As a biography it's bigoted, irrelevant, and untrue. Nobody acts. And it was cast by an anonymous prankster with a macabre sense of humor, who must have sniggered as he conjured up Henreid, Hepburn, Daniell, and Bob Walker as grotesque caricatures of Robert and Clara Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms. By all the orthodox criteria of movie criticism, "Song of Love" is eminently eligible for that glib type of verbal massage so familiar to readers of Wolcott Gibbs.
But there is the music of Schumann, Brahmns, and Liszt as a backbone to hold up the pulp surrounding it. At certain points, "Song of Love" reveals immense potentialities for the development of screen musical biographics in terms of a blind audience. This is a step forward. Forgetting the Kern and Porter films, one may look with encouragement at the progress made from the lives of chopin, Schubert, and Gershwin to that of Schumann. Auditory progress, to be sure, but still progress.
In, fact, the musical sound track of "Song of Love" is almost an undiluted pleasure. The Schubert fiasco was built about one piece, Gershwin's music was abominably played, and Chopin's was doled out in little snippets mostly transcribed for orchestra, but in "Song of Love" Metro has avoided all of these faults. The music is played well, if without much verve, by Artur Rubinstein, and there is lots of it. The film opens with a huge chunk of Loszt's E flat concerto, and later developments weave in all of Brahms' splendid G minor rhapsody, parts of his first symphony, Schumann's A minor concerto, and a good many smaller piano fragments.
The only complaint here, can be on what is left out. Omissions include not only specific pieces of importance, but also the philosophy behind them. Schumann's work follows a unique pattern of development which is extremely important for a comprehension of his ideas. Opus numbers 1-22 are all for piano solo; the year of his engagement to Clars Week was, in his own words, "song year," when he composed around 150 songs, some of them of incomparable beauty. This, on a similar basis, was followed by symphonic year, chamber music year, and so on. This growth provides a pattern of Schumann's life that the creators of "song of Love," preoccupied with alternating farce and bathes, completely over-looked.
But Metro's object, as stated in cards handed out to London moviegoers, was to present the love story of Schumann's life within the framework of his music and that of his contemporaries. The love story is a mess; the framework, a huge success.