The Eddy Duchin Story
Cast & Crew
In the late 1920s, Eddy Duchin, a recent graduate of the Massachusetts School of Pharmacy, comes to New York City, thinking that band leader Leo Reisman has offered him a job as pianist with his orchestra at the Central Park Casino, an elegant society nightspot. After Leo informs Eddy that there is no job, a disheartened Eddy sits down at the piano and begins to play a sad lament to comfort himself. Eddy's playing attracts the attention of socialite Marjorie Oelrichs, who persuades Leo to hire him as an intermission pianist. Later, when the preoccupied diners ignore Eddy's performance, Marjorie coaxes her friends onto the dance floor to enjoy the music. Born to wealth and social stature, Marjorie is amused by Eddy's enthusiastic pursuit of fame and fortune. Eddy's zestful piano performances start to earn him acclaim, fueling his aspiration to rise to the upper class. When he is invited to a party given by Marjorie's aunt and uncle, Sherman and Edith Wadsworth, Eddy is certain that he had made his entrée into society until he learns that the Wadsworths invited him to entertain. Crestfallen, Eddy sits down at the piano to play, and Marjorie sits next to him to comfort him. As Eddy gains prominence as a society pianist, his unpretentious immigrant parents come to New York for a visit. Marjorie, who has been dating Eddy, meets the Duchins for dinner and, after the introductions are made, Marjorie casually asks Eddy to marry her. When a storm strikes on their wedding night, Marjorie confides that she has been tormented by a dream in which the wind takes Eddy away from her. At Christmas time, Marjorie gives birth to a son, Peter. The ordeal is too much for her, however, and in her final moments of life, Marjorie, unaware that she is dying, speaks glowingly of her love for Eddy. As Eddy, his heart breaking, speaks of their future together, Marjorie dies. Devastated, Eddy blames Peter for Marjorie's death and, after placing the boy in the care of the Wadsworths, leaves New York. Five years later, Lou Sherwood, Eddy's friend and personal manager, upbraids him for neglecting his son and accuses him of running away from Marjorie's death. At Lou's insistence, Eddy agrees to return to New York to see Peter. Father and son share a strained reunion in Central Park, after which Eddy bids his son goodbye once more. When the United States enters World War II, Eddy enlists as a radio operator aboard a warship. One day, when his ship docks for repairs, Eddy finds an abandoned, broken-down piano and begins to play. The music attracts a little boy, who sits next to Eddy. Eddy teaches the boy how to accompany him in "Chopsticks," and after an exuberant work out, the boy throws his arms around Eddy, arousing Eddy's longing for his own son. After the war ends, Eddy returns to New York, planning to make a home for Peter, but Peter is reticent around his father. Chiquita, a young Englishwoman who came to live with the Wadsworths after her family was killed during the war, has developed a strong bond with Peter and coaxes him into playing the piano for his father. When Chiquita tries to give Eddy advice about Peter, Eddy bristles and accuses her of meddling, but then relents and asks for help. Father and son slowly reconcile, and at a band rehearsal, Peter proudly plays a duet with Eddy. One night, after Eddy receives a standing ovation at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, his hand freezes in pain. Later, during a raging rainstorm, Peter awakens, screaming and climbs into his father's bed for comfort. Soon after, Eddy is diagnosed with leukemia, but tells no one but Lou. Chiquita, who has fallen in love with Eddy, becomes frustrated by his lack of affection and announces that she is returning to England. Eddy asks her to stay, but is afraid to express his love because of his illness. Tormented, Eddy runs off, but Chiquita follows and he finally tells her he loves her, but has only one year to live. Unfazed, Chiquita proclaims her love for Eddy and eagerly consents to marry him. After they are wed, Peter excitedly plans their future together, and Eddy, angry at his mortality, is unable to tell his son that he is dying. One day while in the park, Eddy informs Peter that he is going away for a long time. When Peter lashes out at his father for deserting him again, Eddy finally finds the courage to admit that he is dying. Sobbing in his father's arms, Peter promises to take care of Chiquita. That night at home, father and son play a duet together. When Eddy stops to embrace Chiquita, Peter continues playing until he breaks down in tears. Eddy then resumes playing, but soon his hands freeze in pain and Peter continues on, alone.
Gloria Ann Simpson
Betsy Jones Moreland
Oscar Hammerstein Ii
Arthur De Lulli
Jack W. Ogilvie
S. K. Russell
Best Music Original Dramatic Score
Best Writing, Screenplay
The Eddy Duchin Story on Blu-ray
New York, 1931: Running away from a career as a pharmacist, young pianist Eddy Duchin (Tyrone Power) gets a job at the Central Park Casino playing intermissions for big bandleader Leo Reisman (Larry Keating). His introduction to the tuxedo set comes thanks to the intervention of beautiful socialite Marjorie Oelrichs (Kim Novak). As Eddy's popularity soars he overcomes his ambitions to join high society, only to fall in love with Marjorie. Duchin and his piano-led orchestra eventually become a top attraction of the Depression years. After his happy wedding to Marjorie, Eddy is certain that an angel must be looking after him. And then tragedy steps in to change everything.
Hollywood musical biographies date quickly. Many are little more than mawkish bits of plotting and overeager actors, sandwiched between overblown production numbers. Real biographical facts are not a requirement, as the subject's personality is usually enlarged to become as big and romantic as his music. There's nothing very cinematic about watching a composer writing a song, which is why Words and Music (Rodgers & Hart) becomes a vaudeville show and Yankee Doodle Dandy (George M.Cohan) an ode to patriotic idealism. In these pictures the heroes are all touched by a magical 'genius' that opens doors and creates riches out of pure harmony. In movies like The Al Jolson Story, the message is that the 'great talent' has attained a new level of existence, like a demigod -- and the great music is there to convince us of it.
Eddy Duchin is the perfect material for a musical biography, a wildly popular New York pianist of the 1930s. He dazzled the hi-toned nightclub crowd with his keyboard style, which included stunts like reversing hands in the middle of a piece. Duchin's early passing in 1951 provides the movie with a bittersweet ending, but central to his story is a personal tragedy that torpedoed what had previously been a charmed life. Much of the second half of The Eddy Duchin Story shows a bitter man only slowly finding his way back to his earlier values. For positive uplift, there's Eddy's son Peter, who in real live idolized his father and became a popular pianist in his own right.
Duchin's story needs no exaggeration to generate the requisite pride and pathos of the genre, and director George Sidney lends it a sense of balance and elegance. Tyrone Power is far too old to play the young Duchin but his makeup here fares much better than that in John Ford's The Long Gray Line just a year earlier. To untrained eyes Power's keyboard work is quite convincing, as if he had studied Duchin's style before faking the fancy moves of the first pianist superstar.
But the biggest appeal of The Eddy Duchin Story is probably Kim Novak, who at the time was in first bloom as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. She's perfectly cast here as a classy heiress who swims in only the most exclusive Park Avenue circles. The manners and gilt of these surroundings are far more natural to her than the rowdy campus life in Five Against the House, and Novak never seemed enough of a schemer to be the femme fatale of Pushover. In The Eddy Duchin Story she's sensual and forbiddingly ladylike at the same time, qualities that surely excited Alfred Hitchcock when he needed a replacement for Vera Miles in Vertigo. No star wears clothing as well as did Novak; she hasn't a single un-photogenic angle.
After forty minutes of upward career arc culminating in artistic and personal success, the Duchins have finally reached a state of bliss, installed in a glorious penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park. That's when the film takes a sudden plunge into melodrama. On her wedding night Marjorie admits her terror of the wind, an unwelcome dark thought that enters as if a stagehand walked onscreen carrying a sign reading: Harbinger of Doom. Personal loss is a staple of musical biographies. As 'Red' Nichols, Danny Kaye lost a beloved child in The Five Pennies, and Eddy Duchin has his own date with tragedy. Kim Novak's sudden exit from the movie puts a definite damper on the proceedings.
The rest of the film covers Eddy's initial estrangement from his growing son, his war service, and his second chance at happiness before leukemia cut him short. All of it retains a sense of restraint. The thankless role of wife Number Two is played by a young Victoria Shaw, an interesting actress seen mostly in cheaper Columbia fare such as Sam Fuller's Verboten! Power's anxiety and Shaw's strength prevent the show from veering into soap opera.
George Sidney bathes The Eddy Duchin Story in glossy production values. The tasteful nightclub sets are packed with patrons in period costumes. Sidney's utilizes his MGM experience to prevent the frequent musical interludes from becoming repetitive. Some border on the obvious, as when sailor-Eddy plays a duet with an Okinawan tot on a piano found in a bombed-out bar. But the hot numbers in the NYC nightclubs set a standard for classy presentation, especially I'll Take Manhattan and Brazil, complete with fancy angles through Duchin's shiny grand piano.
Even more classy and nostalgic are the film's many scenes filmed on location in and around Central Park and Park Avenue. The Technicolor photography captures many moods, especially in rainy weather. Coupled with the lush music score, these romantic sections are pleasant in and of themselves, like the scenery in a widescreen Western.
James Whitmore, even more subdued than usual, fills out the stock role of Duchin's agent and manager. Young Rex Thompson played Deborah Kerr's son in the same year's The King and I and lends some interesting shadings to young Peter Duchin. Somewhere among the party girls is a young Betsy Jones-Moreland, who later became a Roger Corman perennial.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray of The Eddy Duchin Story is a handsome rendering of this beautifully filmed show. Set against George Duning's romantic music, many of those scenes wandering through Central Park have the elegance of a fashion shoot. Tyrone Power & Kim Novak in color and CinemaScope, strolling in Manhattan... it's a piece of Hollywood glamour.
The carefully produced audio track is in two-channel stereo, and an Isolated Music and Effects track is present. The original trailer plays up the film's classier aspects. Julie Kirgo's insert notes compare the real Mr. and Mrs. Duchin with their fictional counterparts and note the similar fate of star Tyrone Power, who died just two years later at the age of 44.
By Glenn Erickson
The Eddy Duchin Story on Blu-ray
The Eddy Duchin Story
Duchin's son, Peter, himself a pianist and bandleader, writes in his memoir, Ghost of a Chance that The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) was a "labor of friendship" by some Columbia executives who had known his father. Their first choice to write the screenplay was another friend of Duchin's, playwright Moss Hart. But Hart was too busy, and the job went to Samuel Taylor, author of Sabrina (1954). Peter Duchin also recalls that "three of Dad's best Hollywood friends -- Cary Grant, Van Johnson, Tyrone Power - had wanted to play the title role. The choice of Power, with his dark good looks and boyish charm, seemed perfect." Power, who was 41 when production began, told the New York Times, "The real tragedy of Duchin's life was his dying at such a young age, only forty-two. I knew Eddy quite well...I used to visit him over there [indicating the hospital across from where he was filming on location] when he was a patient, toward the end." (Sadly, Power himself would die just a few years later, at the age of 44.) Although pianist Carmen Cavallaro played the music in the film, Power spent weeks learning the fingering so that he could be photographed "playing" the piano. He learned 20 of Duchin's numbers for the film.
Columbia's blonde bombshell, Kim Novak seemed an unlikely choice to play socialite Marjorie Oelrichs, Duchin's first wife. Novak was a Polish girl from Chicago who had been "Miss Deep Freeze," demonstrating refrigerators, when she was signed by Columbia and groomed for stardom as a replacement for the fading Rita Hayworth. High-strung and insecure about her acting ability, Novak nevertheless projected sensuality, and by the mid-50s, she was a top box-office star. As one of the era's reigning sex symbols, Novak was the object of the lustful fantasies of many young men, including Peter Duchin, then a Yale student. While the film was on location in New York, young Duchin and some of his Yale buddies went down to New York and met Novak. Later, he took her to meet his mother's best friend Marie Harriman, who along with her husband, New York Governor Averell Harriman, had raised Peter. Novak avidly quizzed Harriman about Marjorie's mannerisms and personality. Then the young man and the movie star went out on the town. Duchin discreetly draws a veil over what transpired between them that night, noting only that "I got as close to Oedipal ecstasy as I'll ever know."
Novak and Power may have projected onscreen chemistry, but their working styles and personalities clashed. Power was the classy professional, a veteran of the studio system; Novak was a young bohemian, whose inexperience and shyness made her volatile. Power told the press exactly how he felt about his co-star. "Confusion between temperament and bad manners is unfortunate...She made my life hell. She was often late, inevitably rude and incredibly cold." Novak responded in kind: "When things are going wrong, it is a waste of time to be calm."
There were other problems during production. While on location in New York, film crews went on strike. So director George Sidney, cinematographer Harry Stradling and Stradling's son, Harry Junior, photographed some of the scenes themselves without a crew, including a romantic walk in the rain in Central Park. Stradling's lush cinematography, Jean Louis' stunning costumes, Novak's ethereal beauty, and the nostalgic music - especially Duchin's theme, based on Chopin's "Nocturne in E-Flat Major" - all contributed to the aura of glamour and romance that made The Eddy Duchin Story a huge hit. Never mind that jaded critics like Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review were puzzled by the film's appeal. "Can anyone - I mean anyone - believe that the life of this stricken man was so beautiful? Does anyone really want to believe it?" Apparently, the answer was yes. Audiences loved The Eddy Duchin Story, and it was nominated for four Academy Awards, including cinematography, music scoring, sound recording, and story. Although it won none of them, it remains one of the most fondly remembered film romances of the era.
Director: George Sidney
Producer: Jerry Wald
Screenplay: Samuel Taylor, from a story by Leo Katcher
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Editor: Viola Lawrence, Jack W. Ogilvie
Costume Design: Jean Louis
Art Direction: Walter Holscher
Music: George Duning
Principal Cast: Tyrone Power (Eddy Duchin), Kim Novak (Marjorie Oelrichs), Victoria Shaw (Chiquita), James Whitmore (Lou Sherwood), Rex Thompson (Peter Duchin as a boy), Shepperd Strudwick (Mr. Wadsworth), Frieda Inescourt (Mrs. Wadsworth).
by Margarita Landazuri
The Eddy Duchin Story
The working title of this film was Music by Duchin. Eddy Duchin (10 April 1910-9 February 1951), began his career in 1928 with Leo Reisman's orchestra at New York's Central Park Casino. Duchin's flashy style and suave demeanor quickly made him the most popular member of the group. Duchin was noted for crossing his hands and playing the lower register with only one finger. Peter, Eddy's son, was born in 1937. After Peter's mother, socialite Marjorie Oelrichs, died following his birth, the boy was placed in the custody of Mr. and Mrs. Averell Harriman, his parents' best friends, who cared for the boy until his father returned from serving in World War II. Peter lived with his father and stepmother Chiquita until his father died from leukemia in 1951. In the film, Eddy's illness is not identified as leukemia. Peter went on to become a pianist, society band leader and composer in his own right.
Nat Brandywine, who appears as himself in the film, was Duchin's fellow pianist at the casino. According to a May 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, Brandywine coached Tyrone Power in his piano playing. According to a June 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M originally wanted to purchase Leo Katcher's screen treatment of Duchin's life as a starring vehicle for Edmond Purdom, but the lawyer for the Duchin estate cancelled the deal when the studio asked for releases and guarantees that the estate could not grant. According to a June 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, George Duchin, Eddy's first cousin, sued writer Katcher for $100,000, claiming that Katcher brought the story over from M-G-M to Columbia without his knowledge or consent. The outcome of that suit is unknown. Although a December 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item states that Moss Hart worked on the scenario, the extent of his contribution has not been determined.
A July 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Jill Melford tested for the role of "Chiquita." Although a Hollywood Reporter production chart places Jerry Antes and Geoffrey Lumb in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A March 1955 New York Times news item notes that location filming was done in Central Park and the Upper East Side of Manhattan and at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. A January 1955 Daily Variety news item adds that Moss Hart was initially slated to write the screenplay, but had to bow out of the project because of illness. In addition to the titles listed in the music text, portions of the following additional songs were also included in the film: "Ain't She Sweet," "Will You Love Me in December As You Did in May," "Smiles," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Let's Fall in Love," Exactly Like You," "La vie en rose" and "Body and Soul."
The Eddy Duchin Story was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Motion Picture Story, Best Cinematography, Best Musical Scoring and Best Sound Recording. It was also nominated for an American Cinema Editor Critic's Award. The film marked the American screen debut of Australian actress Victoria Shaw. George Sidney was borrowed from M-G-M to direct the film. According to an October 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, the Decca soundtrack of The Eddy Duchin Story was a top-selling album.
Released in United States on Video April 29, 1992
Released in United States Summer July 1956
Released in United States on Video April 29, 1992
Released in United States Summer July 1956