Week two of Robert Greenberg's lecture series, illustrated with film clips, of movies about composers. We sampled:
Song of Love (1947). Robert Schumann (Paul Henreid, more animated than he was in Casablanca) and his wife Clara (Katharine Hepburn, just as she always is) listen fascinated as the young Johannes Brahms (Henry Daniel, taller and handsomer than the original) introduces himself by playing a piano piece he wouldn't write for another twenty years. This is the movie that spawned Greenberg's maxim on historical accuracy: "When unforced errors occur, credibility is lost."
Song Without End (1960). Dirk Bogarde as Franz Liszt. Described as "movie without end," so we were spared any clips from it beyond the trailer, the only credit from which to earn any audience cheers tonight was the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Lisztomania (1975). At last, a movie as flamboyant as the original. Roger Daltrey is Liszt - a rock star to play a rock star, not a bad idea - but judging from the clips we saw, this movie is less about Liszt than about the transformation of Richard Wagner into an undead Nazi Frankenstein's monster.
A Song to Remember (1945). Reduces Frederic Chopin (Cornel Wilde, an Olympic-level athlete to play a weak consumptive, bad casting) to an adjunct to his composition teacher (Paul Muni, chewing the scenery right off the stage).
Impromptu (1991). Greenberg's pick as the most worth seeing of the bunch - which is good because it's the only one I've seen - but not for the plot, instead for the characterization of Judy Davis as George Sand, with extra credit for Julian Sands as Liszt and appearances by Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin. (Why no mention of Emma Thompson, who's also in it?) Hugh Grant as Chopin with an absurd accent, not so much.