English actor Stephen Haggard as Mozart in Whom the Gods Love (1936). Image provided by Network Distributing. The medium of film has bee...Wednesday, January 08, 2014
Whom the Gods Love: The Ealing Studios Collection
|English actor Stephen Haggard as Mozart in Whom the Gods Love (1936). Image provided by Network Distributing.|
Shortly after establishing my authorship of The Chronicles, I embraced a golden opportunity to create accessibility for Mozart with broader audiences via cinemas and cultural institutions as Marketing Manager for the North American theatrical release of In Search of Mozart by Phil Grabsky, an award-winning documentary film-maker in Brighton, England. As a part of his distribution team in the U.S., I worked with Mitchell Block (Direct Cinema), who over the span of his career has handled the distribution and marketing of hundreds of films with 25 of these titles winning Oscars and 71 having received Academy Award nominations. For a girl from a small Midwestern town who grew up with a tremendous affinity for music and the movies, I could not have dreamed such an honor. Film would now become a part of my vocation.
Through my curatorial curiosity of Mozart filmography, I've acquired many titles, some of them rare, and occasionally through fellow enthusiast, Dennis Payne, in Canada. He introduced me to Whom the Gods Love: An Original Story of Mozart and His Wife (1936) and informed me of its upcoming commercial release through Network Distributing on January 20, 2014 (Ealing Studios Rarities Collection Volume 9). As uncommon as it is for an early 20th Century film about Mozart to have its first commercial release today, it certainly isn't the rarest quality about this piece, nor what expressly drew my attention to it.
|On-screen title of Whom the Gods Love (1936) provided by Network Distributing via the British Film Institute.|
Although research reveals that the role of Constanze was created primarily as a romantic lead for Dean's wife, Victoria Hopper, which explains favoritism in the script, his approach still corroborates the fact that Constanze was a supportive and compassionate wife with musical and entrepreneurial abilities. The trailer excerpt (watch at 0:48) is a perfect example. It captures Constanze defending her husband against the threat of an aristocratic patron. "You can never hurt him now. Listen." And she opens the door of the opera box to reveal Mozart conducting the finale of Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). I thought this conclusion was a lovely preface to the history of Constanze presiding as the steward of his legacy for the next 50 years. Mozart died just a few months after the premiere of The Magic Flute at age 35 on December 5, 1791. The aphorism surely echos the title of the film. "Whom the Gods love, die young."
|Stephen Haggard as Mozart and Victoria Hopper as Constanze in Whom the Gods Love (1936). Network Distributing.|
Filming in both Vienna and Salzburg (with interiors at Ealing Studios in London), Dean said that the Austrian Ambassador was so enthusiastic about this project, especially in light of the war and the Anschluss between Austria and Germany, that "Looking back on all that followed, it seems as though the whole country were laid under instruction to do us service." The film crew was permitted to visit and draw sketches of Mozart's birthplace, but not to film there for fear of fire. Given the amount of exhibition technology in the museum today, it's difficult to imagine such precaution, but the level of reverence has remained the same. "The house where Mozart was born is regarded almost as a sacred monument of the city." The film was met with enthusiastic acclaim at the Salzburg Festival in 1936.
For all of the gushing, Dean was also a critic of his own work: "The film was like a beautiful eighteenth-century costume, all velvet embroidery and silver lace, but with no living person inside it." He felt that Stephen Haggard was wrongly cast and that Margaret Kennedy placed "undue emphasis upon the domestic side of the Mozart story which was neither strong enough nor of sufficient interest to warrant such attention." Dean's blatant disregard for the subject of Mozart's domestic life (Constanze) reflects the general attitude of his day as previously mentioned. Kennedy had given Dean a copy of Mozart by Marcia Davenport to review at the beginning of the project. His retrospective is revealing: "On reflection I think this probably began the trouble since my recollection is that the book stresses the domestic difficulties of Mozart's life."
Although these differing visions warranted elements of incongruity in the final cut, Whom the Gods Love is a special part of the Mozart filmography. It reminds viewers of the significance of not one, but two lives in history. And it captures a glimpse of an era, heightened by cultural exchange in the midst of the century's darkest hour, brought to life through the power of film. The restoration and release of Whom the Gods Love is a wonderful act of preservation not only on behalf of Mozart, but of appreciative audiences everywhere, both musical and cinematic.
|Victoria Hopper as Constanze in Whom the Gods Love (1936). Image provided by Network Distributing.|
|Victoria Hopper as Constanze and Stephen Haggard as Mozart in Whom the Gods Love (1936). Network Distributing.|