BREAK OF HEARTS ( 1935 )

MUSICAL MONTH

BREAK OF HEARTS ( 1935 )

For my next review, I’ve decided to do another Katharine Hepburn movie, but because she’s not known as a musical star, and hasn’t really appeared in any films of that genre, except for about two obscure concerto based productions that are not really classified as musical, but are worthy of inheriting the title, I thought I would exhibit one of them as a piece for this months theme.

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“Break Of Hearts” is a neglected treasure that only ardent supporters of Katharine Hepburn would know about, and even then it’s not palatable with all her legion of fans for the fact that it was largely panned at the box office, but being the Katharine Hepburn aficionado that I am, I attained the movie and started to question why it has been dismissed for all these years. I was really enthralled by it, and this is why I want to present this film for today, so I can encourage more people to see it, hoping that they would appreciate it as much as I do.

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The film was written especially for Katharine Hepburn, and was originally intended as a vehicle for John Barrymore, who played Katharine’s father in her film debut, “A Bill Of Divorcement”, but once RKO advertised it, the role was assigned for Francis Lederer, until he was replaced by Charles Boyer.

Philip Moeller placed his directorial efforts into directing the film. Although he was an unknown film director, and only had one movie on his resume, he was a successful director, playwright, screenwriter and producer of the American stage.

Produced by Pandro S. Berman, and with a string of writers, including, Lester Cohen and Victor Heerman, the film was expected to open to high encomium, but sadly it didn’t reach that status, and instead the production was a diminutive loss.

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The plot centres Katharine Hepburn as Constance Dane, the aspiring young composer who meets and falls in love with the eminent musical conductor, Franz Roberti ( Charles Boyer ). Once they are married, Constance discovers that Franz is not only compassionate about music, he’s also captivated by women, and has an array of girlfriends.

Jealous about the number of women he keeps, and her place in his heart, Constance walks out and is pursued by Johnny, who is also infatuated by her and plans on getting married, but Constance still has her mind on Franz.

In the meantime, Franz is being swept into a downward spiral, and is getting closer to being trapped in the abyss of dipsomania, until Constance re-enters his life and helps restore his career.

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“Break Of Hearts” is such an underrated film that deserves more recognition. I think the reason why the movie fell flat is because of the choice of director. Philip Moeller was new to the film medium, and was relatively inexperienced at directing motion pictures that featured top stars like Katharine Hepburn and Charles Boyer. Katharine was accustomed to working with her close friend George Cukor, who we all know was a virtuoso in his craft, so the film could have received more accolades if someone like George Cukor served as director.

Katharine Hepburn once again disseminated her acting prowess by delivering a sterling performance. Apart from “Alice Adams”, in my opinion this is one of her most meritorious roles from the thirties, but when you have indelible talents like Katharine in a film you can’t go wrong. Charles Boyer was also impressive as Franz Roberti. He can speak centuries of emotion with those incredible eyes, but so could Katharine, who’s face and eyes were aglow in almost every scene of the movie.

What makes the film is the solid cast. Katharine Hepburn and Charles Boyer were inimitable, and two of the worlds most notable stars, so when you put them in a movie together, the result is effective. The most ironic moment in the film is when Katharine launches into discourse on how she will look out for the sodden Roberti, eerily reflecting her relationship with Spencer, almost a decade away.

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Songs:

Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (From the New World)
(1893) (uncredited)
Music by Antonín Dvorák
Excerpts played at a concert
Kinderszenen, Op. 15, No. 7 ‘Träumerei’
(1838) (uncredited)
Music by Robert Schumann
Played on piano
Excerpts integrated into the score
Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (The Unfinished)
(1822) (uncredited)
Written by Franz Schubert (as Franz Peter Schubert)
Excerpts played as part of the score.
Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Opus 64
(1888) (uncredited)
Fourth movement, Andante maestoso – Allegro vivace
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Excerpts played at the first rehearsal
The Sidewalks of New York
(1894) (uncredited)
Music by Charles Lawlor
Excerpts played as part of the score during the Washington Square sequence
The Wedding March
(1842) (uncredited)
Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played on piano by John Beal and on trombone by Jean Hersholt
Jingle Bells
(1857) (uncredited)
Music by James Pierpont
Played as part of the score during a toboggan ride.
The Continental
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Con Conrad
Played at the New Year’s Eve party
Auld Lang Syne
(uncredited)
Scottish traditional tune
Lyrics by Robert Burns (1788)
Played and sung at the New Year’s Eve Party
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565
(ca 1705) (uncredited)
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
Played at the New Year’s Day concert
Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Opus 68
(1876) (uncredited)
Fourth Movement, Allegro Con Spirito
Music Johannes Brahms
Played at the final concert
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Trivia:
After completing one scene in the role of Franz Roberti, Francis Lederer refused to shoot a particular set-up, complaining it showed his “bad” side. Katharine Hepburn and assistant director Edward Killy complained to studio head J.P. MacDonald, who fired Lederer and replaced him with Charles Boyer.
The character of Franz Roberti was based on two real-life conductors of the period: Leopold Stokowski, who was well known for his rearrangements of music by Bach, Wagner and other composers; and Arturo Toscanini, who was notorious for insulting his musicians during rehearsals the way Roberti does in the film.
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Quotes:
Constance Dane: “My favorite dish, ham sandwich, and only as I can make it.”
Constance Dane: “You like it?”
Franz Roberti: “Hmmmm, magnificent.”
Constance Dane: “This is the first time you have ever had supper at a ladies apartment alone, isn’t it?”
Franz Roberti: “The very first”
Constance Dane: “Liar”
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Cast:
Katharine Hepburn: Born Katharine Houghton Hepburn on May 12th, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut. Died: June 29th, 2003 in Fenwick, Connecticut. Aged 96.
Charles Boyer: Born Charles Boyer on August 28th, 1899 in Figeac, Lot, Midi-Pyrenees. Died: August 26th, 1978 in Phoenix, Arizona. Aged 78.
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