Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ah, Fiction - Stranger than Truth

Saw a movie the other day , titled "A Song to Remember".
Supposedly a portrayal of the composer Chopin.
I was rather bemused as this movie unfolded:
First of all; the actor taking the part of Chopin, Cornel Wilde, had the build of the quarterback on the New England Patriots. In actuality, Chopin, even dripping wet, weighed in at about 150 pounds. When Wilde coughed up blood onto the keyboard during a performance(Chopin was tubercular) , he remained a virtual Adonis.
Secondly, his lover, George Sand(she actually was Chopin's lover), was portrayed in the movie by Merle Oberon, one of the most beautiful actresses of that period(1945). I must give you a description of George Sand by Franz Liszt, one of the great musicians of the 19th century. He mentioned her trousers, which she would wear much of the time, as opposed to the glorious gowns that Oberon was attired in during the movie; the cigar in her mouth, and the faint but visible down on her upper lip.
As for Elsner, Chopin's teacher; well, the hubris and histrionic pose that the actor Paul Muni combined to portray Elsner, who was a diffident, quiet and gentle soul in reality - this film prompted me to begin talking back to the screen.
I was assuaged, however, as I found that the magnificent piano music was played for the film by the great Spanish pianist Jose Iturbi, with whom I had a few lessons in my young years.
That made my experience with this film worthwhile, after all.
The cost was high, but worth it.

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