|Song of Norway|
|Directed by||Andrew L. Stone|
|Written by||Andrew L. Stone|
|Edited by||Virginia Stone|
|Music by||Robert Wright|
based on the music of Edvard Grieg
|Distributed by||Cinerama Releasing Corporation|
Like the play from which it derived, the film tells of the early struggles of composer Edvard Grieg and his attempts to develop an authentic Norwegian national music. It stars Toralv Maurstad as Grieg and features an international cast including Florence Henderson, Christina Schollin, Robert Morley, Harry Secombe, Oskar Homolka, Edward G. Robinson, and Frank Porretta (as Rikard Nordraak). Filmed in Super Panavision 70 by Davis Boulton and presented in single-camera Cinerama in some countries, it was an attempt to capitalize on the success of The Sound of Music, and was the first musical in Cinerama.
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- Toralv Maurstad as Edvard Grieg
- Florence Henderson as Nina Grieg
- Christina Schollin as Therese Berg
- Frank Porretta as Rikard Nordraak
- Oskar Homolka as Engstrand
- Robert Morley as Berg
- Edward G. Robinson as Krogstad
- Harry Secombe as Bioernstjerne Bjoernson
Song of Norway was conceived in the wake of successes like My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, two films which had suggested to studios that a revival of full-scale musical films was in demand. The operetta from which the music was derived had been an enormous success on both sides of the Atlantic, running for over 1000 performances on Broadway and in the West End.
However it was a critical and commercial disaster. Filmgoers' appetites for a musical revival had been completely misjudged, and it ultimately was to join other box-office failures of the same period, such as Darling Lili, Mame, Paint Your Wagon, and Lost Horizon. Initially, box office prospects seemed promising. In Britain, it was the most popular "reserved ticket" film of 1971. But it only went on to earn rentals of $4.4 million in North America and $3.5 million in other countries, recording an overall loss of $1,075,000.
Critics were virtually unanimously negative on its release, noting especially the aping of The Sound of Music and its generally poor production despite obvious expense. In The New Yorker, Pauline Kael wrote: "The movie is of an unbelievable badness; it brings back clichés you didn’t know you knew - they’re practically from the unconscious of moviegoers." The New York Times wrote that the film "is no ordinary movie kitsch, but a display to turn Guy Lombardo livid with envy," adding that "the film, conceived as a living postcard, is so full of waterfalls, blossoms, lambs, glaciers, folk dancers, mountains, children, suns, fjords and churches, that it raises kitsch to the status of a kind of art, not without its own peculiar integrity and crazy fascination." Kathleen Carroll of the New York Daily News gave it two stars out of four, writing that "Edvard Grieg may well have had his struggles as a young composer but he'd have to sit through the movie based on his life to know real depression. For 'The Song of Norway,' at the Cinerama, is one big sour note. What has been done to the once charming operetta (it was first performed on Broadway in 1944) is almost too terrible to describe and it is particularly infuriating to those of us who still believe in the preservation of movie musicals." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film half of one star out of four and wrote "The fjords aren't exactly alive with the sound of Grieg thanks to a disastrous screenplay by Andrew Stone who finds it more convenient to photograph a mountain than to write intelligent dialog." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called the film "inoffensive but unsatisfying" and compared it unfavorably to The Sound of Music, which "had a strong narrative line and generated a good deal of suspense. It's not Grieg's fault he wasn't chased by Nazis, of course, but such trials as there were in his life seem either lacklustre or inappropriate to a family musical." Critics also cited the uninspired cinematography, clumsy editing and a ham-fisted insertion of cartoon trolls (supervised by former Disney animator Jack Kinney). These flaws seemed only amplified by their presentation in Super-Panavision and Cinerama. Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that the film had "next to no plot" and "beautiful scenery or not, people are going to lose interest as slowly but surely as they do when watching the neighbors' slides of their trip to Europe."
Critics' views were echoed by cast members. Florence Henderson said that Andrew Stone "approached scenes quite literally and without a lot of imagination". Harry Secombe called it a film "you could take the kids to see... and leave them there."
- "ABC's 5 Years of Film Production Profits & Losses". Variety. May 31, 1973. p. 3.
- "Cinerama Holiday". Daily Variety. February 6, 1970. p. 2.
- "SONG OF NORWAY" TO BE ALL BRITISH". The Mirror. Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. October 14, 1950. p. 15. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- "Set 'Norway' Preem". Variety. June 3, 1970. p. 4.
- "New York Sound Track". Variety. June 17, 1970. p. 4.
- Gray, Timothy M. (February 25, 2003). "Hollywood heavies facing the music". Variety. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
- Waymark, Peter (December 30, 1971). "Richard Burton top draw in British cinemas". The Times. p. 2.
- Kael, Pauline (1971) Deeper into Movies, Calder Boyars
- Canby, Vincent (November 15, 1970). "The New Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
- Quoted in Beck, R. (2002) The Edward G. Robinson Encyclopedia, McFarland. p. 293
- Carroll, Kathleen (November 5, 1970). "Flat Note Hit By 'Song of Norway' Film". New York Daily News. p. 85 – via Newspapers.com.
- Siskel, Gene (January 1, 1971). "Song of Norway". Chicago Tribune. p. 21 (Section 2) – via Newspapers.com.
- Champlin, Charles (November 11, 1970). "Grieg's Life in 'Norway'". Los Angeles Times. p. 17, Part IV – via Newspapers.com.
- Arnold, Gary (January 1, 1971). "Song of Norway". The Washington Post. p. B10.
- Kennedy, M. (2015) Roadshow!: The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, OUP. p. 215
- TV-am interview, 1987
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