Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1955. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by William Ludwig, Sonya Levien, based on the life story by Marjorie Lawrence. Cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg, Paul Vogel. Produced by Jack Cummings. Music by Alexander Courage, Adolph Deutsch. Production Design by Daniel B. Cathcart, Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Helen Rose. Film Editing by John D. Dunning. Academy Awards 1955.
Marjorie Lawrence (Eleanor Parker) makes her way from the Australian outback to a singing contest in the big city, the victory of which sends her to Paris to study under a notable teacher. From there, Lawrence debuts in an opera in Monte Carlo and then finds herself booked up year after year, her career only getting better and better with her devoted brother (Roger Moore). She threatens to undo it all when she falls in love with a doctor (Glenn Ford) for whom she wants to give up touring, but that becomes a moot point when she falls ill and discovers that she has contracted the polio virus and can no longer walk. Lawrence falls into depression and despondency but is eventually convinced to give singing another shot, making her way back onto the stage in a conclusion that is as moving as the preceding scenes are compelling. The film has many of the trappings of the most mundane biopics, and Ford’s uncommitted performance (which he took out of desperation and it shows) doesn’t help, but it is directed with such efficient intelligence by a director who knows you’ve seen it all before and doesn’t want to waste your time (Singer Interrupted biopics were popular after With A Song In My Heart, this one released the same year as Love Me Or Leave Me). The greatest benefit that the film has is Parker herself, whose intensity matches her incredible beauty and is most impressive in the scenes that see her expertly recreating Lawrence’s arias (with vocal work dubbed by Eileen Farrell) thanks to her painstakingly learning the arias under proper vocal coach conditions and then singing them live on set to playback.