Thursday, May 12, 2016

Song of Norway (1970)

          A lavish widescreen musical romance set in the mountains of Europe, Song of Norway was plainly envisioned as a successor to The Sound of Music (1965), but Song of Norway contains exactly none of the charm and wit that made The Sound of Music one of the most beloved Hollywood films of all time. Like the earlier picture, Song of Norway was adapted from a successful Broadway musical. Unlike the earlier picture, Song of Norway was adapted badly—from material that was probably questionable in the first place. Norwegian star Torlav Maursted, a capable singer and dancer but merely a serviceable actor, stars as Edvard Grieg, the real-life Norwegian composer who overcame early struggles to become an important voice on the international music scene during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Awful songs interrupt the narrative at regular intervals, thereby pushing the film to undeserved epic length. (The stage show added insipid lyrics to Grieg’s melodies.)
          To understand how cloying and milquetoast this movie gets during its worst moments, one need only note that the picture’s female lead is Mrs. Brady herself, Florence Henderson. Soullessly directed by Andrew L. Stone, Song of Norway bludgeons viewers with suffocating optimism during the first hour and a half, then returns after an intermission for a final act containing weak attempts at heavy drama. The gist is that young Edvard Grieg finds himself torn between his first love, Therese (Christina Schollin), and his first cousin, Nina (Henderson). Even after he marries his cousin, Edvard accepts patronage from the wealthy Therese. Meanwhile, Edvard makes grand plans with his best friend, Richard (Frank Porretta), the composer of Norway’s national anthem, only to disappoint Richard at a crucial moment. If Song of Norway is any indication, Edvard was a bit of a jerk.
          Costars Robert Morley and Edward G. Robinson—each of whom seems as believably Norwegian as Henderson—try to enliven their scenes, but the sheer weight of the movie’s happy-shiny bloat defeats them. Everything in Song of Norway is so false and sickly-sweet, right down to the partially animated scene with evil giants (!), that the high point is probably the moment when Edvard hits a petulant young piano student. For a few seconds, believable human behavior breaks the tra-la-la tedium.

Song of Norway: LAME

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