November 25, 2013

Grace Moore, One Night of Love

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If there was anything I took away from One Night of Love, it was learning that Grace Moore was an opera singer. That's the beauty of old school Hollywood--studio heads were actually interested in recruiting famous people from outside the realm of film to take part in their movies. Interestingly enough audiences would go and see these movies, and Oscar would reward these people with nominations. That doesn't happen anymore--we now live in world where all juicy female roles will automatically be given to Meryl Streep, and the idea of putting acclaimed stage stars much less opera stars in lead roles in feature films is not realistic by any means. So in a way, Moore's inclusion in the Oscar race is one of the more interesting ones out there. Whether or not it was worthy is an entirely different question.

 photo ScreenShot2013-10-18at125607AM.jpgI am at a handicap though as I know nothing about opera, and there are several scenes in the film in which Moore's character acts out scenes from famous operas. Moore herself is very perky--her smile lights up the screen, and it's no surprise she caught Hollywood's attention. At times there's a little too much smiling going on--I don't know much about Carmen but I've always assumed the lead character was fiery and sexy with an edge to her. Moore playing Mary playing Carmen was a little patchy in that the entire time she performs she's smiling and hopping around like a girl-next-door kind of woman. The last sequence in which she performs as a Japanese woman (insert my eyeroll here) in Madame Butterfly feels overdone and much too long. If I knew a little something about opera then perhaps it would enhance my appreciation for Moore's performance, but because I don't they just feel like excessive attempts for the viewer to ogle at her voice.

 photo ScreenShot2013-10-17at115843PM.jpgAt the very least, it goes without saying that Moore has an excellent voice. Her film however is a big 'ol mushy mess and it's most certainly not my cup of tea--but as you know audiences in the 1930's adored sweet and wholesome storytelling so One Night of Love was a success upon release. In spite of my feelings about her film, Moore is a capable actress, which was surprising--had I known beforehand that she was first and foremost a singer, I'd have had much lower expectations about the quality of her acting. Instead I watched the film thinking she was a professional film actress and spent the whole time thinking she was rather average. Moore is far from bad but she's also far from doing anything groundbreaking. She's a warm and charismatic enough presence on screen, though there are some heavier moments that her character faces where Moore's inexperience shows. A particular scene that comes to mind is the one in which Mary discovers Giulio (horridly played by Tullio Carminati) with Lally (not the first character I've seen thus far with that name, oddly enough). Moore shoots a look disappointment before storming out, but it's rather basic and underwhelming given the scene's tone. Her dramatic prowess really only scratches the surface if we're going to talk emotions, and a more capable actress like Helen Hayes or Kate Hepburn could have really dug deeper to tug at our heartstrings. By the latter half of the film, Mary Barrett unexpectedly becomes quite a jealous character and yet Moore's reactions look more like blank glances and hardly read as envious. But of course, this isn't a film that's trying to wow us with acting. This is a singing showcase meant to highlight a singer's strengths, and Grace Moore is more than up for the challenge, anything else leaves a lot to be desired. I suppose that's the disadvantage of booking non-film actors to act in film. It's an entertaining performance with few flaws I can pinpoint, yet at the same time it doesn't induce much of a reaction out of me.

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