Song Without End (1960)

130, 142 or 145 mins | Biography | October 1960

Writer:

Oscar Millard

Producer:

William Goetz

Cinematographers:

James Wong Howe, Charles Lang Jr.

Editor:

William Lyon

Production Designer:

Walter Holscher

Production Company:

Goetz-Vidor Pictures
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HISTORY

The film’s working titles were Crescendo , A Magic Flame , The Franz Liszt Story The Life of Franz Liszt , and The Story of Franz Liszt . The film’s title card reads " Song Without End The Story of Franz Liszt ." The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. The name of Georges Sands is misspelled as "George" in onscreen credits. George Cukor’s onscreen credit reads: “Grateful recognition of his generous contribution to this film is herewith extended to Mr. George Cukor.” Cukor took over the film's direction from Charles Vidor when Vidor died on 4 Jun 1959 after completing about fifteen percent of the picture. The film’s onscreen credits acknowledge the works of the following composers following the words "the music of" George Frederick Handel, Frédéric Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Giuseppe Verdi, Niccolo Paganini and Robert Schumann. Selections of their works are heard interspersed throughout the film.
       Franz Liszt (22 Oct 1811--31 Jul 1886) was a virtuoso pianist and composer born in Raiding, Hungary. A child prodigy, by the time he was middle-aged in the late 1840s, Liszt had created the musical form of the symphonic poem, a new and elastic single-movement form, which many subsequent composers embraced. As in the film, Liszt was involved in a relationship with Marie D’Agoult from 1835-1844. Unlike the film, however, they had three children, who were raised by Liszt’s mother after the couple's relationship failed. In 1847, Liszt met Princess Carolyne and retired from the concert stage. In 1848, he ... More Less

The film’s working titles were Crescendo , A Magic Flame , The Franz Liszt Story The Life of Franz Liszt , and The Story of Franz Liszt . The film’s title card reads " Song Without End The Story of Franz Liszt ." The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. The name of Georges Sands is misspelled as "George" in onscreen credits. George Cukor’s onscreen credit reads: “Grateful recognition of his generous contribution to this film is herewith extended to Mr. George Cukor.” Cukor took over the film's direction from Charles Vidor when Vidor died on 4 Jun 1959 after completing about fifteen percent of the picture. The film’s onscreen credits acknowledge the works of the following composers following the words "the music of" George Frederick Handel, Frédéric Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Giuseppe Verdi, Niccolo Paganini and Robert Schumann. Selections of their works are heard interspersed throughout the film.
       Franz Liszt (22 Oct 1811--31 Jul 1886) was a virtuoso pianist and composer born in Raiding, Hungary. A child prodigy, by the time he was middle-aged in the late 1840s, Liszt had created the musical form of the symphonic poem, a new and elastic single-movement form, which many subsequent composers embraced. As in the film, Liszt was involved in a relationship with Marie D’Agoult from 1835-1844. Unlike the film, however, they had three children, who were raised by Liszt’s mother after the couple's relationship failed. In 1847, Liszt met Princess Carolyne and retired from the concert stage. In 1848, he settled in Weimar, where he developed the symphonic poem. Carolyne and Liszt attempted to marry in 1860, but on the eve of their wedding, their plans were thwarted by her unsubmitted divorce papers. Liszt , a devout Catholic, retired to Rome in 1861 and joined the Franciscan order in 1865.
       According to a Dec 1956 LAEx news item, Columbia studio head Harry Cohn had wanted to make a film dealing with Liszt’s life since 1952. Starting in 1952, a number of writers attempted to tackle the thorny issues of Liszt’s life. In Jun 1952, a Var news item noted that Oscar Saul was to write the script and William Dieterle was to direct. A Dec 1952 LAT news item noted that Gina Kaus was to write the script. By Feb 1954, an LAEx^ news item announced that Jerry Wald, at that time an executive producer at Columbia, was preparing a story idea for the film and had hired Emmett Lavery, a Catholic, to write the script. In Apr 1954 a DV news item announced that Irving Shulman was to write the script and that Robert Cohn was to replace William Fadiman as producer.
       A Dec 1955 HR news item noted that all of the scripts for the film would be turned over to Gottfried Reinhardt to produce. Although a May 1956 HR news item stated that Reinhardt was in Los Angeles to confer with Cohn over the completed script, an Oct 1956 HR news item noted that Columbia had hired Andrew Solt to write the screenplay. According to information contained in the film’s file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, from Mar 1953-Sep 1954, Cohn entered into correspondence with Joseph Breen, head of the PCA, about how to portray Liszt’s controversial life. In those letters, Breen continually insisted that the idea of Liszt being “pure of heart” be deemphasized and stressed the need for proper technical advice in dealing with the film’s religious angles.
       A Jun 1959 LAT news item noted that Victor Aller, the film’s musical coordinator, spent three weeks tutoring Dirk Bogarde on how to look as if he were playing the piano. Although the article stated that Sidney Kaye was to play Wagner, the musician was played by Lyndon Brook. According to a May 1958 LAEx news item, pianist Van Cliburn, the young American who had recently won the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, was considered to play the Liszt score. A Mar 1959 DV news item noted that Song Without End marked the first time that the L.A. Philharmonic was used to orchestrate a film. Modern sources add Ray Foster and Leola Wendorff to the cast.
       An Aug 1959 HR news item noted that the film was shot in Vienna after the Soviet Union banned the producers from filming in Hungary, their location of choice. According to a May 1959 NYT news item, the court concert sequence was filmed at the Shonbrunn Palace in Vienna, the former summer residence of Emperor Franz Josef. The article noted that location shooting was also done at the Schloss Theatre and Esterhazy Castle in Vienna. Production material in the film’s production file at the AMPAS Library added that location shooting was also done at the Berndorf and Scala theaters in Vienna.
       ISong Without End marked the screen debut of Capucine and the American film debut of Dirk Bogarde. The film won an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Motion Picture. According to a Jan 1961 DV news item, Joy Burns, the heir to writer and musician Theodore Kolline, sued Columbia for plagiarism, claiming that in 1946, Kolline had submitted three scripts to the studio based on the life of Liszt, and charging that Song Without End was based on those scripts. In Jan 1966, a Var news item noted that the court ruled in favor of the studio. For other films about the life of Liszt, please See Entry for A Song to Remember .


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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Jun 1960.
---
Box Office
11 Jul 1960.
---
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1954.
---
Daily Variety
2 Mar 1959.
---
Daily Variety
22 Jun 60
p. 3.
Daily Variety
3 Jan 1961.
---
Film Daily
22 Jun 60
p. 6.
Filmfacts
2 Sep 1960
p. 187-189.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 1956.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 1956
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 1959
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1959
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 1959
p. 34.
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1959
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1959
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 1959
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Sep 1959
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 60
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
25 Feb 1954.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
1 Dec 1956.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
31 May 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Jun 1959.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
25 Jun 60
p. 748.
New York Times
31 May 1959.
---
New York Times
7 Aug 1960.
---
New York Times
12 Aug 60
p. 10.
Variety
29 Jun 1952.
---
Variety
22 Jun 60
p. 6.
Variety
19 Jan 1966.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A William Goetz Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus adpt
Piano soloist
Vocal ensemble
Mus consultant
Mus coord
Mus rec
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
European prod coord
Prod asst
Unit pub
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Liebestraum" by Franz Liszt
selections from Sonata in C Minor, Opus 12 ( Pathetique ) by Ludwig van Beethoven
Passacaglia and Fugue in C for Organ by Johann Sebastian Bach
+
MUSIC
"Liebestraum" by Franz Liszt
selections from Sonata in C Minor, Opus 12 ( Pathetique ) by Ludwig van Beethoven
Passacaglia and Fugue in C for Organ by Johann Sebastian Bach
chorus from Tannhaeuser by Richard Wagner
"Largo" by Frederick Handel
Selections from the music of Frédéric Chopin, Niccolo Paganini, Felix Mendelssohn, Giuseppe Verdi and Robert Schumann, including
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
A Magic Flame
The Franz Liszt Story
The Life of Franz Liszt
The Story of Franz Liszt
Crescendo
Release Date:
October 1960
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 August 1960
Los Angeles premiere: 29 September 1960
Production Date:
11 May--early July in Vienna
July in Germany
August---24 September 1959
Copyright Claimant:
Goetz-Vidor Pictures
Copyright Date:
1 September 1960
Copyright Number:
LP17293
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Eastman Color by Pathé
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
Photographic lenses by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
130, 142 or 145
Countries:
Austria, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19488
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Leaving behind Paris and the acclaim of the music world, eighteenth century piano virtuoso Franz Liszt settles in Switzerland with his mistress, Countess Marie D’Agoult, who abandoned her husband for the pianist. Although they have two children, Marie and Franz are at odds because Marie wants Franz to give up performing for composing, and Franz, who is torn between the glory of music and the glory of God, resents Marie’s opposition to their children being raised in the Catholic faith. One evening, Franz’s manager Potin and friends, Georges Sand and Frédéric Chopin, arrive and tell him that his fame has been usurped by the upstart pianist Thalberg. Overcome with professional jealousy, Franz instructs Potin to arrange a recital for him in Paris on the very night that Thalberg is performing. In Paris, as Franz triumphantly returns to the stage, Thalberg’s concert hall is nearly empty. Among the few patrons are Princess Carolyne Wittgenstein and her husband Prince Nicholas of Russia. Canceling the concert, Thalberg sends his meager audience to Franz’s recital, where Princess Carolyne is transfixed by his fiery performance. Princess Carolyne and Prince Nicholas go backstage to congratulate Franz, and when Carolyne mentions that they are on their way to Vienna for the opera season, Franz, smitten by the princess, rationalizes going to Vienna by offering to perform a charity concert there for the people of Hungary, his homeland. In Vienna, Franz greets his mother, a devout Catholic, and admits that he is torn between his desire for the cloistered life of the monastery and his thirst for acclaim. After Franz’s Vienna concert, Nicholas invites him to play for the court ... +


Leaving behind Paris and the acclaim of the music world, eighteenth century piano virtuoso Franz Liszt settles in Switzerland with his mistress, Countess Marie D’Agoult, who abandoned her husband for the pianist. Although they have two children, Marie and Franz are at odds because Marie wants Franz to give up performing for composing, and Franz, who is torn between the glory of music and the glory of God, resents Marie’s opposition to their children being raised in the Catholic faith. One evening, Franz’s manager Potin and friends, Georges Sand and Frédéric Chopin, arrive and tell him that his fame has been usurped by the upstart pianist Thalberg. Overcome with professional jealousy, Franz instructs Potin to arrange a recital for him in Paris on the very night that Thalberg is performing. In Paris, as Franz triumphantly returns to the stage, Thalberg’s concert hall is nearly empty. Among the few patrons are Princess Carolyne Wittgenstein and her husband Prince Nicholas of Russia. Canceling the concert, Thalberg sends his meager audience to Franz’s recital, where Princess Carolyne is transfixed by his fiery performance. Princess Carolyne and Prince Nicholas go backstage to congratulate Franz, and when Carolyne mentions that they are on their way to Vienna for the opera season, Franz, smitten by the princess, rationalizes going to Vienna by offering to perform a charity concert there for the people of Hungary, his homeland. In Vienna, Franz greets his mother, a devout Catholic, and admits that he is torn between his desire for the cloistered life of the monastery and his thirst for acclaim. After Franz’s Vienna concert, Nicholas invites him to play for the court in St. Petersburg and Franz follows Carolyne there. When the Czar disrupts Franz’s performance by coming in late and talking, the pianist storms out of the room, but Carolyne persuades him to return by asking him to play for her. Continuing on to Dresden to perform, Franz is displeased when Marie unexpectedly arrives. After Marie pleads with him to return to her, Franz explodes in fury and walks out. Proceeding to the opera house, Franz hears composer Richard Wagner rehearsing a score. Impressed, Franz asks to read the score, but Wagner, who had previously been rebuffed by Franz, upbraids the pianist for being “drunk with applause.” After Marie leaves him, Franz, tired of performing, instructs Potin to cancel the tour. To motivate Franz to continue, Potin reminds him that Carolyne is in Kiev. There an anonymous patron offers Franz money to play at the cathedral. Stating that he would never charge to play for God, Franz refuses the sum and performs for free. After his recital is over, Franz finds Carolyn at the altar praying, and she confides that she put up the fee. Mentioning that her husband is away, she asks him to come to her home and play for her. As they flirt and verbally joust, Franz admits that he has traveled all over Europe to play for her alone. When he kisses her, however, she demurs, saying that she believes in God and Liszt. Franz then invites her to his attend his recital in Odessa, where, after finishing his performance, he closes the piano and announces that his public career is over. Afterward, Nicholas, aware that Franz is romantically interested in Carolyne, insults the composer. Declaring that Carolyne is heaven’s instrument, Franz leaves, after which Carolyne informs her husband that she is going to ask the Czar for permission to divorce. Before departing, Carolyne persuades Franz to accept the position of Music Director of Weimar, a city under the jurisdiction of the Czar’s sister, the Grand Duchess. Although the Grand Duchess disapproves of Franz’s reputation as a womanizer, she agrees to pressure her brother to grant Carolyne a divorce. Soon after Franz arrives in Weimer, Marie comes to see him, and he informs her that he is going to marry Carolyne. Their conversation is interrupted when the Grand Duchess summons Franz to inform him that the Czar has refused the divorce. After she asks him to meet Carolyne in Vienna, Franz hurries there, even though the city is in the midst of a revolution. Franz takes Carolyne to Hungary to meet his mother, and is surprised to discover that Marie and the children are also there. When Franz steps outside the house to meet an adoring crowd, Marie warns Carolyne that he will never marry her because the audience is his true love. Upon returning to Weimar with Franz, Carolyne offers to turn over all her property to Nicholas in exchange for a divorce. Nicholas finally agrees, but when Franz and Carolyne go to the archbishop to arrange the wedding, the prelate refuses to conduct the ceremony and calls Franz a libertine. Determined to marry Franz, Carolyne decides to travel to Rome to petition the Pope for an annulment, and before leaving, asks Franz to compose a piece of music as her wedding gift. In her absence, Franz composes “Liebestraum,” and is rewarded by a letter from Carolyne stating that the Pope has annulled her marriage. Renouncing the stage and “vulgar exhibitionism,” Franz travels to Rome, where he publicly plays “Liebestraum” and several other pieces for the first time. On the eve of their wedding, the Russian ambassador requests an audience with the Pope to discuss the annulment. Soon after, the priest who was to marry them delivers a document overturning the annulment on the grounds that Carolyne lied that she was a minor when she married Nicholas. Resolute, Carolyne declares that she realizes they were never meant to wed, and that she was sent to Franz to lead him back to God. Now aware that they will never find happiness together, Franz enters the monastery to seek absolution. +

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

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