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Kino on Video presents
Carnegie Hall (1947)

"Chopin? Let's just make sure that it's Chopin and not Tin Pan Alley."
- Nora Salerno (Marsha Hunt)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 24, 2001

Stars: Marsha Hunt, William Prince, Frank McHugh, Martha O'Driscoll, Hans Yaray
Other Stars: Walter Damrosch, Jascha Heifetz, Harry James, Vaughn Monroe, Jan Peerce, Ezio Pinza, Gregor Piatagorsky, Lily Pons, Fritz Reiner, Artur Rodzinski, Artur Rubinstein, Rise Stevens, Leopold Stokowski, Bruno Walter, New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer

Manufacturer: Cine Magnetics
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 02h:15m:41s
Release Date: August 14, 2001
UPC: 738329019921
Genre: musical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A+B+C- B-

DVD Review

Edgar G. Ulmer is best noted for his visual style on grade B and Z movies, and he rarely got a chance to do his thing with an A film. Even though Carnegie Hall is a product of the little-known Federal Films, it is clearly meant to play as a feature attraction, appealing to lovers of classical music. Not only does one get an inside glimpse of the famous Hall itself, but a plethora of the century's greatest musicians take part in the proceedings as well.

The story, such as it is, centers around Nora Ryan, a young girl just emigrated from Ireland. While looking for her aunt, a cleaning lady at Carnegie Hall on opening night, she is found by conductor Walter Damrosch (Harold Dyrenforth in the flashbacks) gives her a good seat while Tchaikovsky conducts his Piano Concerto No. 1. From then on, Nora's life is inextricably tied up with the Hall, working there and helping young musicians. She marries orchestral pianist Tony Salerno (Hans Yaray), but soon after they have a son he dies in a drunken fall. Nora raises Tony Jr. (William Prince) to be a concert pianist, using Carnegie Hall as a music school for him, but secretly his heart lies with jazz and swing.

The plot is melodramatic and predictable, so it's not a tragedy that it grinds to a halt whenever the music starts. And what music! The greatest classical works are performed by an amazing array of musicians. For lovers of vocal music, we have the amazing coloratura Lily Pons, as well as Rise Stevens, Jan Peerce and Ezio Pinza. Artur Rubinstein astonishes with his command of the piano over Chopin's Polonaise in A-flat and de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance. Heifetz thrills with a spellbinding rendition of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Gregor Piatagosky plays his Stradivarius cello to a background of harps in Saint-Saens' The Swan. Scattered throughout are orchestral works with many of the great conductors, including Stokowski, Reiner and Walter. Wrapping things up are a couple jazz/swing pieces featuring Vaughn Monroe of Ghost Riders in the Sky fame, and bandleader Harry James. Tying the classical and popular moods together is young Tony Salerno Jr's jazzy rendition of Chopin's Waltz in C-sharp minor, a reinterpretation that is winning in its earnestness and vivacity.

The acting performances are marginal at best; Marsha Hunt is not helped any by a pathetic age makeup designed to take her over thirty-odd years. The greasepaint lines are distractingly evident and it's hard to be convinced. Martha O'Driscoll, as Tony Jr's love interest Ruth Haines, is probably the best of the cast, though she doesn't have much to do besides look charming. Some of the dialogue is ridiculous in its pomposity and Chatauqua oratory.

Ulmer makes up for a lot of these shortcomings with his use of the camera and light. As always, the visual imagery is highly striking, with gorgeous use of light and shadow. During Walter's rendition of the Vorspiel to Der Meistersinger, as the basses come in the camera plants itself at their feet, looking up along the line, making for a memorable and striking visual.

And finally, there are the performers and the music itself, both of which come off spectacularly well. Despite the silly storyline, the music makes Carnegie Hall well worth visiting. The substance grade is for the music; the story would get a C-.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame original is transferred from the original nitrate camera negative. This lends great blacks and grays, as well as spectacular detail to the Carnegie Hall interiors shot on location. There is regular speckling, predictably heaviest at the reel changes, but overall this looks very nice indeed. Towards the end some minor compression artifacts are visible, but nothing terrible.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono is sadly lacking, a defect that no doubt can be traced to the original sound. Hiss and crackling are omnipresent. Much of the music is clipped as it gets loud, and range is very limited. Bass is surprisingly good; it is mostly the higher areas of the sound that are clipped. The problem is that this may be as good as the audio gets on this film.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:17m:29s

Extra Extras:
  1. Production stills
  2. Music Notes
  3. Piano Scene from Detour
Extras Review: A decent little set of extras comes with this disc. First up is a re-release trailer in pretty good shape. A set of forty stills, including behind-the-scenes shots of Ulmer with the various musicians and the sound recording sessions. A set of music notes, keyed to the disc chapters, derived from the original theatrical program is included as well. Though heavy on synopsis, it has some good history of the Hall and identifies most of the music. An interesting counterpoint to Tony Jr's version of the Chopin Waltz is the snippet from Ulmer's noir classic Detour, where that piece is played straight, and a Brahms Waltz gets the jazzy treatment. Chaptering is rather thin; one chapter runs well over 20 minutes. However, the musical pieces are clearly identified by chapter stop on the insert, a definite plus in my book.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

One doesn't run across many musicals featuring classical music, but there is plenty to be found here, performed by the greatest names of 20th Century music. A good transfer, though the audio is sadly lacking, makes it a worthwhile purchase.


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