By John C. Tibbetts
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Additional info for Composers in the Movies: Studies in Musical Biography
Representative American and British composer biopics released during the classical period are arranged for discussion in this chapter in roughly chronological order: Waltzes from Vienna (1933, Gaumont-British), Blossom Time (1936, British-International), The Great Waltz (1938, MGM), The Melody Master (1941, United Artists), The Great Mr. Handel (1942, Rank-GWH), A Song to Remember (1945, Columbia), The Magic Bow (1946, Rank/ Universal-International), Song of Love (1947, MGM), Song of Scheherazade (1947, Universal-International), The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (1953, British Lion–London Films), Magic Fire (1954, Republic), Song without End (1960, Columbia), and two Disney biopics, The Peter Tchaikovsky Story (1959) and The Magnificent Rebel (1962).
They, too, deserve our attention. However, this book is only a beginning. The subject of the composer biopic is far broader than at first might be supposed. For example, there were many such films made during the era of the silent film. The absence of a synchronized soundtrack did not preclude films such as Henry Roussell’s Chopin film, Waltz de l’adieu (1928)—a film explored later in this book—from supplementing their stories with musical cue sheets for the theater-house musicians. Sorely needed, moreover, is an examination of French, Italian, Russian, Scandinavian, and Spanish composer biopics.
The movies naturally took notice. Among the many dramatizations of Strauss’s life are two biopics that appeared in the 1930s, one made in England by Alfred Hitchcock, the other in America by the French émigré director Julian Duvivier. Like Blossom Time, Hitchcock’s Waltzes from Vienna (released in America as Strauss’ Great Waltz) began as a German stage musical by Heinz Reichert and Ernst Marischka, moved to London and America (where it played at the Radio City Center Theatre), and finally fell into the hands of the 30 The Classical Style Gaumont-British studios, where it was adapted to the screen by Guy Bolton and Alma Reveille with musical supervision by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.