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Melba

Melba(1953)

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NOTES

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Although onscreen credits list the song "Dreamtime," it was not heard in the print viewed. According to the Variety review, the song was "a catchy pop number," which was apparently also known as "The Melba Waltz" and "Is This the Beginning of Love?" At both the New York and London openings of this film, the running time was listed as 113 minutes, although the film's U.S. pressbook gives 115 minutes. The print viewed ran 111 minutes. The film includes brief passages from the following arias: "Casta Diva" from the opera Norma; "Kaspar's Aria" from the opera Der Freischtz; "Ah! non credea" from the opera La Sonnambula; "and Adamastor, re dell'onde profonde" from the opera L'Africaine. Some sources include an aria from Lohengrin in the film's musical selections, but it was not included in the print viewed. Ballerina Violetta Elvin danced as "Taglioni" in the film.
       When the film opened in New York, it was presented on a wide screen and with three channel stereophonic sound. A May 24, 1953 New York Times article erroneously reported that "the director has so framed the picture in photography that it was possible to expand its width, despite the lessening of the vertical area this entails." However, the film was shot several months before the adoption of the 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and it is obvious from viewing the film that it was intended for 1.33:1 projection. The New York presentation was doubtlessly accomplished by the projectionist simply reframing the image to accomodate "head room" and thereby losing the bottom of the frame, which usually contains little important information. A December 17, 1952 Variety news item reported that producer Sam Spiegel (credited under his pseudonym S. P. Eagle) and United Artists would share profits evenly on Melba. In the item Spiegel asserted that the film's budget of one million dollars would have been doubled if the picture had been shot in Hollywood.
       Nellie Melba (1861-1931) was born in Melbourne, Australia as Helen Porter Mitchell and is credited with being one of the principal models for today's operatic "prima donnas." She was created Dame of the British Empire in 1918 and published an autobiography in 1925. Although Melba did not appear in any films, there are several about her life. These include: Evensong (Great Britain, 1934), a fictionalized, disguised version of Melba's career, and two Australian television productions, A Toast to Melba (1980) and Melba (1988). Coloratura soprano Patrice Munsel, who portrays Nellie Melba, was born in Spokane, WA and made her debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera at the age of eighteen. Melba was her only film, although she frequently appeared on television.