Judge Clark Douglas wants to look radiant on his deathbed.
Our review of The Eddy Duchin Story, published September 11th, 2002, is also available.
Love! Life! Music!
"Why do they have to destroy a man twice?"
Facts of the Case
Eddy Duchin (Tyrone Power, The Black Swan) is an aspiring pianist who has just moved to New York City to pursue his dreams. He doesn't have an official job assignment, but he's positive that his talent will take him somewhere. As he slowly but surely begins to establish himself among the city's musical elite, Eddy begins romancing the wealthy, attractive socialite Marjorie Oelrichs (Kim Novak, Vertigo). Things continue to go swimmingly for a while (Eddy becomes a bigger star with each passing year, and Marjorie agrees to marry him), but eventually a personal tragedy derails Eddy's career. He joins the Navy and goes to war, vowing to leave his musical past behind him. Even so, fate may have a different plan for him.
I'm genuinely curious as to how The Eddy Duchin Story managed to get made. Despite the fact that Duchin was a well-respected pianist, he was hardly the sort of household name that, say, Glenn Miller had been. Additionally, there was nothing particularly groundbreaking about Duchin's music. He was a gifted pianist (and many claim that Liberace was heavily influenced by his style), but he didn't alter the musical landscape in any significant way. On top of all of that, the story of his life was a relatively unremarkable one save for a couple of sad facts: Duchin's wife passed away due to complications during childbirth, and Duchin himself died rather young due to leukemia. As such, Columbia Pictures opted to make Duchin's biopic a melodramatic tearjerker. Boy, is it melodramatic.
Once it finally gets going, The Eddy Duchin Story lays the syrup on pretty thick. The film's opening hour is mostly comprised of Eddy slowly finding success in music and romance—there's not much to it aside from earnest grins, chipper piano performances and G-rated flirting between Power and Novak, but it effectively establishes Duchin as a man leading a relatively charmed life. After what seems like an eternity of this, the film attempts to pull the rug out from underneath the audience with its depiction of Mrs. Duchin's death. The only problem? The death scene is laughably staged, with Novak looking perfectly healthy during the closing moments of her character's life. I won't spoil the details of how Duchin's eventual passing is presented, but suffice it to say that it's somehow even more romantic and sentimental.
Unfortunately, the problems don't end there. Power is badly miscast in the title role, as he's far too old to play the Duchin present for most of the film. The actor does his best to play the bright-eyed, innocent, youthful young man of the film's first half, but he simply can't mask the fact that he's a middle-aged, slightly weary actor (sadly, Power himself would pass away prematurely just a couple of years after the film's release). He's effective during the film's final couple of reels, but that's simply too little, too late. Thankfully, Power would conclude his career on a far more impressive note with his sly performance in Billy Wilder's Witness for the Prosecution.
The film's best moments are its musical sequences (particularly a fun, vibrant performance of "Brazil"), but don't expect a recreation of Duchin's signature style. All of the piano pieces were re-recorded by Carmen Cavallero—a talented pianist in his own right, but one with a style that differs noticably from Duchin's. Cavallero didn't make much of an attempt to precisely recreate Duchin's method of playing, instead opting to put his own spin on the material. While only serious Duchin fans are likely to notice this, serious Duchin fans are likely the only ones who will find themselves terribly interested in this mawkish, meandering melodrama.
The Eddy Duchin Story (Blu-ray) sports a middling 1080p/2.55:1 transfer. It's certainly an odd candidate for the Cinemascope treatment, as the rather intimate story only occasionally conjures up a scene (generally involving a lavish party) worthy of the format. While most Cinemascope flicks have fared pretty well in hi-def, this one looks somewhat soft and dingy. A fair amount of natural grain is present, and Twilight Time hasn't done anything to harm the film's look, but it seems flatter than it ought to. The DTS HD 1.0 Master Audio track is stellar, faring particularly well during the film's most music-heavy sequences. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, though sound design is minimal. Though Twilight Time has been making strides in the special features department in recent times, this one is pretty limited: an isolated score track, a trailer and a booklet.
Melodramatic and dramatically inert, The Eddy Duchin Story is a dull prestige project from a rather uninteresting period in Tyrone Power's career. The music is pleasant, but the film never takes off.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Twilight Time
• Isolated Score
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