Song of Russia (1944)

106-107 mins | Drama | February 1944

Director:

Gregory Ratoff

Producer:

Joe Pasternak

Cinematographer:

Harry Stradling

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Russia and Scorched Earth , the latter of which also was the title of Guy Endore, Victor Trivas and Leo Mittler's screen story. Actor Konstantin Shayne's name is misspelled "Konstantine" in the onscreen credits. M-G-M reportedly canvassed radio stations and concert halls to determine which Tchaikovsky (spelled "Tschaikowsky" in the credits) works were the most popular. Excerpts from works by "modern Russian composers," as they are listed in the onscreen credits, are also heard, including "La Grand Paque Russe" by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. A Russian version of the popular song "The Music Goes Round and Round" is performed in part in the film. Although HR announced that Ralina Zarova, who is listed in the CBCS as a gypsy fortune-teller, was to sing a "number of Soviet melodies" in the picture, she did not perform any songs.
       M-G-M publicity material and HR news items add the following information about the production: Prior to the involvement of credited writers Paul Jarrico and Richard Collins, Ann Louise Strong, David Hertz, Guy Trosper and Michael Blankfort worked on the film's screenplay; their contributions to the completed film, if any, have not been confirmed. Many actresses were considered for the role of "Nadya," including Kathryn Grayson, Hedy Lamarr, Barbara Pearson, Signe Hasso and Donna Reed. In Nov 1942, HR reported that Greta Garbo was "a cinch" to star. Walter Pidgeon was first announced as the male lead, and Margaret O'Brien was originally cast as "Stesha." In Jul 1942, HR announced that producer Joe Pasternak was negotiating with Arturo Toscanini ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Russia and Scorched Earth , the latter of which also was the title of Guy Endore, Victor Trivas and Leo Mittler's screen story. Actor Konstantin Shayne's name is misspelled "Konstantine" in the onscreen credits. M-G-M reportedly canvassed radio stations and concert halls to determine which Tchaikovsky (spelled "Tschaikowsky" in the credits) works were the most popular. Excerpts from works by "modern Russian composers," as they are listed in the onscreen credits, are also heard, including "La Grand Paque Russe" by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. A Russian version of the popular song "The Music Goes Round and Round" is performed in part in the film. Although HR announced that Ralina Zarova, who is listed in the CBCS as a gypsy fortune-teller, was to sing a "number of Soviet melodies" in the picture, she did not perform any songs.
       M-G-M publicity material and HR news items add the following information about the production: Prior to the involvement of credited writers Paul Jarrico and Richard Collins, Ann Louise Strong, David Hertz, Guy Trosper and Michael Blankfort worked on the film's screenplay; their contributions to the completed film, if any, have not been confirmed. Many actresses were considered for the role of "Nadya," including Kathryn Grayson, Hedy Lamarr, Barbara Pearson, Signe Hasso and Donna Reed. In Nov 1942, HR reported that Greta Garbo was "a cinch" to star. Walter Pidgeon was first announced as the male lead, and Margaret O'Brien was originally cast as "Stesha." In Jul 1942, HR announced that producer Joe Pasternak was negotiating with Arturo Toscanini to conduct Dmitri Shostakovitch's Seventh Symphony in the film.
       Although Keenan Wynn was announced as a cast member, he was not seen in the viewed print. Director Gregory Ratoff was reportedly training with Eddie Norton to play a bit role as a fighter and was also to dance a "gezotski" in the film, but his onscreen appearance has not been confirmed. Helen Wey tested for a part in Dec 1942, Elliott Sullivan tested for the role of "Gen. Philip Golikov" in Feb 1943, and Jean Rogers tested for a "featured part" in Mar 1943, but it has not been determined whether any of these actors appeared in the final film. Vladimir Sokoloff replaced Morris Ankrum in the role of "Meschkov" in Apr 1943. Natalie Nikitin, who plays the mayor's wife in the film, was a well-known Russian soprano. Although a HR news item announced that the Trianon Trio, former vaudevillians, were to revive their "old act for the camera," their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Michael Chekov and conductor Albert Coates, who appears with the Moscow Conservatory Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, made their screen debuts in the picture. Pianist Ignace Hilsberg recorded music for the film, but it is not known if his performance is heard in the completed film. The following actors were announced as cast members: Margarita de Guirola, Anna Gogol, Harry Hayden, Isabel Randolph, Billy Roy, Gonzales Moniz, Helena Benda, Naomi Scher, Circe Graham and John Bleifer. The participation of these actors in the completed film has not been confirmed, however.
       In late Mar 1943, Marvin Stuart replaced Roland Asher as assistant director when Asher left to join the RAF. Although a snow battle sequence was filmed in the Sierra Mountains in late Mar 1943, no winter-time scenes were included in the final film. Ratoff reportedly designed white military suits for the scene, and ski experts Eric Lundquist and Nils Larsen were hired to portray skiing Polish soldiers. The crop burning scenes were filmed next to the Rancho Park golf course near Cheviot Hills in Los Angeles. Carmel, CA, was scouted as a possible location in Dec 1942, but it is not known if any scenes were actually shot there. On 29 Jun 1943, Ratoff collapsed on the set and Laslo Benedek took over direction for the remainder of principal photography. It is not known who directed the Sep 1943 retakes. George Boemler was initially listed as the film's editor in HR news items and production charts, but apparently was replaced by credited editor George Hively.
       HR news items noted that M-G-M rushed to begin production on the film, fearing competition from other studios that were preparing their own "Russian" World War II stories, perhaps in response to the OWI's "United Nations" or "Brothers in Arms" film campaign. According to HR , the Soviet government, while anxious to support the production of Russian-themed pictures in Hollywood, pressured the studios to strive for authenticity and accuracy in their depiction of Soviet life. The government also threatened to withhold stock footage, backgrounds and research material in the event of any "White or Anti-Soviet Russian" involvement. In Oct 1942, Ratoff met with the Soviet ambassador in Washington, D.C. to discuss the project. Subsequently, the Russian embassy contributed official Red Army newsreels and Soviet documentaries for use in the film. In late May 1943, in response to complaints from "Washington" that the story was too pro-Stalinist, production shut down for two weeks while the script was overhauled. Writer Boris Ingster was reportedly doing a "polish" job on the film at that time.
       Although United Artists released its "Russian" picture, Three Russian Girls , in Jan 1944, M-G-M touted Song of Russia as the first "A" picture to dramatize the German invasion of Russia. Noting that "this is one of the first criticisms of an American picture ever to come out of Russia," MPH reprinted a Nov 1944 critique of the picture by Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian. While Khachaturian described the film as "an amazingly daring and praiseworthy piece of work" and applauded Taylor's and Susan Peter's realistic performances, he criticized the "scenes of the tractor ploughing where...both the director and the actress forgot that driving a tractor is hard work." He also questioned some of the music track editing and the absence of modern Russian songs in the score.
       Song of Russia was Robert Taylor's last film before entering the Navy. His next screen appearance was in the 1946 M-G-M picture Undercurrent . On 14 May 1947, three years after the film's release, Taylor appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee as a "friendly witness" and testified that in 1943, an official from the War Production Board came to Los Angeles and, during a meeting with Taylor and M-G-M head Louis B. Mayer, threatened to thwart Taylor's navy commission unless he played in Song of Russia . Although the War Production Board initially denied any involvement in the matter, the above-mentioned official was later identified as Lowell Mellett, the head of the motion picture division of the OWI. Taylor considered the film to be, in his words, "distastefully Communistic" and described it to HUAC as "favoring Russian ideologies, institutions and ways of life over the same things" in America. Mayer, a noted conservative, responded in print to Taylor's testimony by pointing out that the "picture contains no Russian ideology" and that while "it is true, of course, that Russia was our ally in 1943, and that our government was very friendly to the Soviets" that was "not why Song of Russia was made." More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
8 Jan 1944.
---
Daily Variety
29 Dec 43
p. 3.
Film Daily
29 Dec 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Apr 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 42
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 42
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 42
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 42
p. 2, 6
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 43
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 43
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 43
p. 8, 11
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 43
p. 6, 9
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 43
p. 36.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 43
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 43
p. 4, 6
Hollywood Reporter
15 Mar 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Apr 43
p. 1, 4
Hollywood Reporter
12 Apr 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 43
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 43
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 43
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1943.
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 1943.
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 1943.
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1943.
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 1943.
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1944.
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1947.
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 1947.
p. 17.
Motion Picture Herald
1 Jan 1944.
---
Motion Picture Herald
18 Nov 1944.
p. 36.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Jul 1943.
p. 1416.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
1 Jan 1944.
p. 1693.
New York Times
11 Feb 1944.
p. 17.
Variety
29 Dec 1943.
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Peter Meremblum's California Junior Symphony Orchestra
Adia Kuznetzoff
Gene Stutenroth
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Fill-in and retake dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men's cost
MUSIC
[Mus] adpt for the scr by
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Mont seq
Mont seq
DANCE
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
SOURCES
MUSIC
Excerpts from Piano Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 5, Symphony No. 6, Swan Lake , The Nutcracker Suite , The Sleeping Beauty , Overture to Romeo and Juliet , "Sweet Reverie" from Children's Album , "June" from The Seasons , "Humoresque," "Song of Reapers" from Eugene Onegin , "Francesca da Rimini" and other selections by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
excerpts from "La Grand Paque Russe" by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov
and other selections.
SONGS
"And Russia Is Her Name," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Scorched Earth
Russia
Release Date:
February 1944
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 10 February 1944
Los Angeles opening: 17 February 1944
Production Date:
11 March--late May 1943
11 June--mid July 1943
addl scenes and retakes late September 1943, late October 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 January 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12520
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
106-107
Length(in feet):
9,606
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9484
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

During a broadcast of an all-Russian music concert, Manhattan Philharmonic Orchestra conductor John Meredith addresses the audience and describes his last tour of Russia: In 1941, shortly after his arrival in Moscow, where he is to begin an extended tour, John meets amateur pianist Nadejka Ivanovna Stepanova. Nadya asks John to visit her village, Tschaikowskoye, during their annual musical festival, which is to be held in a few months. Impressed by Nadya's talent and beauty, John agrees to consider the request, then invites her to dinner. While dining in a traditional Russian restaurant, John accepts Nadya's invitation and suggests that they explore Moscow together. After four days of romantic sightseeing, John, who has dreamed of coming to Russia since he was fourteen, confesses his love to Nadya. The more practical Nadya, however, is unsure of her feelings and describes their relationship as unrealistic and sentimental. John tries to convince Nadya that they can overcome their cultural differences, but she leaves Moscow abruptly and returns to Tschaikowskoye. Determined to win Nadya, John follows her there and, after receiving an affectionate welcome from her father and the rest of the music-loving villagers, proposes to her. Although Nadya admits her love for John, she hesitates to accept his proposal, claiming that she has too many responsibilities to her family and country to become his wife. Finally, however, Nadya relents, and she and John enjoy a lavish, traditional wedding in Tschaikowskoye. Soon after, John resumes his tour, and is a huge success across Russia. When Nadya, who has always worked in the fields of her father's farm as well as at the piano, ... +


During a broadcast of an all-Russian music concert, Manhattan Philharmonic Orchestra conductor John Meredith addresses the audience and describes his last tour of Russia: In 1941, shortly after his arrival in Moscow, where he is to begin an extended tour, John meets amateur pianist Nadejka Ivanovna Stepanova. Nadya asks John to visit her village, Tschaikowskoye, during their annual musical festival, which is to be held in a few months. Impressed by Nadya's talent and beauty, John agrees to consider the request, then invites her to dinner. While dining in a traditional Russian restaurant, John accepts Nadya's invitation and suggests that they explore Moscow together. After four days of romantic sightseeing, John, who has dreamed of coming to Russia since he was fourteen, confesses his love to Nadya. The more practical Nadya, however, is unsure of her feelings and describes their relationship as unrealistic and sentimental. John tries to convince Nadya that they can overcome their cultural differences, but she leaves Moscow abruptly and returns to Tschaikowskoye. Determined to win Nadya, John follows her there and, after receiving an affectionate welcome from her father and the rest of the music-loving villagers, proposes to her. Although Nadya admits her love for John, she hesitates to accept his proposal, claiming that she has too many responsibilities to her family and country to become his wife. Finally, however, Nadya relents, and she and John enjoy a lavish, traditional wedding in Tschaikowskoye. Soon after, John resumes his tour, and is a huge success across Russia. When Nadya, who has always worked in the fields of her father's farm as well as at the piano, asks John about her future life in America, he insists that she concentrate on her music. He then suggests that she begin her career by performing with him at his next concert, which is to be broadcast throughout Russia. Though nervous, Nadya plays her Tchaikovsky concerto flawlessly, thrilling her hometown audience. During her performance, however, the Nazis invade Russia, and within moments, the country is plunged into war. Later, in Tschaikowskoye, as Nadya is instructing the local children on the use of Malatov cocktails, her brother-in-law, Boris Bulganov, informs her that the festival has been canceled and the region has been put under martial law. He also tells her that John will not be allowed to enter the region, but when Nadya later calls John, she cannot break the news to him. John soon learns about the situation, after one of his concerts is interrupted by a German bombing raid. John determines to reunite with Nadya, and with help from Hank Higgins, his publicity agent, he secures a pass to a town near Tschaikowskoye. On the way, John's train is bombed, and he and the other survivors seek refuge in the surrounding countryside. Aided by a sympathetic commandant, John reaches Tschaikowskoye, but discovers that it has been destroyed by German bombs. John scours the ruined village in search of Nadya and finally locates her in the fields, where she, Boris and other villagers have gone to set the crops on fire. After they rush into each other's arms, John vows never to leave Nadya again. Moments later, however, Nadya's young nephew Peter, an aspiring conductor, is killed by a German plane, and moved by his loss, John pledges to fight alongside the Russians. Boris convinces John and Nadya that their place is in America, where they can spread the word about Russia's plight. Back in New York, John concludes his remarks and proudly introduces Nadya to America. +

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

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