Great Music, Not Much of a Plot Though
teva_man | United States | 05/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Edgar Ulmer was the king of B-movie directors, and this one was definitely one of his best. The story, for those who don't know it, is about a lady named Nora (played by the brilliant and versatile Marsha Hunt) and her son Tony. Tony's father dies when he's an infant and Nora raises Tony to be a distinguished pianist. Tony chooses another musical path - that of more popular music, much to Nora's disdain. Nora, meanwhile, has developed a society at Carnegie Hall for promising young musicians to study classical music. Tony goes on the road but comes back to Carnegie Hall for a concert, and wins back his mother's approval. Marsha Hunt is my colleague - and at the time I'm writing this, she's 90 years old and still going very strong. She agrees that the story was quite corny but the music made it all worthwhile. She shared a brief scene with Heifetz, and she said that Heifetz was terribly nervous about the whole thing...except for when he was playing, of course. She also said that Heifetz played solos for her during the rehearsal time. This was not Heifetz's acting debut, though - he had a similar part in "They Shall Have Music" 10 years earlier. Still, for all of us "J.H." connoisseurs who know the man and his art and philosophy, seeing him acting in a film is a REAL treat.
The music is the blood of the film - the story is pretty secondary. Very cool to see Damrosch, Reiner, and Stokowski, AND the famed New York critic Olin Downes. One curiosity is the camera zooming in on various billboards for the Carnegie Hall concerts - there's a billboard there for Kreisler. Too bad that Kreisler was not part of the film, but by 1947, he wasn't performing much anymore and eventually he lost interest in violin playing.
An aside - this film didn't do well. Good though the music was, and pleasant though the story was, "Carnegie Hall" became a nightmare. It did far less well at the box office than was expected. But there were many other problems Heifetz, for one, received $10,000 for his appearance in the film and although he was not given first billing in the credits, he was included as one of the film's shareholders. Meaning, that if the film did well, he'd receive royalties for the rest of his life. The cost of production was around $250,000 (peanuts, even in those days.) The production company, Federal Films, Inc. didn't come close to breaking even and the budget was entirely of borrowed money, which the bank sued them to repay, despite the box office failure. As a result, all of those who had a share in the film were hounded by the bank. Ultimately, the money was not paid back in full; the bank sued and became the new owners of the film. Despite this, it is rather fitting that, over 60 years later, the magic of Carnegie is still very much there, and the music in this film attests to the greatness of "The Hall".
This DVD - well, the transfer isn't great. Obviously the original print was not restored. The liner notes from the Bel Canto Society (which evidently restored the film to include all of the music that was originally filmed, because many versions cut out large chunks), so that's reason enough to buy this particular DVD."
This is the complete version
Christopher Bonds | 02/09/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film features a host of historic singers and instrumentalists in performance in Carnegie Hall, held together by a reasonably flimsy plot about a young pianist whose well-meaning but somewhat domineering mother tries to talk him out of pursuing a career in popular music. See it for the incomparable artistry of Heifetz, Rubinstein, Piatigorsky, Jan Peerce, Ezio Pinza, Stokowski, Reiner, Bruno Walter (who turns in a stunning performance of Wagner's Meistersinger Prelude), and others. While this is the complete version (includes the Rachmaninoff Vocalise sung by Lily Pons, who also sings the Bell Song from Lakme), the picture quality and sound are inferior to the release by Kino Video, which can also be purchased on Amazon.com.Carnegie Hall"
Joel Alan Fox | 04/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First off, there are a couple versions of this DVD. The producers of this version made a special effort to gather all of the material that was recorded for the original movie. No other version has all of this material. I have not listened to both versions, but I would expect the sound quality on this one to be at least as high.
Now the movie itself: I bought this DVD only to watch the many phenomenal musicians listed. Indeed, there are many incredible performances on this DVD which can not be found anywhere else. And that makes this DVD invaluable. What surprised me though, was that I actually enjoyed the movie (The structure is that of a drama in which the main characters go to Carnegie Hall frequently to watch the performances) as well. Certainly the performances are the highlight of the DVD, but don't automatically expect that you'll be fast-forwarding through this to get to them.
In summary: You will not regret this purchase :)"