Prof. Joseph Elsner guides his protégé Frydryk Chopin through his formative years to early adulthood in Poland. At a recital in a duke’s home Chopin insults the new Russian-installed governor, and must flee the country. The professor takes him to Paris, where he eventually comes under the wing and influence of novelist George Sand and rises to prominence in the music world, to the exclusion of his old friends and patriotic feelings towards Poland.
Ron Kerrigan <[email protected]>
User Reviews: Although this film, as many a musical bio before and after it, twists and breaks historical fact -e.g. Professor Elsner (Paul Muni) portrayed as a father-figure in Chopin’s life never went to Paris with his pupil nor was he rejected as the film implies the story does manage to capture the spirit of the age. Cornel Wilde with his boyish good lucks is well cast as the tormented young Polish composer who died at thirty-nine, and there are two exceptionally strong performances: Merle Oberon has a wonderful moment or two with Muni as she displays a thoroughly convincing steely edge as Chopin’s lover and surrogate mother; and the old maestro himself, Muni, is simply superb in the old-fashioned scenery-chewing manner of a great film star who knows exactly how to steal every scene he is in, and does. The film was directed by long-time Columbia Pictures staffer, the Hungarian-born Charles Vidor ("Gilda") who managed to surround himself with a number of other expatriates from the homeland –story by Ernst Marischka; Cornel Wilde as Chopin and Stephen Bekassy as Lizst; and lush musical arrangements by Miklos Rozsa and Eugene Zador. Vidor’s professionalism here is greatly aided by the unusually tasteful, rarely garish Technicolor cinematography by Italian-born Tony Gaudio, famous for his gritty black-and-white photography at Warner Bros. Here Gaudio has a chance to show what wonders he could do with the more elegant settings the usually tight-fisted Harry Cohn constructed on the Gower Street lot.