This 1947 curio, saluting and partly filmed at the New York City cultural landmark, begins with a shot of the building's exterior. Except that the "exterior" is a photograph with a dramatic yet distinctly ersatz night ... more »sky optically sutured above it. In short, Edgar G. Ulmer, the poet of Poverty Row, is up to his usual tricks--wresting dynamic imagery out of next-to-nothing, even if Carnegie Hall represents a comparatively upscale endeavor in his expressionist/minimalist career. The film boasts an epic running time of 136 minutes and about half an hour's worth of narrative. Silent-film actress Seena Owen is credited with the story, about an Irish immigrant (Marsha Hunt) whose mystical rapport with the Hall leads to her rise from cleaning woman to a kind of house-mother who helps musically talented kids go far. That's partly because her son (William Prince) has gone right out of her life, asserting a passion for "modern music" (i.e., Vaughn Monroe's dance band) over the classics to which she is devoted. The latter are exuberantly performed or conducted by the likes of Fritz Reiner, Leopold Stokowski, Risë Stevens, Ezio Pinza, and--most memorably--Artur Rubinstein and Jascha Heifetz, who rate the most extended and visually bravura treatment. It's easy to kid this as virtually a one-film glossary of camp. Yet its sincerity seems genuine, and Ulmer's resourcefulness at devising angles to exalt the bond between music and musician, performer and audience, is occasionally breathtaking. (Cinematographer and effects wizard Eugen Schüfftan was a key collaborator.) The black and white is lustrous in this digital transfer from the original 35mm nitrate negative. --Richard T. Jameson« less
"This text refers to the DVD release.
If you're looking for another Casablanca, look elsewhere. This film really focuses on the musicians who appear in it. It's a wonderful collection of live performances by some of the greatest performers during the peak of their careers in the US in the 40s. These people made many audio recordings, but comparatively hardly any film/TV or video recordings are available. So this is your chance to watch them in action.
For me the star of the film is of course Jascha Heifetz, seen here playing the first mvt - with cuts - of the Tchaikowsky concerto with Reiner conducting the NYPSO. Artur Rubinstein plays two short pieces. Also Walter, Stokowski, Rodzinski and Reiner conduct the NYPSO. It's very interesting to watch these conductors in action and the playing, precision and discipline of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra - the orch used throughout the film - is amazing. VAImusic in the US and Denon Japan have released some concert performances on VHS and DVD with Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, but I haven't come across much other video footage of any of these conductors. There are a host of other musicians as well - look at the DVD cover. Piatigorsky plays Saint-Saens "The Swan" in a strange arrangement of the piece in which he's accompanied by 8 harps. And one scene I like takes place in the NYPSO timpanist's apartment where Alexander Schneider leads a "play-through" of the Schumann piano quintet. Good fun are also the little walk-on parts Heifetz and co. get to do, although I prefer their playing of course*g*
The extras on this DVD are good - bios, track listings etc. And finally, the picture and sound quality are excellent; Kino must have found a good master reel to make this DVD version."
A Classical Music Cinderella Story
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Carnegie Hall is a movie of its era, an era when men and women in evening dress attended concerts performed by the likes of Rubenstein, Heifetz and Stokowski; an era in which classical music was "music", and playing Carnegie Hall the dream of every aspiring musician. During this era young Nora arrives from Ireland; she grows up in the hall, then takes a job as a cleaning woman, polishing and dusting to the beat of the baton of Walter Damrosch. In this position she garners the attentions of a headstrong young pianist who dares to defy convention, both in his personal view of music and of the simple, hardworking Nora. In due course they are wed (there is a charming scene in which the pianist courts Nora at the home of the Carnegie Hall timpanist and his comrades), and have a son. When Nora's pianist dies under rather shady circumstances, she pours her energies into the training of her son. Nora's Tony will become a great pianist, he will play Carnegie Hall: in this manner he will honor his father's memory. But there will be one thing more. Tony will become the sort of musician who plays only the finest of works and in the most proper manner. Nora will not tolerate any of those unconventional notions that became, in the end, the undoing of his dad. Nora singlemindedly pursues her dreams for her son, and as she does, rises through the ranks of Carnegie Hall echelon...in effect becoming Carnegie Hall itself; she is called as much by those who know her best, the great artists and the unsung toilers (Mr. Donovan played by Frank McHugh is Nora's most dedicated supporter) who make Carnegie Hall their own. It's only natural that in the training of Tony Nora should take him to concerts, and this is indeed fortunate. For within the musical segments are we treated to splendid, rare performances by the greatest names of the time: Lily Pons, Ezio Pinza, Jan Peerce, Gregor Piatigorsky, Bruno Walter, Artur Rodzinski, and more. Truly, the plot is secondary to the concert segments, (the movie is based on a story written by silent actress Seena Owen) yet it manages to remain intact enough its premise that we're never so overwhelmed by the music we're tempted to abandon it altogether. When the camera again returns to Nora (played fabulously by Marsha Hunt) and her iron fist in a velvet glove approach to child rearing, we are more than willing to suffer, dream, and hope along with her. And suffer Nora will, as Tony (William Prince) is doomed to follow the bent of his father and abandon Nora and Carnegie Hall in order to follow his heart. Yet, never fear. In the end, hearts are mended tidily and satisfactorily--at least to this viewer's satisfaction. After all, this is a movie of its era."
Great Music and Performances Overcome Bad Story and Acting
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bad story and acting are forgotten once you hear and see amazing performances of musical giants from the past. All performers are outstanding but Heifetz steals the show!"
The Music is Good
Peter J. Bashford | Gold Coast Australia | 09/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"You would not watch this for the plot or the acting; hammy is the word which springs to mind. But the live performances of conductors, musicians and singers now long dead are priceless and will be treasured by all thise who buy this DVD."
C. Stucker | 07/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Very nice! Great music! Story a little weak but he music sure does make up for it!"