chopin that was screened years earlier in Europe but never released in the United States." This claim has not been substantiated, however. Although a 1927 French film titled La Valse depicted the life of George Sand and Chopin, it is not known if that is the film referred to by the Guild's letter. A modern source claims that the film was ... More Less

The working titles of this picture were The Song That Lived Forever , At Night We Dream , Chopin , The Love of Madame Sand and Forever and Ever . Several reviews charged the film with being "perversely inaccurate in depicting Chopin's life." In reality, Chopin (1810-1849) was the progeny of a Polish mother of noble birth and a French-born salesman father, and not the offspring of Polish peasants as the film depicts. Chopin's first published work appeared when he was fifteen years old and by the time he graduated from the lyceum at seventeen, he was recognized as a talented composer and the leading pianist of Warsaw. Chopin had performed two successful concerts in Vienna before deciding to leave for Warsaw after the city was placed under harsh Russian military rule. Consequently, Chopin arrived in Paris as an acclaimed pianist rather than the unrecognized student of Joseph Elsner as presented in the film.
       Although onscreen credits state that the screenplay was adapted from a story by Ernst Marischka, a letter contained in film's production files at the AMPAS Library, written by the assistant secretary of the Screen Writer's Guild, claims that "the information submitted to the guild indicates the story was derived from a French picture about Frédéric Chopin that was screened years earlier in Europe but never released in the United States." This claim has not been substantiated, however. Although a 1927 French film titled La Valse depicted the life of George Sand and Chopin, it is not known if that is the film referred to by the Guild's letter. A modern source claims that the film was derived from the book Polonaise by Doris Leslie . Although the Var review credits Lodge Cunningham as music director, Cunningham actually served as sound director on the film.
       Plans for the project were announced as early as 1938. According to a Jan 1938 news item in HR , Frank Capra was initially slated to direct this picture. HR news items note that in Mar 1946, Capra sued Columbia for a share of the film's profits, claiming that he had prepared the story for the studio and therefore was entitled to a 25% return. In Sep 1946, a judge ruled in Capra's favor by denying a motion made by the studio to dismiss Capra's complaint. In Oct 1938, Marlene Dietrich was announced in HR for the role of "Georges Sand." A HR production chart adds Joan Frank to the cast, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Although Gene Havlick is listed in a HR production chart as editor, Charles Nelson is credited onscreen in that capacity. According to a news item in Time , José Iturbi, the renowned concert pianist who dubbed Cornel Wilde's playing, could not be officially credited on the film because he was under contract to M-G-M. In a SEP interview, Wilde stated that concert pianist Victor Allen tutored him for four months so that he could play the piano silently on the set. According to a Feb 1945 article in Down Beat , the hands of pianist Shura Cherkassky were substituted for those of Wilde in the scenes where only Wilde's hands were shown playing at the keyboard. The music however, was played by Iturbi. Wilde, who was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox to appear in this picture, claimed that Columbia initially opposed casting him as "Chopin" because the studio felt he was too athletic for the part.
       A Song to Remember was producer Louis Edelman's last picture for Columbia. It also marked the screen debut of Darren McGavin (1922--2006). To promote the film, the studio established a "George Sand Memorial Talent Search." This picture was sold on a percentage basis separate from Columbia's regular program, marking the first time that this practice was instituted by the studio, according to a HR news item . The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, Best Color Cinematography, Best Original Story, Best Sound Recording, Best Film Editing and Best Score. Other films based on the lives of Sand, Chopin and Franz Liszt include the 1960 film Song Without End , starring Patricia Morison and Dirk Bogarde and directed by Charles Vidor and George Cukor; the 1975 BBC television series Notorious Woman , starring Rosemary Harris; and the 1991 film Impromptu , directed by James Lapine and starring Hugh Grant, Judy Davis, Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Feb 1945.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jan 45
p. 3, 9
Down Beat
1 Feb 45
p. 7.
Film Daily
18 Jan 45
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 38
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 45
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 45
p. 3, 10
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 46
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Jan 44
p. 1715.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
20 Jan 45
p. 2277.
New York Times
26 Jan 45
p. 16.
The Saturday Evening Post
5 Apr 1947.
---
Time
12 Feb 1945.
---
Variety
24 Jan 45
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Sidney Buchman's Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Adp from the story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Miss Oberon's cost
MUSIC
Mus adpt
Mus supv
Mus dir
SOUND
Mus rec
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Piano coach
STAND INS
Piano dubbing for Cornel Wilde
Hand double for Cornel Wilde
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
Polonaise in A Flat, Opus 53, Etude in E major, "The Minute Waltz," "Fantasie Impromptu" (Opus 66), Scherzo in B flat minor, Mazurka in B flat, Etude in A flat, Waltz in D flat, Waltz in C sharp minor, Etude in A minor, Ballade in A flat, Waltz in A flat, "Revolutionary Etude," Scherzo in C minor and Nocturne in E Flat by Frédéric Chopin
Piano Sonata No. 2 in C# minor ("Moonlight Sonata") by Ludwig van Beethoven.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Forever and Ever
Chopin
At Night We Dream
The Love of Madame Sand
Release Date:
1 March 1945
Production Date:
1 December 1943--22 February 1944
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
28 December 1944
Copyright Number:
LP13024
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
110
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9944
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the early nineteenth century in Warsaw, Poland, music teacher Professor Joseph Elsner receives a letter from Louis Pleyel, a celebrated Parisian music publisher and impresario, offering to audition the professor's pupil, child prodigy Frédéric Chopin. The Chopin family is poor, however, and consequently, cannot afford their son's passage to Paris. When the eleven-year-old Chopin becomes preoccupied with his country's struggle for freedom against the Russian Czarists, the professor inspires the boy by telling him that his fame as a pianist will pave the way for Polish freedom. Eleven years later, Chopin is summoned to play at a concert for a count. When the Russian Governor General of Poland unexpectedly appears at the concert, Chopin denounces him as "a Czarist butcher" and storms out of the room. His life endangered by the outburst, Chopin is forced to flee Poland, and the professor suggests taking refuge in Paris. As the professor and Chopin prepare to depart, Constantia, one of Chopin's comrades, presents him with a pouch of Polish soil. In Paris, the professor takes his protege to see Pleyet, but the impresario is only interested in Chopin, the child prodigy, not Chopin, the grown man. As Pleyel and the professor argue, composer Franz Liszt sits down at the piano and begins to play Chopin's unfinished composition, a Polanaise. When Chopin joins Liszt in a duet, Pleyel recognizes the composer's genius and offers him a concert appearance. To celebrate his pupil's success, the professor takes him to a famous café frequented by artists. There, Liszt introduces them to the poet Alfred de Musset and the novelist Georges Sand, who is garbed in men's ... +


In the early nineteenth century in Warsaw, Poland, music teacher Professor Joseph Elsner receives a letter from Louis Pleyel, a celebrated Parisian music publisher and impresario, offering to audition the professor's pupil, child prodigy Frédéric Chopin. The Chopin family is poor, however, and consequently, cannot afford their son's passage to Paris. When the eleven-year-old Chopin becomes preoccupied with his country's struggle for freedom against the Russian Czarists, the professor inspires the boy by telling him that his fame as a pianist will pave the way for Polish freedom. Eleven years later, Chopin is summoned to play at a concert for a count. When the Russian Governor General of Poland unexpectedly appears at the concert, Chopin denounces him as "a Czarist butcher" and storms out of the room. His life endangered by the outburst, Chopin is forced to flee Poland, and the professor suggests taking refuge in Paris. As the professor and Chopin prepare to depart, Constantia, one of Chopin's comrades, presents him with a pouch of Polish soil. In Paris, the professor takes his protege to see Pleyet, but the impresario is only interested in Chopin, the child prodigy, not Chopin, the grown man. As Pleyel and the professor argue, composer Franz Liszt sits down at the piano and begins to play Chopin's unfinished composition, a Polanaise. When Chopin joins Liszt in a duet, Pleyel recognizes the composer's genius and offers him a concert appearance. To celebrate his pupil's success, the professor takes him to a famous café frequented by artists. There, Liszt introduces them to the poet Alfred de Musset and the novelist Georges Sand, who is garbed in men's attire. On the night of Chopin's concert debut, word arrives from Poland that two of the composer's friends have been executed for aiding his escape. Deeply troubled, Chopin fumbles his piece on the keyboard and runs off the stage. Despite the devastating reviews of his performance, Georges proclaims that Chopin is a true genius. Determined to prove her hunch, Georges invites Chopin to attend Liszt's performance at the Duchess of Orlean's salon. When Liszt requests that the room be darkened, Chopin uses the cover of blackness to take his place at the piano. After Georges enters the room carrying a candelabra and illuminates Chopin's presence, the audience erupts in applause. After the concert that night, Georges convinces Chopin to leave for her country estate before signing contracts with Pleyel. Although the professor objects, Chopin is enamoured by Georges and ignores his old friend's advice. At her country estate, Georges talks Chopin into joining her on the island of Majorca, arguing that his only allegiance should be to composing. As Chopin and Georges isolate themselves on Majorca, the professor loyally awaits his pupil's return to Paris. Evicted for non-payment of rent, he moves to humble lodgings and begins to teach again. When the dank climate of Majorca causes Chopin's fragile health to deteriorate, the composer asks Georges to go back to France with him. Upon learning of Chopin's homecoming, the professor hurries to Georges's country house where he argues with her about what is best for Chopin. Georges jealousy guards Chopin, and as a result, the professor leaves without seeing his protege. When Liszt encounters the dejected professor on a Paris street one day, he invites him to attend a salon at which Chopin will be playing. As news of the suppression of the Polish uprising sweeps the country, Constantia visits the professor to ask his help in enlisting Chopin in their cause. Reluctantly agreeing to approach Chopin, the professor attends the salon. Upset by his teacher's presence, Chopin leaves the room and is followed by the professor. When the professor mentions the uprising in Poland, Georges insists that Chopin's only obligation is to his own genius. Retorting that genius should serve mankind, the professor throws down the pouch of Polish soil and departs. Aroused by his teacher's words, Chopin decides to undertake a grueling concert tour of European capitals, the proceeds of which are to be donated to Polish resistance. Angrily denouncing Chopin's decision as certain suicide, Georges severs their friendship. Driven by patriotism, the frail Chopin embarks upon a whirlwind tour and collapses in Paris after completing his final concert. When Georges refuses to visit Chopin on his deathbed, the composer expires in the presence of his two longtime friends, the professor and Constantia. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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