Thursday, January 23, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Song of Scheherazade (1947)

The music of Rimsky-Korsakov is showcased in Universal Pictures' colorful and engaging SONG OF SCHEHERAZADE (1947).

I'll say at the outset this is a rather crazy movie, but in the best possible way. I think I smiled from start to finish.

It's 1865 and a Russian ship is moored in Morocco during a 116-degree heat wave. Crew member Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Jean-Pierre Aumont) and his friend, the ship's doctor (Charles Kullmann) have shore leave and run from house to house looking for a piano to try out the music Nicky has been writing at sea.

They have the luck to stumble into the home of Madame de Talavera (Eve Arden) and her beautiful daughter Cara (Yvonne DeCarlo). Cara, incidentally, has a secret life dancing as an entertainer at a club, but anyway...

I don't even know where to go from there with a plot description, as it's all a bit nutty, but oh, is it ever fun, with the lush Rimsky-Korsakov music layered over some very amusing comedy. Miklos Rozsa conducted and composed additional music, and Kullmann, a Metropolitan Opera singer, has a glorious voice, while DeCarlo has the chance to do several dances.

Brian Donlevy is hilarious as the ship's captain, who insists his crew be perfectly turned out at all times despite the oppressive heat, though he reviews them while only half-dressed himself. The captain also has a talent for swallowing cigarettes...told you it's crazy! Donlevy plays the role of the seemingly stern captain with the proverbial heart of gold with great good humor. Donlevy biographer Derek Schulthorpe classes Donlevy's performance as "a delight...such fun to see him being so silly, sending up his own image."

SONG OF SCHEHERAZADE is a giddy fantasy which beckons viewers to go along for the ride, never mind the destination. Glorious music, stunning color, funny actors, and one of the most beautiful leading ladies to ever be filmed in Technicolor...I couldn't have asked for more. For me it was 105 delightful minutes.

Good-natured Technicolor escapism which also serves up ample doses of "culture" in the form of classical music was relatively common in the '40s yet simply isn't done anymore; that also makes this film a fascinating relic of its era in that regard.

SONG OF SCHEHERAZADE was written and directed by Walter Reisch. It was filmed by Hal Mohr and William V. Skall.

The supporting cast includes Phillip Reed, Terry Kilburn, John Qualen, Richard Lane, George Dolenz, and Elena Verdugo, who was seen last week in THE MARKSMAN (1953).

SONG OF SCHEHERAZADE is available on DVD in the Universal Vault Collection. I wondered if the color possibly should have been a little brighter at times, but other than that, the print looked terrific.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older