September 26, 2015

Cornel Wilde, A Song to Remember

as FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN

The positive: it's always refreshing to view the singular Oscar nominated performance of an otherwise forgotten actor, because you can only handle reoccurring presences of Gary Cooper, Greer Garson, and Bette Davis for so long. In this case it's Cornel Wilde, who, after taking a gander at his filmography, probably wouldn't be at all on my radar if it wasn't for this nomination. The negative: this nomination is for a biopic on Frédéric Chopin, which is just about as exciting as you would expect it to be.



Adorned with makeup and fabulous attire in addition to being surrounded by grandiose candelabras that probably made a baby Liberace seethe with jealousy (it is alleged that he got the ideas of using candelabras after seeing this film, after all), Wilde and A Song to Remember very much feels like an old-Hollywood reimagining of who Chopin truly was. That is--all superficial without much substance. And it's sort of that way with Wilde's performance as well: I felt as though he was really only breaking the surface, never really diving deep into the character. Much of this may be due to the fact that Chopin is written as an extremely passive and timid character--as such, Wilde spends much of the time quiet as he's bossed around by a hammy Paul Muni and an awful Merle Oberon, peppering his work with one concerned look after another. It's very much what you'd receive watching a "long-suffering wife" type performance, which was strange for me given that he is made to be a supporting archetype when he is in fact the focus of the film. And yet, he hardly does anything noteworthy whatsoever--Muni and Oberon, as poor as they are here, take all the scenes they share with Wilde away from him. Wilde has a moment or two in the picture that's worthwhile, but it's too reticent for my liking. At the end of the day, I suppose I'd prefer a mediocre nomination from a fresh face as opposed to that of the frequent Oscar favorite, but even still, this was too dull a performance to warrant any sort of recognition.


2 comments:

  1. This is one of those meager nominations where you wonder how much studio politicking played into it. Wilde had an eventful year here (he was in Gene Tierney's biggie, "Leave Her to Heaven", in '45 as well) but the hoped for breakthrough never really gelled. His presentational style of acting doesn't scratch any surfaces but the sodden screenplay doesn't give him much opportunity either. Another lackluster category in the weak fields of the 1940s.

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