Carnegie Hall (1947):

Having first tasted Carnegie Hall magic by drinking in a Tchaikovsky performance as a wee tyke, immigrant Marsha Hunt scrubs her way from cleaning lady to office manager in order to fulfill her dream of having her son perform onstage. Trouble is, Junior (William Prince), inheriting pop's stubborn britches, is far more interested in jaunty nightclub beats. Compared to the pauperly budgets Edgar G. Ulmer usually had to toil in, the drama's production values are positively opulent: pseudo-European décor, more than three different sets, and performances by Leopold Stokowski, Artur Rubinstein, Jascha Heifetz, Lily Pons, Rise Stevens, Ezio Pinza, and Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic, among others. The musical numbers (which also include Vaughan Monroe and Harry James, pop yang to the classical yin) are regularly singled out as the picture's sole focus of interest, often interestingly shot (a cellist framed by the arches of harps, waves of bows sawing strings). Ulmer is less arresting in respectable settings and, at 136 minutes, the film sports flab seldom ever found in his Poverty Roll chores. Yet it would be misleading to dismiss the plot (which already popped up in not dissimilar form in Ulmer's earlier Jive Junction) as irrelevant to him -- for a filmmaker whose experience encompasses Max Reinhardt and Babes in Bagdad, the concept of miscegenating the highs of artistry with the lows of commercialism must have seemed particularly sweet. (Erik Ulman, in a Senses of Cinema article, perceptively singled out its happy ending as one of the few genuinely earned in Ulmer's oeuvre.) With Frank McHugh, Martha O'Driscoll, and Hans Yaray. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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