Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Deep in My Heart (1954) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

DEEP IN MY HEART (1954), MGM's musical biopic of composer Sigmund Romberg, was recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

Although over the years I've seen excerpts, DEEP IN MY HEART was one of a small number of MGM musicals still on my "to watch" list. I was glad to finally catch up with it; I found it flawed but enjoyable, with some excellent sequences and one number which is so good it makes the film a "must see" for those who love musicals.

DEEP IN MY HEART starts brilliantly, with the MGM studio orchestra playing music by composer Romberg, and eventually the camera swings around to reveal the composer himself conducting, as played by Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer.

The film for the most part tells the story of Romberg's career briskly, with his various colleagues played by winning screen personalities including Merle Oberon, Walter Pidgeon, Paul Henreid, Paul Stewart, Jim Backus, and Douglas Fowley. The swift depiction of Romberg's rise to success leaves plenty of room for a variety of MGM's greatest musical stars to perform the music from his shows.

The film does hit a lull midway through, as Romberg romances Lillian Harris (stiffly played by Doe Avedon). These scenes at a resort bring the movie to almost a screeching halt and could have been pared way down, reducing the film's 132 minutes to a more manageable length.

Otherwise director Stanley Donen keeps things moving along nicely, focusing on the performances of Romberg's music.

The timing for me to see this film was perfect, as I just watched NEW MOON (1940) a few days ago. Tony Martin and Joan Weldon perform NEW MOON's "Lover, Come Back to Me." Unfortunately the NEW MOON sequence was pared down; originally it was also to have had Weldon singing "One Kiss," but happily that's included as an audio outtake. That same year, incidentally, the multitalented Weldon starred in the sci-fi classic THEM! (1954).

Other highlights include Jane Powell and Vic Damone singing music from MAYTIME; Gene Kelly and his brother Fred dancing together, a real treat; Ferrer singing and dancing with his real-life wife Rosemary Clooney to "Mr. and Mrs."; Ann Miller dancing to "It"; and Howard Keel singing "Your Land and My Land."

The highlight of the film and the sequence which demands to be seen -- and then seen again -- is Cyd Charisse and James Mitchell performing "One Alone" from THE DESERT SONG. Charisse initially sings the song, dubbed by Carol Richards; Richards, a great vocal match for the dancer, also sang for Charisse in BRIGADOON (1954), IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER (1955), and SILK STOCKINGS (1957).

Charisse and Mitchell then perform one of the most jaw-droppingly sensual dances ever put on film. They may have been fully clothed but...! The Eugene Loring choreography and the dancing by these two greats is simply stunning, a true masterpiece. Kudos also to Helen Rose, who designed Charisse's white gown.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray  of DEEP IN MY HEART is an outstanding print which anyone who loves musicals would be thrilled to have in their collection. The Eastmancolor cinematography was by George Folsey.

The Blu-ray includes all the extras from the movie's previous DVD release, including the trailer, the short THE STRAUSS FANTASY, a Tex Avery cartoon, and audio and video outtakes.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.

6 Comments:

Blogger Caftan Woman said...

This late night staple in my youth turned me into a Romberg fan. If I come across it on television I always cross my fingers that I haven't missed Jose doing the "Bombo" bit. He slays me!

In "The High and the Mighty" Doe Avedon showed how excellent she could be, but you are right about the romance portion of "Deep in My Heart". You start counting the seconds until the next musical highlight.

5:42 AM  
Blogger dv h said...

I've seen it twice and I don't think I'll make it through a third showing on DVD, but I might try to see the blu ray, and I agree about Charisse-Mitchell. (ross)

9:42 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

"Charisse and Mitchell then perform one of the most jaw-droppingly sensual dances ever put on film." Indeed.

I really like this movie, though it has its flaws. I'm with CW on the "Bombo" skit, it's hysterical.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Caftan Woman, loved reading of your enjoyment of DEEP IN MY HEART and how it introduced you to his music!

It's been years since I last saw THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY. I'm due for a rewatch and will be watching for Doe Avedon.

Ross, the Blu-ray looks great, a wonderful way to watch that dance again!

Jacqueline, thanks for your feedback also! There was something very good-natured about the film I liked -- sometimes the composer biopics can get a little dark but this one didn't, excepting one sad note late in the film.

Best wishes,
Laura

9:41 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I saw it when it came out and then years later (at the Vagabond). And have to say that for me, it just misses--there is something about these musical biographies in that they seem to mean well but just don't work for the most part. I'll make an exception though for "Words and Music" because of Mickey Rooney as Lorenz Hart, even though of course it's more Rooney than Hart!

These movies always live on their numbers by a lot of different performers--and even those have their ups and downs. Yes, somewhere in my mind I remember that this did catch fire in the Mitchell-Charisse dance. But in a good movie, one shouldn't have to wait for a good sequence.

Just for context, I love Stanley Donen's musicals in the 1950s, whether co-directed with Gene Kelly or alone. From his very best--like you I'd choose "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"--to what is perhaps least--"Damn Yankees"--they are all a pleasure and movies I'm glad to go back to, except this one! But that's nine wonderful musicals so this isn't much of a mark against him, and likely he wasn't very inspired by the project.

And now I've made comments on six of your pieces you've written in the last week (beginning with Allied Artists blogathon ones), and I don't know how you keep up the writing pace, Laura (grin)!


2:12 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Blake!

I saw so many MGM musicals at the Vagabond, but not this one! I understand your take -- I enjoyed it and will go back to it but certainly not with the regularity of so many other MGM musicals -- though I might pop in the disc for looks at some musical numbers more frequently.

Thank you so much for your comments and the kind words! (Trying to keep new posts going up regularly, especially when "news" hits, means that sometimes I'm a little slower on answering the comments, but they are all deeply appreciated and enjoyed!)

Best wishes,
Laura

10:47 AM  

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