Monday, January 19, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Night Song (1947)

NIGHT SONG is an interesting movie about an embittered blind composer-pianist, Daniel Evans (Dana Andrews). Evans, who lost his sight in a freak accident, is inspired to resume composing by Mary (Merle Oberon), who is blind herself...or so Daniel believes.

The reality is that Mary is really Cathy, a wealthy woman who loves music and knows that Daniel is too proud to accept her patronage. Cathy engineers a music contest which provides Daniel with professional success and the money for an operation to restore his sight. But now what does Cathy do about Mary?

I enjoyed this film very much, although I didn't care for the deceit that runs throughout the movie; so often that kind of plot device leads to Trouble, which I was expecting with a capital T. However, the film resolved the plot threads very nicely, and next time around I think I'll relax and enjoy it even more.

Andrews and Oberon are excellent, and the film has the blessing of not one but two outstanding supporting performances, by Ethel Barrymore and Hoagy Carmichael. They both add levity and common sense when it's needed, and their performances make the film work and keep it from being mired in soap suds. It's also a nice bit of irony that one of the great American composers is in this case playing the blind composer's transcriptionist.

Musical fans also have the treat of seeing a lengthy performance by Eugene Ormandy conducting Artur Rubinstein and the New York Philharmonic. The actual composer of Daniel's music was Leith Stevens.

The film runs 102 minutes and was shot in black and white. Although IMDb indicates location filming took place at Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear, I don't believe the principal cast members ever left the studio; there's a nice outdoorsy long shot of the lake but when they go fishing it's against very obvious back projections.

NIGHT SONG was directed by John Cromwell. Half a dozen Cromwell films will be shown on TCM on January 27, 2009, including THE RACKET with Robert Mitchum, DOUBLE HARNESS with William Powell, and DEAD RECKONING with Humphrey Bogart. You can also catch Cromwell's terrific Tyrone Power film, SON OF FURY (reviewed here), on Fox Movie Channel January 31, 2009.

NIGHT SONG can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

February 2012 Update: This film is now available from the Warner Archive.


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