Republic Pictures Blogathon, it was a great coincidence that UCLA featured a Republic Pictures double bill last night!
The evening marked the conclusion of UCLA's series celebrating director Frank Borzage. Although an unusually busy summer meant I couldn't attend as many Borzage screenings as I would have liked, I did have a couple special experiences watching two of his films for the very first time: LUCKY STAR (1929) in July and I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU (1946) last night.
I'VE ALWAYS LOVED you was teamed with MOONRISE (1948), starring Dane Clark and Gail Russell, which I first saw at UCLA two years ago; my thoughts on MOONRISE may be found here. Both films were shown in 35mm.
I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU was an unusual and memorable film which I enjoyed very much. It was different from the very first frames, as it didn't use the usual Republic Pictures logo with an eagle, but announced the studio name alongside a more delicate floral logo. The movie was shot in beautiful Technicolor pastels by Tony Gaudio.
The story concerns Maestro Leopold Goronoff (Philip Dorn), a great pianist who takes on a protege, Myra Hassman (McLeod), the daughter of his old friend (Bressart). Goronoff is immature at best and an unbalanced, chauvinistic egomaniac at worst, yet Myra develops an attraction to him. They have a rather unhealthy codependent relationship, with Myra serving as his enabler, breaking off love affairs for the noncommittal Goronoff when the ladies get too serious.
Eventually Myra makes her debut playing at Carnegie Hall, with the Maestro conducting the orchestra. Goronoff's ego is such that when he realizes the extent of Myra's talent, a musical battle ensues, with the orchestra threatening to drown out the piano. After the concert Goronoff orders his adoring pupil out of his life; she had a longer relationship with him than most women, but she finds herself kicked to the proverbial curb just like every other woman he's known. The only woman Goronoff really has time for on a permanent basis is his mother (Maria Ouspenskaya).
When Georgette is scheduled to make her own debut at Carnegie Hall, Goronoff and Myra are unexpectedly reunited in a duet for the first time since Myra's debut, and Myra finally has the insight to recognize clearly where both Goronoff and George stand in her life.
The above summary really doesn't do the plot justice, as so much of the film is conveyed in the musical sequences; indeed, I wonder if any movie has as many minutes of piano music as this one does! (Republic paid Arthur Rubenstein a hefty sum to record the score.) For instance, when Goronoff is courting a gorgeous South American woman (Adele Mara), jealous Myra interrupts his romance by distracting him with her passionate piano playing. The music takes the place of physical romance, with the more tempestuous musical passages also conveying that Myra's fixation on Goronoff isn't healthy. At the same time, their shared love of music provides the two with an almost otherworldly connection, across hundreds of miles.
I was completely absorbed for the movie's 117 minutes. I was entranced by the movie's look and the sumptuous music, and I particularly thought McLeod was pitch perfect (sorry) as Myra. I suspect she spent a great deal of time learning to mimic playing piano passably, as the movie does a good job actually showing her playing, rather than relying constantly on closeups of hands or just showing her head.
Like so many actresses, I first knew McLeod from watching reruns of MAVERICK as a teenager; she was in an unusually tragic episode, "Rage for Vengeance." Just before making I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU she worked at MGM, playing one of THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946) and having a nice part in COURAGE OF LASSIE (1946). Much of McLeod's career was spent acting for TV, but I have also reviewed her films SO YOUNG SO BAD (1950) and A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER (1953); and this weekend Blake Lucas wrote a wonderful review of her in THE FABULOUS TEXAN (1947) for the Republic Pictures Blogathon.
I found Dorn dull in earlier MGM films such as ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941) and CALLING DR. GILLESPIE (1942), but he's just right here; the coldness I perceived in earlier films works for this character, and he runs with it and is fearless about playing someone who is a selfish and unpleasant man. He gets away with it because he's a musical genius, but how many times did I wish a character would say, "You know, you really can't behave that way!" It is Myra, in a sense, who says that musically in her debut, refusing to let him drown out her talent.
Carter is well cast as the good-natured farm boy who loves Myra enough not to fear her music or her connection to Goronoff, and to encourage her to pick up the pieces of her musical career even if it means he'll be left holding the short end of the stick.
The boy who auditions for Goronoff in the first scene looked vaguely familiar; I later realized I'd been watching the teenaged Andre Previn! The supporting cast also includes Elizabeth Patterson, Fritz Feld, Cora Witherspoon, and Stephanie Bachelor.
The screenplay was by Borden Chase, a name more frequently connected with Westerns; it was based on his own magazine story, "Concerto."
The farm, incidentally, was a set built on the Rowland V. Lee Ranch in Canoga Park. A number of other films were shot at the ranch.
For more on this film, R. Emmett Sweeney wrote an excellent appreciation of it last summer for TCM's Movie Morlocks site. The piece also includes background on the making of the film.
I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.