Song Without End dramatizes the story of pianist-composer Franz Liszt. It is a must-see motion picture for music lovers, an enriching experience for family audiences, and a particularly compelling attraction for social security eligibles.
A complex central character, Liszt is depicted as a man tragically embroiled in overlapping romantic, religious and professional conflicts. His relations with the opposite sex are stormy, illicit and ill-fated. Discarding the irreligious mother of his two children, he discovers happiness and the germ of artistic fulfillment during his affair with the devout wife of a Russian prince, only to have it dissolve abruptly on the eve of their wedding.
Where the screenplay is never quite clear is in its concept of Liszt’s creative ability. Peerless keyboard technician and interpreter of the genius of his contemporaries, he is regarded as a victim of his own virtuosity.
It is in the production itself that the film attains stature. It is a feast of sight and sound put together by a battery of expert cinema craftsmen. Lensman James Wong Howe zeroes in on the authentic settings with athletic dexterity.
All these skills have been integrated into an impressive physical whole by directors Charles Vidor and George Cukor, but they were not as uniformly successful in commandeering a matching dramatic spirit from the cast.
Vidor died on June 4 1959, having filmed about 15% of the picture. He got full director’s title at request of Cukor who took a smaller screen credit.
1960: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.