22 August 2004 | bkoganbing
La Barrett - a tuneful treat
One Night of Love proved to be a successful comeback picture of sorts for Metropolitan Opera Star Grace Moore. Having not established herself at an earlier outing in Hollywood with MGM, Harry Cohn and Columbia got her back with this film that showcased Moore's magnificent voice.
The film is your usual backstage story only with an operatic twist. Moore is an aspiring opera singer and as the picture opens she's singing the title tune which became a big hit at a radio station contest. The prize is a scholarship to study in Italy. Believe it or not, Grace Moore doesn't win, but she's determined and with her meager savings she goes to Italy and studies to become a great opera diva.
Along the way she gets involved with two men, voice teacher Tullio Carminati and American expatriate Lyle Talbot. Carminati also has a witch of an ex-pupil/girlfriend he's trying to dump, deliciously played by Mona Barrie.
But this is Miss Grace Moore's film and that's how she is billed here and would be for the rest of her film career. Grace Moore, who's all but forgotten today except for devoted opera fans, conquered four areas of entertainment; recordings, stage, grand opera, and finally film.
She was the best selling classical artist of her day. On Broadway in Irving Berlin's Music Box Revues she introduced several of his standards, most importantly the song Always. Her buxom beauty (she was a full-figured gal before Jane Russell made bra commercials) helped popularize opera for the masses. And after failing with MGM she finally did become a film star with this film.
Moore set off a couple of copycats in Hollywood with her success. 20th Century Fox signed Lily Pons and Paramount inked Gladys Swarthout to film contracts. Both these ladies fine singers that they were, never achieved even the limited success Moore had. The problem with signing opera singers is that you have to have them singing opera to show off their talent. That has a limited appeal and Moore too was finished in Hollywood in four years.
The film is curiously autobiographical in the same way Mario Lanza's That Midnight Kiss is. Moore plays a small town girl who wants to sing opera, just like the real Grace Moore. How often will the public go to see an opera singer, even a great one, play an opera singer? Moore played versions of Mary Barrett for the rest of her film career at Columbia.
Still the original is a tuneful treat. In addition to the title song and several arias, Moore also sings Ciribiribin which was a favorite song always requested at concerts and even at encores of her operatic performances.