|Song of Russia|
Theatrical Film Poster
|Cinematography||Harry Stradling Sr.|
Song of Russia is a 1944 American war film made and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The picture was credited as being directed by Gregory Ratoff, though Ratoff collapsed near the end of the five-month production, and was replaced by László Benedek, who completed principal photography; the credited screenwriters were Paul Jarrico and Richard J. Collins. The film stars Robert Taylor, Susan Peters, and Robert Benchley.
American conductor John Meredith (Robert Taylor) and his manager, Hank Higgins (Robert Benchley), go to the Soviet Union shortly before the country is invaded by Germany. Meredith falls in love with beautiful Soviet pianist Nadya Stepanova (Susan Peters) while they travel throughout the country on a 40-city tour. Their bliss is destroyed by the German invasion.
- Robert Taylor as John Meredith
- Susan Peters as Nadya Stepanova
- John Hodiak as Boris Bulganov
- Robert Benchley as Hank Higgins
- Felix Bressart as Petrov
- Michael Chekhov as Ivan Stepanov
- Darryl Hickman as Peter Bulganov
- Jacqueline White as Anna Bulganov
- Patricia Prest as Stasa Bulganov
- Joan Lorring as Sonia
- Vladimir Sokoloff as Alexander Meschkov
- Leo Mostovoy as Yanovich
- Leo Bulgakov as Professor Faber
- Zola Karabanova as Natasha Bulganov
- Konstantin Shayne as Wounded Soldier
- John Wengraf as Red Army Commander
- Barbara Bulgakov as Truck Driver
- Tamara Shayne as Mme. Orlova
Perception as pro-Soviet propaganda
The positive portrayal of the Soviet Union in the film is clearly linked to the wartime alliance of the Soviet Union and the U.S.
After the end of the Second World War and the outbreak of the Cold War, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) cited Song of Russia as one of the three noted examples of "pro-Soviet propaganda films" made by Hollywood, the others being Warner Brothers' Mission to Moscow and RKO's The North Star. This assertion was supported by the Russian-born pro-capitalist and anti-Communist writer Ayn Rand, who was specifically asked by a HUAC investigator to see the film and provide an expert opinion on it. Ayn Rand, in her 1947 testimony before the HUAC, cited Song of Russia as an example of Communist propaganda in the Hollywood motion picture-industry, depicting an idealized Soviet Union with freedom and comfort that, in her opinion, never existed in the real Soviet Union.
Robert Taylor himself protested, after the fact, that he had had to make the film under duress, as he was under contract to MGM. This is the rationale he used to explain why he was a friendly witness during the HUAC hearings in the 1950s. Russian-born director Gregory Ratoff testified that Taylor was telling the truth and that Taylor had explicitly protested about the aforementioned aspect of the film but had been told by MGM to "just do the picture" or else he would liable for breach of contract.
Despite the criticism it received in later years, historians claiming it is nowadays more remembered for its content rather than its quality, Song of Russia was initially received positively. The New York Times called some scenes "a fine bit of cinematic art". Furthermore, the reviewer praised the cast, writing:
"Taylor makes a very good impression as a young American caught in Russia by love and war. And Susan Peters is extraordinarily winning as a mentally solemn but emotionally bonny Russian girl. Robert Benchley throws some straws of cryptic humor into the wind as the American's manager, and Michael Chekhov, Vladimir Sokoloff and Michael Dalmatov are superb as genial Russian characters."
The movie was also popular, earning $1,845,000 in the US and Canada and $1,884,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $782,000.
- Glancy, H. Mark (1992). "MGM film grosses, 1924–1948: The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 12 (2): 127–144. doi:10.1080/01439689200260081.
- Eyman, Scott (2008) . Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-0791-1.
- Rand, Ayn (October 19, 1947). "Ayn Rand's HUAC Testimony". The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Archived from the original on June 3, 2011.
- "Hearings Regarding the Communist Infiltration of the Motion-Picture Industry". Internet Archive. October 20–30, 1947. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
- "Song of Russia,' Rich Musical Picture, With Robert Taylor and Susan Peters, Opens at the Capitol". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 10, 2012.
- "'Song of Russia' Co-Stars Taylor, Peters at Ritz". Big Spring Daily Herald. Big Spring, TX. March 26, 1944. p. 6.