Cast & Crew
At their villa in the south of France, beautiful, spoiled young Louise Durant informs her wealthy father Nicholas that she is going to the music conservatory in Zurich to study piano and be near her beau, Paul Bronte, a violinist in his final year of study. The headstrong Louise adds that she plans to marry Paul, although he does not know this yet. In Zurich, Louise rents an apartment from Frau Sigerist, and meets fellow tenant James Guest, an American studying piano on the G.I. Bill. The following morning, Louise auditions for Prof. Schuman and, acknowledging her unexceptional talent, tells him she wants to study at the conservatory to be near the man she loves. When the kindly professor cautions her that great musicians do not always make good husbands, Louise confesses that she does not share Paul's passion for music. Schuman then tells Paul that he has chosen him to perform the violin solo in Tchaikovsky's Concerto in D Major with the Zurich Philharmonic. Paul leaves Louise alone in Schuman's waiting room for hours while he practices the piece, and she finally gets angry and walks out. Paul finds Louise in her room packing, and although she is disheartened by the thought of always coming second to Paul's music, he persuades her to stay. Louise strikes up a friendship with James, and allows him to use her piano to practice. One day, Louise gets a telegram from her father asking her to join him in St. Moritz, and brings Paul with her. Nicholas concedes that the young man has a certain "arrogant charm," but warns Louise that Paul will never need her as much as she desires. As the date of his concert debut grows nearer, Paul gets into an argument with the conductor at a rehearsal, and when Schuman reproaches him, he walks out in anger. When Louise tries to console him, Paul bitterly blames himself for being unprepared. Schuman gives Paul another chance, and Paul tells Louise they must not see each other until after the concert. Louise reluctantly consents, and the lovers speak only on the phone during Paul's intensive rehearsal period. The night of the concert, Paul performs with great passion, and is so much in demand after the show that Louise is again left waiting alone. Paul's career is immediately launched, but Louise feels excluded and takes no pleasure in his success. When Paul tells her he must continue to focus on his work, they quarrel and Louise walks out. From her apartment that night, Louise sees Paul kiss a pretty conservatory student and drive away with her. Later that night, Frau Sigerist hears a noise coming from Louise's room and goes to James for help. James breaks down the door, and they find Louise on the floor, unconscious from taking an overdose of pills. Nicholas is summoned, and is impressed by James's devotion to Louise during her recovery. When she is well again, Louise prepares to join her father in Paris. James asks her to stay, and although the now-hardened Louise lightly dismisses his protestations of love, his desperation moves her. Time passes, and Paul tours the world as a concert violinist. One day, after encountering Nicholas on the street in Paris, Paul calls Louise at the Ritz, and she happily agrees to meet him. While waiting for her in the bar, Paul sees James at a booth, drunk and miserable. Paul is surprised to learn that James married Louise several weeks earlier, and leaves the bar in disgust. Louise seeks Paul out at the concert hall and offers to divorce James, but while he admits he still loves her, he rejects her offer. A conversation with Nicholas convinces Louise that she needs to redeem herself in Paul's eyes by helping James, and she tells her husband they must go back to Zurich. James returns to the conservatory, and Louise patiently supports him through his long hours of practice. In time, James's first concert appearance is announced, and Louise sends her father a flyer with a note saying she wishes Paul knew she did it all for him. Nicholas passes the flyer to Paul after a concert, and Paul is pleased by the change in Louise. Soon afterward, Louise comes home and finds a letter slipped under her door. On the evening of James's concert debut, Louise tells him she is going away with Paul after the concert, and implores James to see that he can succeed without her. Despite his obvious suffering, James plays brilliantly, unaware that Louise is watching him from the back of the auditorium. Paul comes for Louise and finds her watching her husband with great emotion. After the concert, James is standing on the empty stage when Louise appears and rushes into his arms.
Guy De Vestal
A. Arnold Gillespie
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Edwin B. Willis
Tag line for Rhapsody
MGM capitalized on Elizabeth Taylor's beauty and natural acting talent in the 1954 romance Rhapsody about a headstrong heiress involved with the European classical music scene. The film reflects her curious typecasting at the time -- at 22 the former child star was already playing femmes fatales with the potential to destroy men's lives -- but also gave her the opportunity to do some of the best acting of her early adult career. In particular she pulled off a demanding final sequence, played without words during a performance of Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto.
The film was adapted from the 1908 novel by Henry Handel Richardson, the pen name of Australian feminist Ethel Florence Richardson. Based on her own experiences studying classical piano in Leipzig, the novel focused on a troubled male pianist who marries and loses a beautiful female student, events that culminate in his suicide. Independent producer Hal Wallis had bought the story in 1948, then sold it to Paramount. Husband and wife writers Ruth and Augustus Goetz, best known for turning Henry James' Washington Square into the stage and screen versions of The Heiress (1949), wrote an adaptation for director Charles Vidor, who had proven his skill with films about classical music on A Song to Remember (1945). The novel, adaptation and Vidor were then sold to MGM, which was looking for a vehicle for Taylor. Another husband and wife team, Fay and Michael Kanin, then took over, shifting the focus to Taylor's character, now a poor little rich girl looking for love with all the wrong men.
Critics and biographers have complained that most of Taylor's projects between her breakthrough adult roles in Father of the Bride (1950) and A Place in the Sun (1951) and her more mature work in classics like Giant (1956) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), were shallow affairs calculated to cash in on her star power. Some have suggested that she only accepted Rhapsody because she needed the money. With husband Michael Wilding frequently on suspension at MGM in rebellion against the weak roles offered him and her recent unpaid pregnancy leave, the couple was in financial straits. She made Rhapsody shortly after an exhausting shoot on location in Ceylon, when she was called in at the last minute to replace an ailing Vivien Leigh in Elephant Walk (1954). She also was recovering from an ulcerated eye that developed after an accident shooting publicity stills for the picture.
At the very least, she could console herself with the full MGM glamour treatment, including color photography by Robert Planck and some of Helen Rose's most flattering costumes. And even though the film's European settings were studio creations (with some location shots involving less-than-convincing doubles for the stars), at least it meant she could lunch with Wilding on the days they were both working..
Best of all were a pair of leading men who provided a perfect match for her beauty. Italian star Vittorio Gassman, a dedicated stage actor best known in the states for his masculine presence in international box-office hits like Bitter Rice (1949) and his marriage to Shelley Winters, finished up his MGM contract as the concert violinist who chooses music over Taylor until he sees her work her magic on a young pianist. In the latter role, John Ericson made his debut as an MGM contract player after acclaimed work on stage and the leading role in Fred Zinnemann's realistic war-bride drama Teresa (1951). Although his MGM stay would be brief, he turned in memorable work in such films as The Student Prince (1954) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) before becoming a popular television guest star in the '60s.
MGM pulled out all the stops to make the classical performances convincing. One-time child prodigy Michael Rabin supplied Gassman's violin playing, while Claudio Arrau dubbed for Ericson on the piano. As the conductor working with both of Taylor's amours, MGM cast Richard Hageman, another one-time child prodigy who had led the Metropolitan Opera before relocating to Hollywood to score films.
Despite a good deal of critical carping, Rhapsody performed as expected, turning a profit on Taylor's star appeal. In later years, the film has even earned a devoted fan following among those capable of looking past the soap suds to see the power in Taylor's performance.
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Charles Vidor
Screenplay: Michael Kanin, Fay Kanin, Ruth Goetz, Augustus Goetz
Based on a novel Maurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson
Cinematography: Robert Planck
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Louise Durant), Vittorio Gassman (Paul Bronte), John Ericson (James Guest), Louis Calhern (Nicholas Durant), Michael Chekhov (Prof. Schuman), Barbara Bates (Effie Cahill), Celia Lovsky (Frau Sigerlist), Stuart Whitman (Dove), Madge Blake (Mrs. Cahill).
C-116m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
By Glenn Erickson
The two writing teams are listed in the opening credits as "Fay and Michael Kanin" and "Ruth and Augustus Goetz." A April 7, 1953 item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that Anne Francis was testing for a role, but she was not in the film. According to pre-production news items, Paramount purchased Henry Handel Richardson's novel in December 1951, and later assigned it to producer Bernard Smith and director Charles Vidor. M-G-M acquired the completed screenplay in December 1952. According to the Hollywood Citizen-News review, Vidor incorporated background shots of Paris, Zurich and St. Moritz "to recreate an authentic European atmosphere." Michael Rabin, who performed the violin solos heard in the film, was seventeen years old at the time of production. According to a July 20, 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item, Norma Nevens, who had a bit part in the film, was the daughter of M-G-M producer Lawrence Weingarten.
Released in United States Winter February 1954
Released in United States Winter February 1954