Another feature of...
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For Valentine's Day,
This is my second and, I would assume, final article examining "Soap Opera Movies of the 1950s Starring Then Closeted Gay Male Sex Symbols." (Although Jason’s Can’t Stop the Music piece falls into fairly similar territory.) The other such review was on Magnificent Obsession, starring TCGMSS Rock Hudson. That picture remains best known to devotees as the film in which the Great and Mighty Jabootu revealed his presence to the world.
In another way we’re talking apples and oranges. Today it’s easy to see how Rock Hudson hid his homosexuality from audiences of the period. Classically masculine, he fit none of the stereotypes rather more in currency then. Yet it’s somewhat harder to swall…uh, let me rephrase that. It’s somewhat more difficult to comprehend when regarding the lead of Sincerely Yours, the one and only Liberace. Yet it’s true. Homosexuality was so seldom confronted in those days that it was apparently easy to overlook Liberace’s lisp and mincing behavior. Moreover, he had yet to move into his baroque Furs ‘n Candelabras stage.
Indeed, to the huge fan base of his daily fifteen-minute TV show, composed mostly of middle-aged women, the bachelor Liberace was considered to be quite the catch. He was quiet, well mannered and always spoke well of his mother. His piano skills marked him as somewhat highbrow, yet his intimate manner and the mischievous twinkle in his eyes revealed a fellow who was anything but snooty. He was, in a way, the Oprah of his time, invited into homes every weekday afternoon by a mammoth audience of stay home women. His romantic charms were soon immortalized in the classic tune "Mr. Sandman." There the title entity is exhorted to provide a boyfriend equipped with "lots of curly hair like Liberace."
Even so, it remains difficult to believe that anyone would toss Liberace a huge sack of loot to star in a weepy, straight -- in more ways than one -- romantic picture. Yet the Warner Brothers studio rolled those dice. They were wagering that women would swarm to the theaters to fantasize that it was they who were surrendering to Liberace’s manly charms. The result was perhaps the most famous example yet of a "Once is Enough!" movie star. Such players tend to be prominent in some other medium or discipline, whether TV or radio or perhaps sports or singing. They eventually are hired to appear in a film which proves so monumentally disastrous, both critically and financially, that they are barred from movie work forever after. Tony Bennett’s brilliant portrayal of Hymie Kelly in The Oscar is another example of the breed.
In any case, Liberace reportedly got major dough to make this film. Then, perhaps to reduce further outlays, the studio decided to remake an old film rather than buy or commission a new story. (Further details can be found in Harry and Michael Medved’s chapter on the film in The Hollywood Hall of Shame.) They unfortunately decided to update a wheezy old chestnut entitled The Man Who Played God, made in 1932 and starring George Arliss and Bette Davis. That the plotline was creaky even twenty-three years before was wishfully ignored.
And so on to our feature. The title credits alone seem comical, written in the flamboyant red cursive script seen above. Spotlighting the billed-above-the-title Liberace and accompanied by horrendously schmaltzy piano music, they seem to be warning the viewer to abandon all hope. Yet the stalwart follower of Jabootu must trudge forward, even in the face of the all but two-hour long extravaganza before him. No, sir, no seventy minute quickie here. It’s time to separate the pros from the wannabes.
We open on a rainy set, er, street, outside a concert hall advertising an appearance by Anthony Warrin. (We also see here that the film was produced by one ‘Henry Blanke,’ which just seems appropriate somehow.) Despite the downpour, umbrella-laden fans are crowded outside the backstage door, hoping for a glimpse of their hero. Meanwhile, I nearly had a heart attack when the director’s credit appeared. Sincerely Yours was helmed, I learned, by Gordon Douglas. Mr. Douglas had, just the year prior to this, directed my all-time favorite monster flick, the giant ant opus Them! All I can say is…What the hell?! WHAT THE HELL??!!!
Anyway, after taking a nitro tablet I returned to the job at hand. Looking out at the fans are Warrin’s faithful secretary Marion and his brusque-yet-lovable manager Sam. The latter, classic TV fans will be sad to hear, is portrayed by William Demarest, best known for playing Uncle Charlie on My Three Sons. Heading backstage, Marion leans forward to watch Warrin (Liberace) regale the packed house with his pianist skills. Here we get our first look at Our Star. Wearing white tie and tails and with his round face and silvered-on-the-sides hair, he reminds one of nothing so much as a younger Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis.
As he closes the current piece, we are witness to Liberace’s "Chico Marx playing classical" technique. This is characterized by his lifting his hands high in the air and then dashing his digits down upon the keys in the manner of a martial artist attempting to increase his finger strength. This, however, represents the serious Anthony Warrin. (It should be noted that the part has been written so as to correspond to Liberace as much as possible. Especially in terms of the piano playing scenes – of which, dreadfully, there are quite a few – you can pretty much take ‘Anthony Warrin’ to read ‘Liberace.’) Now, as he ends the number and is manically applauded by the matted-in audience, it’s time to reveal his playful side.
Bowing to the assembly before him, he begins to speak in that weird voice he has, as soft and rounded as his build. Which only brings up again the oddness of casting Liberace as a romantic figure. Flashing his trademark unctuous grins and bobbing up and down at the waist like one of those novelty metronomic birds you attach to a glass of water, Warrin requests a number that the younger folks in the audience might enjoy hearing. Adults, ignoring the point of the exercise, call out for ‘light’ classical pieces like the Moonlight Sonata or Rhapsody in Blue. Up in the balcony, though, an adorable young girl raises her hand. (That’s funny, from her perspective the stage is quite a bit closer to the balcony than the matte shots establishing the audience made it look.) Warrin calls upon the tyke who, to our horror, requests Chopsticks. Uh, could we go back to that Rhapsody in Blue idea?
On the other hand, considering Warrin’s ability to butcher and hoke up Chopsticks, we’re undoubtedly better off taking a pass on Gershwin. Even odder is the massive support he gets on the number from the accompanying orchestra. I thought this was an impromptu number, but the orchestra jumps right in on cue, almost if, oh, I don’t know, they had practiced the number before. This goes on at some length, with Warrin manically bouncing up and down on his piano bench as if hurrying to finish the number so that he can make an emergency bathroom stop. Meanwhile, the girl engages a freckled sarcastic lad near her in some excruciating banter, as the boy’s eyes grow wide at the amazing musical exhibition occurring before him. Needless to say, thunderous applause greets the completion of this musical carnage.
Cut to San Francisco. (I’m not saying a word.) Marion is going over things with Warrin, who’s attired in a red silk dressing gown. In perhaps a lame attempt to butch up the hero, it’s mentioned that he’s received tickets for a boxing match (inevitably referred to as "the Big Fight") being held that evening. Marion is excited because he’s promised to take her with. Warrin, for his part, is excited to hear that Sam has received a wire from a Mr. Aldritch in New York. Running into the bathroom where Sam is taking a bubble bath, Warrin rifles Sam’s robe pockets until he finds the telegram. It’s his dream come true, you see. Warrin is being offering a show at the Carnegie Hall.
Sam doesn’t get the big deal (good manager!), and Warrin settles into a seat next to the tub to continue the conversation. In case we fail to ‘get’ it, he’s always dreamed of playing Carnegie Hall because it’s the ultimate prestige venue. The offer means that he’s now being recognized as a serious artist. Sam, however, doesn’t care about success so much (good manager!) as Sam not losing his connection to the audiences of common folk who so love his music. Meanwhile, continuity error fans will enjoy watching the rising and lowering level of suds in Sam’s bath.
Ecstatic, Warrin plans to confer with Zwolinski, his old piano teacher. He tells Marion that she should go with Sam to the fights, and then splits. Here Marion’s glum expression reveals that she is that rarest of all creatures – the movie secretary who’s secretly in love with her boss. (Well, OK, there was Nude on the Moon. But I dare you to name another!) Caught out by Sam, she tries to act nonchalant, hoping to keep her feelings hidden away deep inside. Calling down to room service, she asks them to "send up a tray." That way, I guess, if she later orders some actual food she’ll have something to put it on. Sam is too wise for this, though. "How long have you been working for Tony," he asks. "Four years," Marion replies. "And how many of those years," Sam continues softly, "have you been in love with him?" (Cue swell of romantic music.)
Warrin buzzes at Zwolinski’s place, and the door is answered by a housekeeper who is, say we say, rather excessively Irish. Of the "Saints preserve us!" sort, if you know what I mean. She lets Warrin in to wait on The Maestro, who’s out at the moment, and takes her leave. Warrin sits down at Zwolinski’s piano and begins to tickle the ivories. As this transpires, Linda Curtis, an evident High Society Girl, enters the apartment. Then ensues a poorly staged ‘confused’ conversation, the gist of which is that she believes Warrin to be Zwolinski. She’s hoping to take some lessons from him in order to improve her skills. Or something. It’s not really worth going into to. Warrin, attracted to her, plays along as the imperious teacher. "Sometimes even a pretty face can have talent," he schmoozes. (Ah, Warrin, you charmer!) She smiles at this comment, which is odd, since I myself can’t figure out what it means. What kind of ‘talent’ can a face have? Ear wiggling?
Linda sits down and begins to demonstrate her chops, if, luckily, not her Chopsticks. Meanwhile, he flits around giving her orders, hammily playing up how he’s Zwolinski. (He also acts like a complete jerk, as when he asks, "Where did you practice your scales? Reaching for martinis?" Well, all right, an incomprehensible jerk, anyway. I mean, did they translate these ‘quips’ into Japanese and then back into English or something?) I think all this is supposed to be some sort of comic tour de force scene for Liberace. However, his general ‘acting’ style is so broad to begin with that he doesn’t really seem to be camping it up much more than usual. As is the rule, bad comedy equals audience pain.
Just in case she hasn’t been humiliated enough, he kicks her off the piano and begins to show her how it’s done. Ha, ha, she can’t play as well as a professional concert pianist. That’ll learn her! Next up, a film where Derek Jeter makes fun of the shortcomings of Little League baseball players.
Linda mentions that she’ll be seeing Anthony Warrin in concert the next night. She’s never seen him, she reveals, only his records. (Like Liberace himself didn’t plaster his puss over every album cover he ever released.) Not knowing that Zwolinski has returned, the incognito Warrin begins to ‘comically’ praise himself as being a genius. Ho, ho, what a lovable scamp, eh? Responding to her continuing acclamations, he notes that she’s a woman of "rare judgment." (Boy, I’ll say!)
Zwolinski finally speaks up and Warrin jumps up to greet the old gentleman. Either that, or he’s attempting to blind the guy with the glare off of his gigantic white teeth. Proving his skills as a lover boy (!), Warrin effortlessly whisks the entranced Linda out for a romantic dinner. (He tells Zwolinski that he came by to improve his technique. However, he notes, slyly glancing at Linda, "perhaps it’s good enough.") As with Sextette, it’s very odd to watch a film whose entire premise is built on the idea that someone is irresistible to the opposite sex when very clearly they aren’t. Here, it’s like watching a version of The Maltese Falcon where Mary Astor leaves Bogart to run off with Peter Lorre’s perfumed little Joe Cairo.
The two end up in an Italian restaurant run by a guy who is, shall we say, perhaps a bit too Italian. Of the "Mama Mia! That’s’a one spicy a’meatball!" persuasion, if you get my meaning. Setting up another hilarious comedy showcase for our star (please, just kill me now), it turns out that Warrin left his money "in my other suit." Linda ends up paying for the meal, and in more ways than one, I’d imagine.
The two end up in a trendy nightspot. Here, as inevitably as Death and Taxes, Warrin gets cajoled into doing a number on the house band’s grand piano. "This is a surprise," the bastard announces, rubbing it in. C’mon, ya sadistic jerk, just start playing so we can get this over with. No go, though. In a scene undoubtedly targeted at Liberace’s television demographic, Warrin leans over to turn his oily charms on a table of tittering middle-aged matrons. It’s a scene that can only make the modern viewer cringe. The bit where he coaxes one worshipful Aunt Bee look-alike into reaching over and grabbing his knee…well, we’re better off moving on, I think.
Next he jumps up and starts a humorous display of boogie-woogie technique. I really can’t cast aspersions on the man’s piano skills, but, yeesh, what he does with ‘em. Still, any scene where he isn’t flouncing up Beethoven or Bach is a comparative relief. And this is undoubtedly the least painful of his various piano playing sequences. Believe me, we’ll pay for that later.
And not much later, at that. Here’s the scene I was just referring to. Now officially a couple -- they smooched after Warrin’s little act in the restaurant -- they are next seen at a local museum. There, in a bit whose set-up adds new meaning to the terms strained and awkward, a comical guard secretly ushers the two over to an unopened new exhibit. (By the way, if you haven’t been doing so up to now, you should be adding mental parentheses around the words ‘comical’ and ‘humorous’ whenever I use them here.)
I have seen many strange and terrible sights in my cinematic travels, my friends. Yet were I ever to assemble a list of the ten most appalling sequences I have ever beheld, this bit here would be high on the list.
The exhibition, you see, consists of a display of pianos and harpsichords once owned by the great composers. To my vast horror, this is used as a set-up for Liberace to sit down and tinker around in his, er, inimitable fashion with various classic compositions. The only comparison to this grotesque sacrilege would be to have, say, Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay reinterpret the works of Shakespeare while manhandling a collection of his original manuscripts.
Approaching one doomed instrument, Warrin reads the card accompanying it. "Frederick Chopin played this spinet in Paris," he notes. Then to another potential victim. "Paderewski, on this piano, he made his spectacular America debut." Perhaps because he was a fellow Pole (talk about a hard luck country!), Paderewski becomes Warrin/Liberace’s first casualty. Still, at least he gets a more or less faithful interpretation. Meanwhile, Warrin flirts with Linda. In a brilliant attempt to avoid any obvious romantic clichés, the two note that, despite knowing each other only a day, it’s like they’ve been together a lifetime. (I’m having a similar reaction to watching this film, actually.)
The next grave-spinner? Mozart. (!!) Linda and the guard note the unorthodox, and I quote, "nice tinkle" coming from this ‘piano.’ Apparently fearing that we in the audience are complete morons, this is used to provide Warrin the opportunity to elaborate on exotic musical devices. "It’s not really a piano," he explains. "It’s what you call a harpsichord." A Harpsa-what?! Yeah, ha, that’s a new one on me, by golly! Anyway, in case we’re not in enough mental agony, we get a nice long close-up watching Liberace skittering digits befoul an instrument supposedly owned by perhaps the world’s greatest composer. Maybe after he’s done playing on it, Our Hero could open his fly and urinate on the instrument. I mean, a job worth doing is worth doing well.
Warrin tries to propose to Linda (!!), but the Comical Guard (I mean, we learn his name is Melvin – Melvin! – is that a riot or what?) keeps interrupting, comically of course. Next to be despoiled? A piano owned by Franz Liszt. Not until Ken Russell came along would anyone more appalling assault that poor fellow. Or maybe not, since the placard on the piano clearly identifies its’ previous owner as being one ‘Franz Lizst.’ (!!) Anyway, Warrin and Linda decide to tie the knot. Actually, when I think about it, this was probably the perfect time for him to pop the question. I’m sure he knew that Linda would do anything to stop the horrors unfolding before her.
Warrin walks onto a stage to begin his next concert. Waving, he sits down at the piano and begins to play. His first selection involves mucking up "Embraceable You," before segueing into a medley of similarly victimized tunes. During this we see a soldier, one Sgt. Howard Ferguson, enter the hall. Entranced by the musical magic occurring before him, the GI ends up accidentally sitting on Linda’s lap. (Plot Point!) After Warrin chews his way through a parade of hapless tunes like "I’ve Got Rhythm," he turns to the matted-in audience for the obligatory thunderous applause. The concert, and our pain, then continues onward. During this Linda comically – remember my prior note – ends up accidentally sitting in Ferguson’s lap. It’s the original Meet Cute!
During the intermission (finally), Ferguson chats up Linda. We learn that he’s about to receive his discharge (I almost worked up a nasty pun there, until I remembered that I wasn’t in the military anymore, either) and that he’s a composer. In fact, he’s hoping to return to his "American Opera" when he returns to civilian life. Uh, oh, a stalwart man in uniform and a sensitive artist! Look out, Warrin!
Now, in this context the intermission was a good news/bad news sort of thing. The good news was that it afforded a respite from Warrin’s endless piano playing. The bad news is that ‘intermission’ translates here as more or less ‘the eye of the hurricane.’ (Especially in that, like Warrin’s concerts, a hurricane blows mightily.) And so, all too quickly, it’s back to the show. Linda, proving to have what I suspect to be a unique perspective on this, quickly hustles Ferguson back into the theater. "I don’t want to miss a second of it!" she blurts. This might represent the most repulsive act of sadomasochism I’ve every witnessed.
Cut to Warrin heading backstage after another number. Referring to the thunderous applause, Sam the manager cocks an eye. "And you want to give this up for Carnegie Hall!" he mutters. Again, huh? Why does one mean giving up the other? If this the best kind of thing they could come up with to create dramatic tension? Warrin’s wish to play for snooty concertgoers at places like Carnegie Hall rather than for "the People" at large orchestra halls? And why does one mean the other? I mean, really, how lame is that? Maybe next Warrin will decide to buy his books at that shiny new Barnes & Nobles they just built, rather than the old Ma & Pa store down the street.
Anyway, right on cue Mr. Aldritch, the Carnegie Hall guy, enters the wings. Proving a particularly merciless tormentor, Warrin decides to inflict even further punishment on his ill-fated audience. This despite already having played, we’re told, for three hours. Having sat through this movie, I know exactly how the poor bastards must feel.
You might be wondering how or why this film lasts upwards of two hours. I can’t really answer the second part of that question. However, a clue to the first part is that they only now, nearly forty minutes into the proceedings, begin to introduce the film’s central plot device. In the midst of the number, the sound level begins dropping. At first I thought some benign cinema god was striking me deaf, so as to save me from another hour and ten minutes of this crap. Instead, we will learn, it’s Warrin that is going deaf. Just to make sure we ‘get’ it, they keep cutting from Warrin’s perspective (quiet) to the audience’s (loud). That’s right, our Plot has finally arrived. Start getting out the hankies, ladies.
Marion, because of her feelings for her boss, is the only one to notice that Warrin cut short his final number. Warrin, however, on the verge of achieving his lifelong dream of playing Carnegie, keeps his affliction a secret. Linda makes an entrance and it’s here that Sam and Marion first learn of her engagement to Warrin. You don’t exactly have to be an aficionado of the genre to know that this is where we’re to call out, "Oh, Warrin, don’t you see! Marion is the one who really loves you!" Making this even more blatant is that they’ve already, in Ferguson, rather hamfistedly introduced a Replacement Guy for Linda.
We jump forward four weeks to just before Warrin’s Carnegie Hall gig. Again, to keep the stakes clear, Aldritch tells Our Hero that "another thirty second and you’ll have a new public!" ("Oh, Warrin, don’t you see! Your Old Audience is the one who really loves you!") Sam is just telling him that "all the music critics" are in the audience when the sound level *gasp* dips again.
I know I can’t communicate exactly how laughable Liberace is in this picture. It’s a legendary, literally once-in-a-lifetime performance. You just have to see the movie to really understand. Therefore, you’ll have to take my word on how hilarious the close-ups of his sweaty mug are as he tries to communicate his character’s horror and panic. Jabootudom is ripe with cheapo monster suits that would have been best filmed only in shadows. Here we have a lead actor who would have been best shot solely in long and medium shots.
Experimenting, Warrin plunks the keys of the piano in his dressing room, and there’s no sound. (Helpfully, the film will provide a little buzz on the soundtrack to indicate when Warrin can’t hear.) "Tell them to go home," he despairingly tells Marion. "I’m deaf – stone deaf." Wow, it’s like the miraculous ending to a particularly satisfying Touched By an Angel.
Or it would be, were this the end of the movie. Instead, we’ve over half of this schlock to go. So we cut to an issue of Variety in Warrin’s opulent penthouse apartment. The lead headline blares "PIANIST WARRIN INJURES HAND." (Looks like another slow news day in Jabootu Land.) Despite this evident bit of subterfuge, the subhead notes FUTURE IN DOUBT. One wonders if Variety actually used this headline after the grosses of Sincerely Yours started coming in.
Cut to Warrin being examined by a Prominent Doctor. This role, I’m sad to report, is being assayed by Edward Platt. Mr. Platt will be best remembered as the Chief of Control on TV’s Get Smart. Writing on a piece of paper for Warrin’s benefit while also speaking aloud for ours, the Doctor explains that his hearing will return at times, but full deafness is inevitable. Only a *gasp* dangerous operation might fully cure him. (Hmm, I wonder if Dr. Merrick from Magnificent Obsession is available? We know he can cures blindness, anyway.) Despite the attempts at drama, I’m not sure what the big decision is. Here the situation as explained. If Warrin doesn’t get the operation, he’ll ultimately become totally deaf. If he does get the operation and it doesn’t work, the downside is that he’ll become…totally deaf. I think I know what Mr. Spock would do in this situation.
In any case, we obviously have an hour of movie left before Our Hero can become cured. (Oops, sorry). So our pouting pianist decides to put off making up his mind. Again, though, they don’t seem to have much faith in our ability to follow things. (Of course, this was made for Liberace fans, so…) Therefore the Doctor goes out to the living room to re-explain the whole operation thing to Sam and Marion. He also suggests that Warrin learn lip-reading, if only to keep his mind off things.
As a genre, Weepies largely entail women taking an emotional beating until their final romantic triumph, when they land some poor guy like a trout with a big hook in his mouth. So Marion selflessly decides to let Linda in on the situation. That way Linda can, you know, offer Warrin the comfort Marion wishes she could offer and yada yada yada.
Linda arrives at the hotel, parking in front of one of the worst ‘street traffic’ rear projection shots I’ve ever seen. In an amazing coincidence, or something, the now civilian Ferguson is waiting outside for her. In a moment that has ‘stalker’ written all over it he basically pushes his way into her front passenger seat. He then leans in over her to the point where we wait for the mace spray to be deployed. Ranting a bit, he acts with acid bitterness towards her relationship with Warrin. (I was going to remark that Ferguson’s obsession with Linda seems not only creepy, but sort of farfetched. I mean, they’ve apparently only met the one time. But then, she did get engaged to Warrin one day after meeting him, so maybe that’s how things work in this universe.) In an odd bit, Linda replies that she’s "just friends" with Warrin. Since when?
Linda eventually gets away and heads upstairs. There Marion pulls her aside and relates…The Awful Truth. Marion also explains that Warrin doesn’t want to see her. This should do without saying, of course. That’s how afflicted people (admittedly, we’re usually talking women characters) always act in Weepies. Meanwhile, the fact that Marion ignored Warrin in contacting her somehow alerts Linda that Marion is also in love with him. I’m not sure how that works, I guess it’s a chick thing.
As further strains (useful word, that) of "Embraceable You" play softly in the background, Warrin and Linda discuss things. This all plays out with that weird mix of self-sacrifice and self-pity on the part of the Afflicated Lead that always drives these things. He won’t marry her now that he’s less than a man, she still loves him, etc. In the end, he asks her to leave so that he can work on The Decision (about the operation, remember?) alone.
Meanwhile, we have this whole other weird plot thing to get going. In the next scene Warrin is meeting with a lip-reading instructor. Again, although it makes no sense in context, the guy writes instructions out for Warrin to read while also reading them aloud for exposition purposes. This is an honored trope, and still being used decades later in such films as Children of a Lesser God.
The weeks pass. Warrin’s progress is swift – not a word I can often utilize in regards to this film – and they even have the instructor refer to his rapid success with some amazement. Warrin hasn’t passed his own test, though. He shows his instructor this massive pair of binoculars he’s bought. With them, he can spy on folks in Central Park, which lies below and across from his penthouse apartment. Warrin then hefts up the huge devices, all while leaning over the waist-high wall of his penthouse balcony. Watching this, all you can think about is someone being killed if he drops them or knocks over the binocular case he leaves casually sitting on the ledge. Oh, that and how damn creepy this whole voyeurism thing is. And it’s not like we’re talking Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window here. No, these people are being surreptitiously watched by Liberace! Brrrr!
The instructor is able to read lips through the glasses, proving that it is possible. Whether you could always, or even regularly, get the proper angle needed to read lips in this fashion remains another question. Still, suspension of disbelief and all that. The Instructor also notes a sad little boy wearing leg braces. This lad is watching an exuberant pick-up football game, one in which he himself can take no part. Turning away, the Instructor admits that Warrin can probably learn to lip-read in this fashion, but that it will take time. As for the moral ambiguities of the situation, however, they go unexplored.
Cut to sometime in the future. (We can tell – Warrin’s now got a coat draped over his shoulders.) Our Hero is watching the same group of boys playing football and the same crippled kid looking on forlornly. The Instructor enters and Warrin gives him a rundown on the game. Accompanying this is "The Notre Dame Fight Song" (!!), playing lightly in the background. Then we go to the next scene, where the subject of Beethoven (sigh) inevitably comes up. I mean, you knew it had to be coming. Still, watching a piece of junk like this exploit Beethoven’s deafness as a plot device remains rather depressing.
This conversation sets up a tremendously sappy sequence in which Marion -- who, lest we forget, is secretly in love with Our Hero -- tries to break him out of his funk. She does this by producing some lyrics she’s whipped up for a piece of music Warrin wrote some years ago. She leads him to the piano, whereupon he begins to both play and sing the song. It’s here that the fact Warrin sounds exactly the same as before he lost his hearing starts becoming problematic. Deaf people sound slurred in speech because they can’t hear to correct their pronunciations. (There’s probably a better way to phrase that, but it’s close enough.) Admittedly, this takes time, but Warrin’s been deaf apparently for at least four months now. You’d think he’d be slurring a little bit, anyway. Instead he proceeds to belt out a tune he’s never laid eyes upon in a perfect fashion.
The lyrics Marion has written are for a typically saccharine ditty entitled…get ready for it…"Sincerely Yours." This song rather unsubtly provides an avenue for her to covertly express her hidden feelings for the boss. "Though I can’t be close to you / Don’t blame me for wanting to..." Get it? Oh, and Marion? I wouldn’t give up your day job, if you know what I mean. "Night and day, I’ll pray you’re mine / Spring or Fall, rain or shine…"? Eeyuck. Also, I don’t know, isn’t the phrase ‘Sincerely Yours’ a tad bland as an expression of searing, unrequited passion? Did someone already take such alternate titles as "With Regards," or "Yours, etc."?
After a couple of stanzas (or, in this case, can’t-stanzas – Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ll be here all week), Warrin halts his performance. "It’s no use, Marion," he begins, while we wait for him to finish with "this song sucks." Instead, he’s launches into another ‘Oh, woe is me’ speech. Which, naturally, sets up Marion’s Tough Love, ‘I Won’t Let You Give Up’ response. Angered by his craven behavior, she leaves. In response he gazes at concert photos on his wall, remembering the music, the magic and the applause. Cripes, and we’ve still got almost fifty minutes of this thing left to go.
Warrin shambles out to the balcony. I guess he’s supposed to be considering ending it all by jumping over. (Yeah, I wish.) Here again Liberace’s, uh, limited thespian skills get in the way of the scene’s purported ‘drama.’ Here’s a man, after all, supposedly on the brink of suicide. Yet the close-up shots of his sweaty face seem more indicative of a fellow suffering from acute indigestion than a dark night of the soul. Anyway, I don’t want to blow anything for those who haven’t seen the movie yet, but he doesn’t jump.
Instead, Marion returns for her purse and rushes out to pull him back from the edge. (Yeah, thanks a bunch.) Then she berates him for his cowardice. This, unfortunately, sets up a big dramatic Oscar® Clip Moment for our Star. "I know how I feel inside," he mawkishly declaims. "And I know how the people down there feel. And it makes me wonder. Wonder about God. A God who hasn’t time, hasn’t time to help anyone who needs him." Well, my friend, I know one ‘god’ who spent plenty of time giving you his personal attention. Yet do you have a word of thanks for Jabootu? You selfish jerk.
Marion turns her back for a moment and finds that the desolate Warrin has split to wander the streets. As he ambles into a street, we briefly fear a surge of hope that he’ll be run down by a truck. Although he’d probably just end up in a wheelchair and begin whining all the more. Instead, he looks up to see Crippled Lad and his grandfather enter a nearby church. (Cue reverent harp and organ music.) Small world, isn’t it?
There’s an old question asked by frustrated film audiences through the decades. To wit: How long should a movie last? The answer, as every legitimate buff knows, is as long as it needs to. The problem with that reply is that it’s awfully subjective. Here’s a clue, though. Your picture probably doesn’t need to last two hours if you’re an hour and ten minutes into it and you’re still introducing elements of your main plotline.
Warrin crosses the street to secretly follow the two into the church. Unbeknownst to him, Marion, who’s happened on the scene -- small world, isn’t it? -- goes after him in turn. As Warrin enters the church, the full heavenly choir thing kicks in. I’m not making fun of this, though. Heck, after listening to as much Liberace music as much as we have recently, it’s a welcome respite.
Warrin sits a pew or two ahead and across from Crippled Lad. In a somewhat unrealistic bit, he turns to face the boy without him or his grandfather noticing. Since they are about ten feet apart, the only ones in the church, and Warrin by definition has to be staring face on at the kid to read his lips, well, I’m leave the likelihood of this for you to determine. I’ve indicated my belief that it’s creepy to spy on parkgoers with powerful binoculars and lip-read their conversations. Even creepier is watching someone in a church and eavesdropping on their prayers to God.
Anyway, Crippled Lad gives the standard Touchingly Informal ‘50s Modest Kid Prayer. "Dear God, one more thing…I know you’re got lots on Your mind, and maybe I shouldn’t be reminding You, but You know, I missed football season last year, and I kind of thought You’d help me this year…" Compared to Warrin’s halfheartedly lachrymose shenanigans, this is actually touching stuff. Especially noticeable is that the young actor here is at least ten times the thespian that Liberace is. (By which I mean, he’s competent.) Besides, a crippled young boy who dreams of playing football is a genuinely tragic figure, if, admittedly, a tad unsubtle. Meanwhile, a Liberace so afflicted as to be unable to play the piano seems more like a blessing from the Heavens than something one would pray to have fixed. Unless, of course, you were beseeching a certain ebon, horned deity of Bad Cinema.
His part done for the moment, the kid hobbles out of the church. Warrin turns to leave also and finds Marion waiting for him. We then segue back to Warrin apartment, where some rather obvious ‘happy’ music lets us know Our Hero has thrown off the chains of depression. He and Marion again spy on Crippled Lad as he watches the other kids play, and, again, the "Notre Dame Fight Song" lilts in the background.
Warrin expresses pity for the kid. Marion points out that the lad, at least, has Faith. In case you’ve never heard one, that’s a Cue. With, let me emphasize, a capitol ‘C.’ And so we cut back to the park, where Grandfather is checking his watch. Looking up, he tells Crippled Lad that it’s time to go to church. However, CL has finally given up hopes of supernatural intervention. "I’m not going, Grandpa," the kid explains, "because I don’t believe in it anymore." Here Warrin finally (duh) tells Marion to get Grandfather’s address and send them enough dough to get the kid his operation. Yep, it’s that easy in the movies, folks. There’s almost nothing ‘an operation’ won’t fix.
Cut to the next day. Marion enters apartment, whereupon Sam *ahem* comically inventories Warrin’s breakfast that morning. After running through the list, there follows one of the most disturbing moments in the film. "Oh yeah," Sam remembers, "and a stack of cinnamon toast. [Pause for comedic effect.] With jelly!" OK, I’ve put up with a lot of ridiculousness during this movie. But really, who the heck puts jelly on cinnamon toast?! Eee-yuck. This is certainly an analog to Clint Eastwood’s famous culinary dictum from Sudden Impact. In a pivotal scene, a fellow cop who’s just done something unspeakable to his frankfurter notices a roiled expression on Harry Callahan’s face. Gesturing to the crime scene, the cop notes that such carnage could make anyone a bit sick. "I"ll tell you what makes me sick," Callahan retorts. "Nobody, and I mean nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog!"
Warrin’s current Sick Obsession is the widowed Mrs. McGinley. This poor woman, we learn, has a daughter, Sarah. Sarah has married rather far up the social ladder. Now she’s embarrassed of her mother and her crude, unfashionable ways. They thus meet once a week in the park, but secretly. (Sarah showing up in a fur coat to meet with her bedraggled mum is a nice, albeit somewhat obvious, touch.) Sarah tries to buy off her familial obligations by pushing money on the old woman.
Mrs. McGinley, however (and Needless to Say), only wants *sob!* her daughter’s love and respect. She’s shocked to learn, however, that Sarah has told her husband and in-laws that her mother lives in another part of the country. (!!) Although horribly wounded, saintly Mrs. McGinley nobly chokes back her tears as, and I swear, "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" starts wafting over the soundtrack. She tells her daughter that her happiness is all that’s important. She evens takes the money so that Sarah will feel better.
"A small American tragedy," Warrin comments to his fellow peepers. "Mrs. Ginley gets everything from her daughter except recognition, respect, and love." Oh, yeah, now I get it. Thanks for spelling it out for us. I’m not sure why this is a specifically ‘American’ tragedy. Perhaps in other countries selfish daughters are too poor to offer their neglected mothers money. Meanwhile, it’s another mark of Liberace’s lack of getting this ‘acting’ thing that he says all this with a bright cheery smile on his face. In any case, having dropped this dry bon mot, he resumes looking through the binoculars so as to continue watching Mrs. McGinley cry her heart out. Yep, you’re a class act, dude.
Later that night Warrin awakens and realizes he can hear the ticking of his clock. This revelation is followed by an abrupt blare of traffic noise. Apparently sounds come back one at a time. He jumps out of bed, proving once and for all that the sight of Liberace in his PJs is one most of us can well do without. He pads over to Sam’s bedroom -- who apparently lives in Warren’s apartment! -- and happily drinks in the sound of Sam snoring. Getting an idea, he slyly heads over to the piano and starts playing. At 2:40 in the morning. I’m sure the neighbors are pleased. Seconds later Sam stumbles out of his room as the import of this hits him.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Warrin picked "Sincerely Yours" as the tune to herald his return to the hearing world. Although I’m not sure where the accompanying orchestra is supposed to be coming from. Maybe now Warrin actually has super-hearing. To our *cough, cough* delight, Warrin even breaks into song and warbles again some of the film’s oh-so-beloved theme song. "Take this song, so dearly yours / Signed with Love, Sincerely Yours!" Boy, even after all these years the words just roll off the tongue, don’t they?
This reprieve, unsurprisingly, proves quite provident. When next Sarah and her mom meet in the park, Warrin is sitting on the bench with them. As with Crippled Lad in the church, Sarah and Mrs. McGinley carry on their conversation while supposedly not noticing his presence two feet down from them. My theory: They recognized him and are hoping that if they don’t pay any attention he’ll go away without starting to play the piano.
Sarah is once more breaking her promise to spend some quality time with mom. See, there’s this big Charity Carnival and… (Watch when they change camera angles to introduce a horrendous New York City matte shot in the background.) Anyway, the old girl again bucks up and cheerfully sends off her selfish brat. Sarah departs, cuing up another sappy rendition of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling." Hey, Warrin, if you’re not using that ‘deaf’ thing right now, could I maybe borrow it?
Then, to the strains of "Sincerely Yours," we are, uh, treated to a montage of Warrin taking Mrs. McGinley on a posh spending spree. First a dress, then a hat, then shoes…sigh, yes, we get it. Oh, wait, there’s more. Yep, manicure and a hairdo. This oddly brought to mind that scene in The Wizard of Oz when the Lion is getting his nails and hair done in Emerald City. Ah, The Wizard of Oz! That was such a great movie. Remember when…
Oops, sorry. Occupational hazard. It’s amazing how the mind starts to wander when you’re boring the hell out of it. Anyway, I think you get the idea. Although I do like the scene where Mrs. McGinley looks over a gaudy hat, only to wave it off when Warrin shakes his head at her. Then she gets his approval on a pair of shoes. In other words, the movie, just like her daughter, is treating her like an unsophisticated old hayseed.
Cut to later. The high society Charity Carnival is abuzz with the word that Anthony Warrin is slated to appear and (uh oh!) play requests. Here we meet Sarah’s husband, Dick Cosgrove. Embarrassing Cameo™ fans will be pleased to learn that Cosgrove is played by Guy Williams of Lost in Space fame. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the soiree is in fact called Charity Carnival and it’s being sponsored by Colonial Daughters. Apparently definitive articles aren’t too popular in these parts.
Warrin appears wearing a jacket that I can only describe as looking like it was made out of an oil slick. (This, by the way, will prove the film’s only portent of the garishly attired Liberace that we all remember from the years ahead.) He’s here playing pieces for a hundred bucks a pop – it’s all for charity, you know – and joining him on stage is the swanked-up Mrs. McGinley. Warrin has to help her spell the composers’ names as she takes requests from the audience. I admit this is realistic (I’d have trouble with many of them myself), but it still seems dangerously close to endorsing Sarah’s condescension towards her.
In fact, this sort of thing becomes a staple of the scene. The bit is that the attending hoi polli take Mrs. Ginley’s exclamations of ignorance as the mark of a sly sense of humor. Admittedly, in a day and age in which the majority of our citizens probably don’t know the name of the sitting Vice President, not knowing who Chopin is probably doesn’t seem all that striking.
(Case in point: Jay Leno recently hosted an all too sad ‘comedy’ sketch. In part, it entailed showing a real-life panel of college students a picture of an astronaut and asking them to identity him. When they balked, Leno pointed out that the man was, in the large, blown-up picture they were looking at, wearing a prominent nametag that said "Armstrong." Aided by this, the first contestant posited that the picture was of "Mr. Armstrong." Leno had to get to the third contestant before someone finally and shakily drudged up the name of the first man to walk on the moon. This just proved to be one of many simple questions that they could not answer. Another was to name the two braches of Congress. That one went zero for three.)
Well, back to our film. Amongst those placing their requests is Sarah. They have her approach the stage from an oblique angle so that she can be ‘surprised’ at finding her mother standing next to Warrin. Clever, eh? As Sarah stands there looking pole-axed (for just a tad too long), Dick leans forward to warmly greet his mother-in-law. Then the elder Mr. and Mrs. Cosgrove are introduced.
Here, to our horror, comes the inane resolution of the Mrs. McGinley subplot. Warrin asks her what the last request was. Attempting to read it, Mrs. McGinley stutters over the name of the composer. Frustrated, she finally leans over to the woman who made the request. In a loud voice, she exclaims a line that is etched into my own personal Horrifying Dialog Wall of Fame, "Wouldn’t you rather hear the Beer Barrel Polka?!" Of course, the snooty crowd is taken aback by this (and they don’t know the half of it). Unfortunately, if we’ve learned anything by now it’s that this kind of crap is right up Warrin/Liberace’s alley.
Thus begins the film’s most stereotypically Liberachian performance. Bouncing around on his seat like fire ants were biting his ass, Warrin provides us with a nausiatingly ‘merry’ performance. Per tradition, every actual note of the song is quickly adorned by two others as Liberace adds his magic touch. Meanwhile, Mrs. McGinley shows the stuffy attendees how to live by asking the elder Mr. Cosgrove for this polka. Of course, the swanks all instantly fall in love with the Vital Life Force that is Mrs. McGinley. Sarah is quickly importuned with requests to have her mother other for tea, or whatever. Why, if only she had trusted in the people she loves all along, then we could have been spared all this. Hmm, quick, somebody get me a lawyer.
Taking an axe to a polka isn’t the worst musical atrocity one can imagine. And so we are rudely reminded when the next request is for Warrin to have his way with Rhapsody in Blue. I’m not sure if Gershwin was dead before this film was made, but if not he must have keeled over when he heard this particular rendition of his work. (Emphasis on the ‘rend.’)
With the film (Finally!!) heading into its final half hour, it’s time to get things moving. So the moment the number is over, Warrin’s deafness returns. As usual, Liberace’s reactions here suggest that his close-ups were filmed separately from the rest of the picture and then edited in at random. Presumably he’s supposed to be feeling horror, or something, at this turn of events. But you couldn’t prove it from watching him. Now, most crowds would react with some disappointment were the star attraction to regale them with a mere five-minute performance. Here, well, I’m just surprised at how well they find their relief and general euphoria. In any case, Warrin tells Sam about his relapse, but says not to tell Marion. "Let’s not ruin Christmas," he reasons. Yeah, I’m sure you’ll be able to disguise the fact that you’re stone cold deaf until after the holidays.
If that remark wasn’t enough of a cue, we cut to Warrin’s apartment. There Sam and Marion are wrapping gifts and discussing the Christmas Tree. See? Get it now? Christmas doth approach. Marion then has to buck up when Warrin shows her the gaudy ring he’s bought for Linda. (Remember Linda? She was the…oh, never mind.) However, her forbearance against the pain can only withstand so much, so she’s planning to leave ere Linda arrives. Hilariously we also learn, per the venerable movie traditions of the time, that Marion plans to retire from her post once Warrin and Linda wed. I guess the idea is that once Linda becomes Mrs. Warrin she will naturally take over typing up his correspondence and seeing that his tuxes are dry cleaned and whatnot. I mean, you know, wife…secretary… Women’s work is women’s work, am I right?
As the all too familiar chords of "Sincerely Yours" yet again stagger mercilessly across the soundtrack, Marion and Warrin exchange their *sob* final gifts. In any case, some kind of, uh, emotional resonance is going on, or something. From Warrin’s expression, he’s either, er, going deaf again or, hmm, watching a crippled kid pray, or, um, contemplating suicide or walking in on his manager’s bubble bath…something like that. Anyway, it’s a very shaded performance. In any case, Marion exits, never, apparently, to see Warrin again. Sam notes that she’d never leave if she knew of the relapse. Warrin squares his shoulders and admits he knows this, but it’s a far, far, better thing he does…well, you get the idea
Hey, Continuity Error fans! Check out the bit where Warrin watches from his apartment balcony as Marion catches a cab. Earlier scenes had indicated that his floor was quite some ways up there. Now, however, he seems to be observing her from perhaps the second or third floor. Weird.
Just then, coincidently enough, Linda appears and parks across the street from his building. I guess parking your car was a lot easier in those days. Instead of heading for the hotel, though, she walks into the park opposite. Naturally, Warrin’s first inclination is to spy on her with his binocs. Therefore we are somewhat less than surprised when we see Linda meeting with Ferguson. She tells him that although she loves him she can never leave Warrin. Especially not given the Tragic Deafness Thing and all that. Warrin, looking more like Grandpa Munster than ever, is shattered -- or so I’m assuming, given the context and all -- at learning that Linda is throwing away her happiness out of pity for him.
Sitting on his balcony in heavy coats -- because, you know, it’s winter in Bluescreenville, er, Soundstage Town, uhm, I mean Stockfootagevania, no, wait, it’s New York City, yeah, that’s it, New York City -- Linda and Warrin are soon seen sharing a drink. Warrin then spills the beans about his penchant for peeking. "You saw us down there," she realizes. In one of the film’s funnier lines, he responds, "I didn’t mean to, but I did." Yeah, those things will happen when you accidentally pick up a pair of binoculars, unintentionally point them towards your fiancée and then inadvertently lip-read her conversation. Noting that "a person can’t marry a promise," (Wow!) he cuts her loose to return to her True Love. Ladies, start your handkerchiefs.
So, let’s see. Linda’s out of the picture…uhm, what else do we have to wrap up? Oh, right. Anyway, ten seconds after she splits, Sam brings Crippled Lad and his grandfather into the apartment. Here they finally bother to assign the kid a name, perhaps because now that he’s no longer crippled he deserves one. It’s Alvy, in case you’re dying to know. Warrin has a present for Alvy under the tree, and it’s…ha! I know what you’re thinking! You’re thinking it’s a football. Well, you’re wrong, smartypants.
It’s a football helmet. So there.
On the other hand, you might have also guessed that as the box is opened, "The Notre Dame Fight Song" would begin to softly play on the soundtrack. Well, OK, you got one, anyway, and…oh, wait, there’s a football under the football helmet. Well, OK, you got two, but I still think you were just lucky.
In an ironic note (literally, actually) Alvy gives the I’m-Still-Deaf Warrin a music box shaped like a piano. Oh, the Pathos, eh? On top of this, he also receives the kid’s St. Christopher medal. "I wore it in the hospital," the adorable tyke exclaims. "So I wouldn’t be scared. And I wasn’t." Three guesses where this is going. That’s right. We cut to Warrin being prepared for a surgical procedure. Unfortunately it isn’t a moviectomy.
After about two seconds of that we cut to Sam pacing in Warrin’s hospital room. In mere minutes, we’re told, they’ll know the outcome of the operation. Meanwhile, Warrin notes that he got a letter from Marion. "I wish she were [here]," he says plaintively. (OK, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) Then the Doctor, the one played by Edward Platt from earlier in the movie, makes his entrance. In a pretty funny bit, they’re supposedly going to learn if Warrin’s got his hearing back by removing the maybe two layers of bandages around his ears. That’s right, it’s the old Blind Person test, which makes no sense. A few layers of bandages could plausibly block off sight, but hearing? Muffle it, maybe. But cut it off entirely? I have my doubts. Still, if I ever end up watching this movie again, I think I’ll wrap some cloth around my head and see if it works. Hey, you can always hope.
They proceed to milk this for *cough* suspense for a bit. Still, I don’t want to keep you all on pins and needles, so guess what? He gets his hearing back. Big surprise, huh?
We cut to his triumphant return concert. Hey, look! In the balcony! It’s Mrs. McGinley and the Cosgroves! Hey, look! On the main floor! It’s Linda and Ferguson! Hey, look! Over there! It’s Alvy and Gramps! With more than a thimble of trepidation, I note that the timer on my VCR indicates that there’s ten minutes left in the movie. Yep, get ready for a non-stop Musical Finale of Horror to rival Hillbillies in the Haunted House.
So who almost got away only to suffer a last-minute horrible fate? You know, like the black guy in Night of the Living Dead? Tschaikowsky, mostly. He gets worked over for a solid four minutes or so. After this, Warrin greets Mr. Aldritch, the Carnegie Hall guys, backstage. Aldritch notes that after this triumph Our Hero will be heralded a legitimate classical pianist, with no more reason for playing to the lowly proletariat. Warrin, though, has learned his lesson. "I think I can do both," he gushes. And to prove his point, he runs back onstage to perform songs "for some old friends who are in the audience tonight." Yep, there goes a particularly smaltzy rendition of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling." As if that weren’t enough, Mrs. McGinley and Mrs. Cosgrove begin singing along, prompting the whole audience to join in. Quick, Watson, the insulin!
We cut to Mr. Aldritch, who is seen with a sour expression on his face. At first I thought it was because he was such a snob and is supposed to be disapproving of these antics. (Get in line, brother!) However, we immediately then cut to the audience, which is realized – in a manner of speaking – through one of the worst bluescreen shots I’ve ever seen in my life. So perhaps Aldritch was merely reacting to that. Either way, though, I’m with him.
Anyway, three guesses what’s next. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? That’s right, it’s "The Notre Dame Fight Song," played for little Alvy. This time, it’s a weird jazz version. To think that this movie will be ending soon and I’ll actually be able to go days on end without hearing that tune again.
Next, "Tea for Two." Now, when he played "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," they cut to Mrs. McGinley and company. Then, when he played "The Notre Dame Fight Song" they cut to Alvy and Gramps. Now, with "Tea for Two," they cut to a smiling Linda and Ferguson. Why? I have no frickin’ idea.
[Some Hours Later, Our Author Returns.] Man, modern medicine can do miracles these days. Now, where was I…oh, yeah, Warrin gets up from his piano and…Aaahhh! Fast forward!! Fast Forward!!
Schwew, that was…too close. Anyway, and I want to describe this as accurately as possible: Warrin bows to the audience. The second floor backstage door opens. It’s Marion. They see each other. Warrin runs up the stairs. They kiss. Cue "Sincerely Yours" on the soundtrack. End Movie. I swear, it’s like they were like, "Hey, didn’t we forget someth…Cripes! He never got back together with Marion!! And there are only thirty seconds of movie left! Get her out there, get her out there!!"
Two hours and they couldn’t even motivate or even bother to set up the damn ending!
Elements of the film that might, to some (not me, mind you, that would be juvenile), assume certain alternate meanings given the casting of Liberace as the lead:
Marion, listing publicity opportunities
Warrin walks in on Sam as he’s taking a bubble bath and pulls up a chair. Sam looks unsurprised by this interruption, although he eventually drops his lit cigar into the bath water, necessitating a groping search for it. (I’m not saying anything, mind you.) Finding it, he puffs on it until it restarts.
Marion looks through Warrin’s mail
Sam lives in Warrin’s apartment. Is that a normal part of the manager/client relationship?
Ferguson, an admirer of Warrin’s technique, explains his attraction for Warrin’s playing
Warrin seems to spend an inordinate amount of time watching little boys playing football in the park through his binoculars.
The wit of Anthony Warrin, aka Liberace:
Marion, examining invitations for the Great Man:
"Would you like to be King of the Avocado Festival?"
Sam: "He’s laying ‘em in the aisles!"
-Review by Ken Begg
Our Readers Reply:
"Indeed it is rear projection, and yes, James Cameron used it in Titanic. I know this mainly because one of the companies I've programmed for were the ones who provided the VistaVision lenses.
VistaVision is a special ultra-wide angle format that allows the rear projection without looking stupid. Cheap films, most likely including Sincerely Yours if it was as awful as Ken suggested, use ordinary lenses and a long projection distance which makes the contrast weak and the background look blurry and washed out. The ultra-wide angle of VistaVision allows a very short projector distance so the image is sharp and clear.
Unfortunately I don't get paid for this endorsement. :-)
Kurt also noted the following:
On the other hand, I don't get the Mozart Harpsichord. The piano was invented in 1709 and continued to grow in popularity until Bach's death in 1750 signaled the end of the Baroque era. Mozart was born in 1756 and since most of his compositions were done while in his 20's and later by 1776 the piano was the musical instrument of choice.
I don't doubt he wrote a few harpsichord pieces, I just can't think of a single one off hand. It's a bit like having Elvis Presley's sousaphone as a museum piece.
Especially annoying since they could have trusted their audiences intelligence at least far enough to change it to Bach or Handel's harpsichord.
Meanwhile, invaluable correspondent Sandra noted:
Re Sincerely Yours: As a matter of really useless and unimportant fact, it was not Liberace's only film. In 1950 he appeared in South Sea Sinner as the piano player to Shelley Winters' chanteuse. I believe it is mentioned in one of the Medveds' books on cinematic atrocities (possibly Hollywood Hall of Shame) - something about "he hides his passion for Shelley behind a tough, macho facade". One piece of good news - it only lasts 88 minutes.
Response from Ken: Sandra raises a good point, and in the interest of exactitude, it should be noted that Liberace did appear in other films. However, he never starred in another film -- the IMDB lists him as the fourteenth cast member in South Sea Sinner, which, sadly, doesn't appear available on tape. Liberace's most famous film role in the black comedy The Loved One, which openly took advantage of his then acknowledged status as a camp icon .