“I’m tired of playing second fiddle to the ghost of Beethoven.”
A married socialite (Joan Crawford) becomes smitten with an aspiring violinist (John Garfield), and the pair are soon lovers — but will Crawford’s meek husband (Paul Cavanagh), Garfield’s disapproving mother (Ruth Nelson), or Garfield’s former girlfriend (Joan Chandler) stand in the way of their forbidden romance?
Clifford Odets co-wrote the screenplay for this adaptation (by Jean Negulescu) of Fannie Hurst’s melodramatic cross-class romance. One is tempted to say this is Joan’s show all the way, given she’s in peak form (her final moments on-screen are iconic) — but Garfield more than holds his own as a determined musician so devoted to his craft he has little authentic room for anything (or anyone) else. Levant becomes somewhat tiresome as Garfield’s always-wisecracking pianist-friend, though at least many of his lines are amusingly droll. The music (performed by Isaac Stern) is suitably moving, and Ernest Haller bathes the entire affair in a romantic glow. This would make an interesting double-bill with Rouben Mamoulian’s adaptation of Odets’ Golden Boy (1939), given that they serve as counterpoint stories about the choices and sacrifices one inevitably makes on behalf of talent, love, and family.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Joan Crawford as Helen Wright
- John Garfield as Paul Boray
- Ernest Haller’s cinematography
- Many fine musical sequences
No, though naturally it’s a must for Crawford fans. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.