Song of Love

Movie Information

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Song of Love at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 20, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. (From Asheville, take I-26 to U.S. 64 West, turn right at the third light onto Thompson Street. Follow to the Lake Point Landing entrance and park in the lot on the left.)
Genre: Musical Biopic
Director: Clarence Brown
Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Paul Henreid, Robert Walker, Henry Daniell, Leo G. Carroll
Rated: NR

Carried in on the wave of popularity spawned by Columbia’s Chopin biopic, A Song to Remember (1945), Song of Love (1947) offers MGM’s patented embalming of Clara Wieck Schumann (Katharine Hepburn), Robert Schumann (Paul Henreid—you know, the boring guy from Casablanca) and Johannes Brahms (Robert Walker)—with a side order of Franz Liszt (a bizarrely subdued Henry Daniell). Song of Love may be no more preposterously fictional than A Song to Remember—and it has the good sense to warn the viewer upfront that “certain liberties have been taken with incident and chronology”—but it’s a lot less fun. Oh, it’s as absurd in its own way—we can start with the 40-year-old Hepburn playing the 20-year-old Clara—but being that it’s from MGM, its absurdity lies more in its silly reverential attitude than in its inherent historical nonsense. It’s typical of MGM’s middle-brow mindset that the tumultuous story of the Schumanns and Brahms puts them on the level of Andy Hardy Goes Classical. Instead of human drama we’re given an extended scene where the cook has walked out and no one has the heart to kill the chicken they’re supposed to have for dinner. Fascinating stuff!

Someone at the time of the film’s release noted that all the characters comported themselves as if they knew that MGM would one day commit the story of their lives to film. That pretty much sums it up. No one has ever gone insane quite as decorously as Paul Henreid. The film is slick enough (Clarence Brown was one of the studio’s best house directors), utterly professional and good looking, and the music helps, but it’s of more interest as a product of its time than as a film or a biography.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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