5 January 2005 | bkoganbing
No Aussie accent
Eleanor Parker, a much underrated actress of the 1950s, probably hit the high point of her career when she essayed the role of Marjorie Lawrence in this biographical portrait.
Marjorie Lawrence was an Australian opera star whose career was cruelly interrupted by polio in the 1930s. The film follows Lawrence from her winning a singing contest in her native Winchelsea, Australia through her career with the Metropolitan Opera and her struggle with regaining her health. Lawrence is supported every step of the way by husband Dr. Thomas King,ably played by Glenn Ford. But it's Eleanor Parker's movie all the way.
Funny for a movie about an Australian, Parker doesn't even attempt an Australian accent. This is in the MGM tradition of Clark Gable who did not attempt any British accent in Mutiny on the Bounty. It worked just as well for Parker, though I'd be curious what a native Australian might think. Lawrence was the second female opera star who became a national treasure for Australia, the first being Nellie Melba. Parker shouldered a lot of tradition in this film and did it well.
The voice used by Parker for the operatic sequences is that of Eileen Farrell of the Metropolitan Opera. The sequences are well done, but the real drama in the scenes of Lawrence battling polio.
This film coincidentally enough came out at the same time that Dr. Jonas Salk discovered his vaccine preventive for polio. I still remember as a lad getting those polio shots at my public school. No movie studio could have planned that coincidence, but MGM reaped enormous profit because of it. As for Jonas Salk, no man of medicine has ever been admired in the same way in my lifetime.
Eleanor Parker was nominated for best actress, but lost that year to Anna Magnani in The Rose Tattoo. Look for a young Roger Moore in the role of Parker's brother and business manager.
My favorite scene in the whole film is Parker as Lawrence entertaining the troops overseas in World War II. Especially when she sings Waltzing Matilda to her native Australian diggers. It was like the whole beating heart of the Australian continent coming alive for an instant. Absolutely inspired.
This film gets the highest possible recommendation from me.