Tuesday, March 22, 2016


An undoubtedly heavily fictionalized version of the lives of composer Robert Schumann and his wife Clara—though all I know about the two of them I know from this film. We begin in 1839 as young concert pianist Clara Wieck (Katherine Hepburn), playing for the King of Saxony with Franz Liszt in the audience, chooses a song by the unknown Schumann (Paul Henreid) for her encore. Her father is incensed because he knows Schumann wants to marry Clara against his wishes. Clara goes to court to get free of her father, and when Liszt testifies that Schumann has real talent, the court finds in her favor and they marry. Ten years and seven children later, the young Johannes Brahms (Robert Walker) arrives to take lessons from Robert, who has not lived up to his promise. It happens to be New Year's Eve and when the Schumann's maid quits, Brahms sticks around to help them throw their party. Brahms moves in, helps with the children, and even sweet talks the maid into returning—and he falls in love, chastely, with Clara. But soon Schumann becomes ill with severe headaches and the ringing of sharp, dissonant tones in his ears, and Clara goes back to the concert stage to make money. Eventually, when the opera he has been working on for years is rejected, Schumann is institutionalized. A sad ending is in store for all, though after his death, Clara works tirelessly to expose her husband's music to the world. As MGM biopics of the era go, this one is fine, largely due to the production values and the acting of Hepburn and Walker (pictured above). Henried is OK but I've never found him to be an exciting or inspiring actor. Henry Daniell is fine as Liszt (though nothing like the other movie Liszt I know, Roger Daltry in LISZTOMANIA). The music, by Schumann and Brahms, is lovely. Fans of the high classical biopic style of the 40s will like this. [TCM]

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