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Plot: Biographic movie about the American composer Sigmund Romberg.
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They don’t make musicals like this today!
I missed this film when it first appeared, and only saw it quite by chance very recently on the TCM channel. I felt it was a rather unappreciated gem that I would like to commend to other IMDb users. It purports to be a biography of early nineteenth century composer Siegmund Romberg. Unfortunately biographies are not Hollywood’s strong suite, and this one does not “cut the mustard” as a biography. Romberg was a Central European Jew who came to the U.S.A. as a refugee from the pre-first world war Hapsburg Empire; and made a very successful career as a much admired composer of light music, much of which was coupled with romantic songs written by Dorothy Donnolley for Broadway musicals. Here surely is a great subject for a biography which shows the trauma of being a refugee and the problems of an artist in becoming accepted in a new country with a different language and very different culture. Unfortunately this chance was blown in favour of a script which paraded all the musical stars that MGM could command, presenting re-creations of a series of extracts from his stage successes. However if accepted at this level the film is unusually successful, helped by a great cast and the direction of the often under-rated Stanley Donen. Romberg is remembered for writing light Viennese style romantic orchestral music which was extremely popular in the pre-jazz era, and I was surprised how enjoyable this music made watching the film. For me, and probably others of my generation, the music in more recent musicals does not often compare with that in this film.
One of Romberg’s best known stage works was ‘The Desert Song’, which has been filmed three times, (the 1929 version containing more of Romberg’s music), and watching an Arabian Nights sequence featuring Cyd Charise and James Mitchell made me very sad that all colour copies of the 1929 film appear to have been lost (although a monochrome version prepared for TV has survived.)
The background notes above may be helpful to the many people today who have never heard any of Romberg’s music, but as a review of this film the following (which alone would not have satisfied the IMDb 10 line minimum criterion) is all that is needed:
This is a perfect film to watch with a life partner, or significant other, at the start of a short vacation together. But it would be better seen in a cinema rather than on TV.
Good in Parts But Not on the Whole!
The MGM musical biopic, or biography picture. For a lot of movie lovers, enough said. The term brings to mind many things. Great musical numbers. Star-studded cast. Prestige. But one that doesn’t come to mind is factual accuracy. Most people who love musicals take biopics with a grain of salt. A lot of people know that the musicals numbers are more times than not the best thing about the movie. And at least 50% of them were about songwriters who wrote some of America’s most beloved songs. Some are about classical composers. This film, “Deep in My Heart,” is about one composer of serious music who wrote what he called dribble for the masses as a mean to an end, so he could realize his dream of writing his “Maytime” – Sigmund Romberg, as played by Jose Ferrer. Merle Oberon costarred as a collaborator in writing the words to his melody. The film centers on the cream of his prolific years and his meeting and romancing his future wife. The musical numbers features Rosemary Clooney (Jose’s wife in real life), Gene Kelly, and Ann Miller, along with a few other major names. All of the numbers seem pleasant at the time, some more inspiring at the time, but, on the whole, one would think that gathered together in one place they would make an upbeat and successful collection of entertainment. But, save for one or two numbers, they don’t really deliver any real punch. Not that I am trashing them, but they were just nothing to really brag about. The numbers that did stand out to me is an energetic number Ann Miller did, Jane Powell and Vic Damone’s “Maytime” interlude, and the sensuous dance of Cyd Charisse and James Mitchell. And, even Jose Ferrer is quite the entertainer and showman as he put on a one-man rehearsal show, and Helen Traubel as a friend of the family sang a moving rendition of “Softly,”, the way he wrote it and not the way the backers and producers butchered it. What really hurts the film is the length of 130 minutes. If you have seen other musicals, biopics or not, then you will see that this film is really not one of the best, despite the talented stars involved.
Original Language en
Runtime 2 hr 12 min (132 min), 1 hr 59 min (119 min) (Portugal)
Genre Biography, Comedy, Musical
Director Stanley Donen
Writer Elliott Arnold, Leonard Spigelgass
Actors José Ferrer, Merle Oberon, Helen Traubel
Country United States
Production Company N/A
Sound Mix 3 Channel Stereo (Western Electric Sound System) (5.0) (L-R)
Aspect Ratio 1.75 : 1
Film Length N/A
Negative Format 35 mm
Cinematographic Process Spherical
Printed Film Format 35 mm