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Interrupted Melody (1955)

Interrupted Melody (1955)

This biographical drama won the Best Writing (Story and Screenplay) Academy Award and earned its star Eleanor Parker the last of her three Best Actress Oscar nominations. It’s the true “rags to riches” story of Australian opera singing soprano Marjorie Lawrence who was later stricken with polio and before mounting a comeback. Glenn Ford plays a pediatrician who’s her love interest come husband in the film; Roger Moore plays her brother-manager. Though he received fourth billing noted character actor Cecil Kellaway (Monsignor Ryan in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)) appears in just the first few minutes of the film as Lawrence’s father. Full plot summary below:

The film begins on a farm in Australia with Marjorie (Parker) being assisted by her siblings to attend an audition in another city without her father’s knowledge. Of course she wins the audition and a musical scholarship to Paris. Though initially unable to find a mentor she is able to find one when she’s “street” sings a note another student (Eileen Farrell who dubs Parker’s opera singing in the film;-) can’t manage. After a year of training with Madame Gilly (Ann Codee) Marjorie gets an opportunity to play the part of Musetta in La Boheme which she does magnificiently. Afterwards she meets an American doctor Thomas King (Ford) on his last fling before he returns to New York to start his practice. They share a memorable evening of dinner and “necking” before he must leave.

With help from her manager-brother (Moore) Marjorie makes the right connections and takes the European circuit by storm playing the leads in every major opera you can name to great reviews. This leads to a trip to New York and a show at the Metropolitan. Marjorie is to play Brunnhilde in Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods) but is having quite a disagreement with Leopold Sachse (as himself) over a scene involving her riding a horse through a funeral pyre. He insists that she walk the horse but being from a farm in Australia she and her brother both insist she can do it. Of course they rehearse it one way but during the opening she does it the way she wants prompting rave reviews from the audience the press and those in her dressing room backstage after the show.

One of the patrons at her New York debut was Dr. King but she didn’t recognize him at first since it’d been quite a while since that night in Paris. But when she later realizes who he was/is she has him invited to the dinner party at her apartment. Though he’s initially put off by her high society world she is able to convince him that she hasn’t forgotten their “romance” and they begin again. After a time of courtship he insists on being a martyr not wanting her to give up her career and yet insisting that his wife will be at home with kids etc. and wants to cut their relationship off before it leads to marriage. However though causing her brother-manager great consternation she cancels her Chicago tour and decides that playing at the Met is enough of a career if it means she can marry the doctor.

But to quote Shakespeare the course of true love never did run smooth;-) Before he’ll open Tristan und Isolde at the Met the managing director insists that Marjorie take the Latin America tour to get ready. This leads to a conflict between her and her husband and she goes. This of course is when polio is introduced into the story with the inevitable scenes of tough love and struggle which result and lead to triumph. Thankfully there are several scenes which will connect with the average (non-opera fan) viewer during her comeback especially those which involve the Military. And though the experienced moviegoer can probably predict what’s coming in advance it’ll still be hard for he/she to keep from tearing up in the end.

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