• U.S.

Cinema: New Picture: Aug. 7, 1939

3 minute read

They Shall Have Music (United Artists-Samuel Goldwyn) is a triumphant answer to the current Hollywood theory that it is impossible to make a good picture about a great musical celebrity. Choosing one of the greatest, 38-year-old Violinist Jascha Heifetz, Producer Samuel (“The Touch”) Goldwyn provided the most obvious touch of all: Heifetz as himself, a sombre, undemonstrative young man with a fiddle which he plays as well as anyone in the world can play one. Instead of the story which eventually killed operatic pictures—plucking a well-known star off the Metropolitan stage, dousing him in tribulations, and then laboriously and romantically putting him back in the Met—They Shall Have Music takes Heifetz and his fame for granted, never catches him with a movie queen instead of a Stradivarius in his arms.*

As Heifetz, Heifetz plays Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso one night at Carnegie Hall. In the audience is a slum boy (Gene Reynolds), who found a ticket in the lobby, failed to sell it to anyone at the door. Heifetz’ fiddle stirs in this embryonic cutpurse the will to resume his own studies on the violin. When the charitable music school which takes him in finds itself in an understandable financial jam, Heifetz is touched for a $5 bill, promises to attend the school’s concert if he can. Although making him keep this amiable promise proves fully as difficult as it would be in real life, Heifetz does keep it, ends the picture in the musical blaze of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

That They Shall Have Music ended at all is no mean tribute to Producer Goldwyn’s pertinacity. Having convinced Heifetz with difficulty that it was his “duty” to make a movie, Goldwyn went to work on an ambitious story about a Jewish musician exiled from Germany, was brought up short when Heifetz refused to do any acting off a concert platform. Result was that Goldwyn had no story ready when Heifetz reported in Hollywood between concert tours last summer. In desperation, when Heifetz refused to wait for his $70,000, Goldwyn had him work it out in four strenuous weeks of recording everything from semi-popular music to concertos.

When the saving notion of a music-school background came to Goldwyn, he turned it over to Scenarists Irmgard von Cube and John Howard Lawson. For another $30,000 Heifetz consented to return to Hollywood for a few necessary scenes. Goldwyn feared more trouble getting Virtuoso Heifetz to play to the accompaniment of his juvenile orchestra, 45 gifted Los Angeles protégés of philanthropic University of Southern California Professor Peter Meremblum. But when Heifetz heard the kids on the set valiantly attacking the Barber of Seville overture, he acted just as Producer Goldwyn hoped he would, grabbed his fiddle and walked on.

*In private life Violinist Heifetz is the husband of queenly, retired Cinemactress Florence Vidor.

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