This week’s mystery movie was the 1955 MGM picture “Interrupted Melody,” with Glenn Ford, Eleanor Parker, Roger Moore, Cecil Kellaway, Peter Leeds, Evelyn Ellis, Walter Baldwin, Ann Codee, Leopold Sachse, and Stephen Bekassy. Written by William Ludwig and Sonya Levien, based on “Interrupted Melody,” by Marjorie Lawrence.
Operatic recordings supervised and conducted by Walter Du Cloux, musical supervision by Saul Chaplin, operatic sequences staged by Vladimir Rosing. Photographed in Eastman Color, photographed by Joseph Ruttenberg and Paul C. Vogel, art direction by Cedric Gibbons and Daniel B. Cathcart. Color consultant Alvord Eiseman.
Dramatic music score adapted and conducted by Adolph Deutsch, recording supervisor Wesley C. Miller, set decorations by Edwin B. Willis and Jack D. Moore, special effects by Warren Newcombe, assistant director Ridgeway Callow.
Costumes designed by Helen Rose, edited by John Dunning, hairstyles by Sydney Guilaroff, makeup by William Tuttle, music adviser Harold Gelman.
Produced by Jack Cummings. Directed by Curtis Bernhardt.
“Interrupted Melody” is available on DVD from Warner Archive (which is currently on hiatus because of COVID-19).
Note: Please leave a comment or email me if you would be interested in Zoom sessions of the Brain Trust to discuss mystery movies or other aspects of film. Zoom is quite simple and with a few precautions on the part of the host (which would be me) seems to have adequate security.
I chose “Interrupted Melody” based on this review in Motion Picture Daily (March 28, 1955):
This film is emotionally thrilling, mature entertainment for everyone. The audience attending its preview showing at Warner’s Beverly Theatre gave resounding evidence of its approval for the dramatic, musical life story of opera star Marjorie Lawrence.
It will prove a memorable milestone in the career of Eleanor Parker. Her impersonation of Miss Lawrence singing in no less than 14 difficult scenes is an amazing achievement. Her beauty and charm are wholesome. Her personality sparkles with the kind of vitality that personifies a singer’s ambition; and her skill in depicting the problem which interrupted the operatic star’s career is an absorbing study of human emotions.
I generally hate operatic selections in films. Think of Kitty Carlisle’s serious scenes in “A Night at the Opera” and you see what I mean. But I found “Interrupted Melody” quite enjoyable, in fact some of the best operatic excerpts I have seen (although they cover a lot of repertoire).
The opera staging by Vladimir Rosing is excellent. I don’t think I have ever encountered the name (I interviewed Walter De Cloux many years later, but that’s a story for another time).
Rosing was a Russian-born opera tenor who joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music and headed the training of opera singers in the 1920s. He became producing director of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in 1936. He was later director of the New York City Opera and staged “Turandot” and “The Ballad of Baby Doe.”
Rosing, who died in Los Angeles in 1963 at the age of 73, also directed pageants in Southern California, and worked in film and television.
According to Farrell’s autobiography, Lawrence was getting on in years at the time of the records and her voice “wasn’t quite there anymore.” Farrell writes that Lawrence was furious that her recordings wouldn’t be used. Farrell also noted that Lawrence had never sang some of the music that MGM sent her for the film. “But this was Hollywood,” she said, speaking for millions. Farrell says that Parker worked unusually hard at syncing her voice to the playback recording. She was so driven to perfection that engineers put a beep on the recordings every time she was supposed to take a breath.
The film was in the planning stages as early as 1951, with Lana Turner in the title role and Lawrence dubbing her singing. In 1952, Turner was replaced by Greer Garson, who was Lawrence’s preference for the role, according to the New York Times.
By 1954, Eleanor Parker was cast as Lawrence. Kathryn Grayson and Deborah Kerr had also been considered for the role, but they and Garson had “parted company” with MGM, according to the New York Times. Parker made the film after “Many Rivers to Cross,” and was nominated for an Academy Award as best actress. The script received an Academy Award for best writing, and Helen Rose was nominated for an award for costumes.
Writing in the New York Times (May 6, 1955) Bosley Crowther said:
With the subject of poliomyelitis very much in the news these days and with the public thus extra-mindful of the prevalence and the terrors of the disease, the Music Hall has a timely picture, as well as a tender and moving one, in MGM’s “Interrupted Melody.” It opened there yesterday.
For this beautifully made color picture, which is part opera-film, part romance and part inspirational drama, is based on the life of Marjorie Lawrence, the Australian-born opera singer who suffered and overcame polio. And in telling her extraordinary story with candor, simplicity and taste, the studio has got a stirring drama, plus a handsome and melodious one.
For Monday, we have a dapper mystery gent in a wing collar. He is baffled by such goings-on. And on this mystery movie, Bosley Crowther gives his stamp of approval, as did the trades.
Update: This is Alex Frazer.
For Tuesday, we have a pair of mystery women. The pianist – wait for it – does not approve of such goings-on.
Update: This is Eileen Farrell, left, and Ann Codee. Ernestine Schumann-Heink (or “Human Shank,” as my great-uncle used to say), approves of such goings-on.
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have this mysterious couple.
Update: This is Eleanor Parker as a fabulous Carmen. With William Olvis as the unfortunate Don Jose.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery guests), Gary (mystery movie and mystery star), Mary Mallory (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery guest and Tuesday’s mystery guests, plus portrait of mystery singer).
For “Aha Thursday,” we have two somewhat, possibly familiar faces flanking our leading lady, who has been obscured because she, alas, has insufficient mysteriousness.
Update: In the uncropped image, Cecil Kellaway grudgingly gives his approval to the Marjorie’s (Eleanor Parker) goings-on in the operatic world. Also Roger Moore.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Wednesday’s mystery opera singers), Thom and Megan (mystery movie and all mystery guests) and Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery opera singers).
Note to Thom and Megan: Just a coincidence, but a good thought.
And for Friday, we have three guests with varying degrees of mysteriousness.
Update: Evelyn Ellis, Glenn Ford and Roger Moore.
And finally, our mystery leading lady out of her Carmen makeup. Also our leading man.
Update: Eleanor Parker and Glenn Ford.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery guests and missing mystery leading lady), Sylvia E. (mystery movie, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests and missing mystery leading lady), Floyd Thursby (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), Jenny M. (mystery movie and mystery Maverick brother), Benito (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery guests and missing mystery leading lady) and Roget-L.A. (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guests).
Question: Since so many people are using Zoom these days, would there be any interest in a Zoom session of the Brain Trust? If so, leave a comment or email me.