Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 15, 2020


Dana Andrews and Merle Oberon
NIGHT SONG (1947). Director: John Cronwell.  

Now here's a strange one. Wealthy Catherine (Merle Oberon of A Song to Remember) goes slumming in a nightclub one evening with friends, and is attracted to, and fascinated by, a talented composer, Dan (Dana Andrews), who is also sort of slumming as a piano player. Cathy is initiially distressed to realize that Dan is blind, but decides he needs a patron -- but how to get past his depression and indifference. She hits upon the incredibly tasteless idea of pretending to be blind herself, assuming a new identity and even renting a different apartment from her fancier digs. She is able to inspire Dan to finish his concerto, and in her true identity sponsors him in a competition. Now he has the money to get his eyes operated on, but will he forget all about the blind gal who helped him once he can see the world in all its glory -- including the real Catherine? She wants him to love her as the comparatively drab but steadfast and loving blind girl, not as the glamorous doyenne of the social register. 

James Bond? Hoagy Carmichael
Night Song was made during a period when hopelessly contrived movies came out one after another trading on the romantic and emotional element and the acting of its lead players. Sometimes they worked; sometimes they didn't. Night Song is about half and half. On the plus side are the actors, with Oberon proving once again that she was not just a beautiful face, handling all the cliches and absurdities with aplomb. The same is true of Dana Andrews, who keeps a straight face throughout. Then there's the marvelous Hoagy Carmichael as Dan's friend and clarinetist Chick, who goes along with the deception despite his misgivings (this is another credulity-stretching aspect to the story). Carmichael is charming and makes the most of his thankless role of the best friend. Incidentally, James Bond creator Ian Fleming always thought of 007 as resembling Carmichael, although he never went so far, to my knowledge, as to suggest him for the role. Carmichael gets to warble the snappy number "Who Killed 'Er?" 

A resplendent Merle Oberon
Ethel Barrymore is also excellent as Cathy's Aunt, Miss Willey, who lives with her and acts as her secretary-companion. She is given some of the tartest lines, and the screenplay has some interesting dialogue. Walter Reed [Emergency Hospital] and Donald Curtis [I Love Trouble] have a few moments as two of Cathy's friends and suitors, and Eugene Ormandy and Artur Rubinstein play themselves, with the former conducting Dan's completed concerto and Rubinstein playing the piano. Lucian Ballard's cinematography is first-rate and in some shots Oberon is strikingly gorgeous. The score is by Leith Stevens, who wrote the concerto that the two aforementioned classical musicians supposedly admire. It is perfectly pleasant movie music. This is another movie in which the hero essentially treats his love interest like crap.   

Verdict: You either go with the flow or think "you've got to be kidding me!" **1/2.        


angelman66 said...

Wow, Hoagy Carmichael appeared onscreen? He was a great songwriter and musician...did not know he acted. Thanks for giving me something else to look for!!

William said...

My pleasure! Yes, Hoagy appeared in a few movies and TV shows and he certainly adds a lift to this movie!