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Humoresque


Oldbear
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I saw the 1946 movie Humoresque on Turner Classic Movies last night. It starred Joan Crawford and John Garfield as a violinist. There were many scenes of John Garfield playing the violin and his technique seemed real. Normally when actors pretend to play the violin, their fakery is very obvious.

The playing in this movie was magnificent and I wondered who was actually performing. I dug up this info on the web and thought I'd pass it along here. Did anyone else see the movie?

Along with Crawford's performance, Humoresque is notable for the very serious approach the filmmakers took to its setting in the world of classical music. Isaac Stern was hired for $25,000 to record the film's 23 classical pieces, including the special arrangement of Wagner's "Prelude and Love Death" from Tristan und Isolde played over Crawford's final scenes. Garfield studied the violin so he could appear in long shots. For close-ups he wore a jacket with cutaway sleeves. One violinist crouched out of camera range and put his arm through the jacket's right sleeve to operate the bow. Another hid behind Garfield and wore the left sleeve to supply the fingering. After shooting one scene this way, pianist Oscar Levant, who improvised many of his lines as Garfield's sidekick and accompanist, quipped, "Why don't the four of us do a concert tour?"

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I saw some of it (the rehearsal of the Carmen Fantasy and the scene in the bar afterwards), but I was very tired and fell asleep. The playing was quite fine, and Garfield looked quite natural pretending to be a violinist. Interesting trick with the two players and the cutaway jacket. I'd never have guessed there were three people in those closeups!

And Joan was a doll, especially in the glasses. Who says specs aren't sexy?

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In reply to:

One violinist crouched out of camera range and put his arm through the jacket's right sleeve to operate the bow. Another hid behind Garfield and wore the left sleeve to supply the fingering.


The things one has to learn to be a master violinist.

Having done some similar activities for skits I'm surprised that this sounded any better than letting the actor hack away.

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They wouldn't have done the combo playing for the sound, they would have done it for the camera shot,

and used a recording for the sound. They did this so the technique looked good for the close-up shots.

I agree, some movies involving violin playing are so atrociously portrayed, it is painful to watch.

I saw one movie with Helen Hunt where she was supposed to be some professional violinist

and it was awful.

I am impressed that they would go to those lengths in Humoresque for accuracy.

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  • 18 years later...

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