Mention the name "Eddy Duchin" to anyone under the age of sixty and you are likely to be greeted with a blank stare, unless you happen to mention it to someone who has seen the 1956 Columbia Pictures biopic, The Eddy Duchin Story. During the 1930s Duchin, a pianist, was one of the most popular bandleaders and recording artists in the United States. His career was interrupted by World War II, during which he served as a combat officer in the U.S. Navy, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He resumed his music career after the war, but it was cut short when he fell ill with leukemia, a disease which killed him in 1951 at the all-too-young age of 41. Five years later The Eddy Duchin Story opened at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and now it has been given a very nice Blu-ray release by Sony and Twilight Time.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 3 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayStandard Blu-ray Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 02/11/2014
The Eddy Duchin Story is to some extent a typical Hollywood biopic of the 1950s, which is to say that it takes some liberty with the facts. The film opens in New York City in 1927 (we know the year because of the newspaper headline "Lindy in Paris!"). Duchin (Tyrone Power), a pharmacist-turned-pianist who has just arrived from Boston, mistakenly believes that he has been offered a job by Leo Reisman (Larry Kearing), an orchestra leader at the swanky Central Park Casino. From a historical standpoint, there are two problems with this scenario. For one, the real Duchin was only 18 years old in 1927, and here is being played by the 42-year-old Power; the other is that the Central Park Casino did not open as a night club until 1929. The film gets away with this by never mentioning Duchin's age.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
It turns out that Eddy has misconstrued some encouraging comments as a job offer when he previously met Reisman and his aide, Leo Sherwood (James Whitmore). As Eddy glumly walks away, he decides to sit down at the club’s piano and begins playing Chopin's "Nocturne in E Flat." This catches the ear of Marjorie Oelrichs (Kim Novak), a socialite/interior decorator who is coordinating an event for that evening at which the guest of honor will be New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker. Marjorie, recognizing Eddy's disappointment at not being hired, tells Reisman that she wants there to be live music during the orchestra's breaks. The only way to do that is to hire another piano player, and before long Eddy is on his way to stardom.
Marjorie lives with Sherwood Wadsworth (Shepperd Strudwick) and his wife Edith (Frieda Inescort), characters who are based upon the real-life couple of W. Averill Harriman and his wife Marie (Harriman was a U.S. Ambassador under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was the Governor of New York State when The Eddy Duchin Story was released). Marjorie is immediately fascinated by Eddy, but the Wadsworths are less impressed. He is not a member of their social class, and the film obliquely lets the audience know that he is Jewish (there is no direct mention of this, but when Eddy's parents learn that he and Marjorie are going to get married his mother toasts them with "mazel tov"). The film never addresses the fact that Marjorie was dropped from the Social Register for marrying Duchin, a snub which she scornfully dismissed by declaring "It's just a private telephone book."
On their wedding night a literal ill wind blows into Eddy and Marjorie's spectacular apartment overlooking Central Park, a somewhat heavy-handed foreshadowing of tragic thing to come. Rather than engage in any spoilers, I will just point out that the second half of the film focuses upon Eddy's infuriating neglect of and troubled relationship with his son, Peter (who at age 76 has had his own long and successful career as a bandleader) and a friend of the Wadsworths, Chiquita Winn (Victoria Shaw). It is no secret that The Eddy Duchin Story is a musical tearjerker, and there is plenty to be sad about. But there also is the splendid music, with Power doing a superb job of mimicking Eddy's unique style of playing (which included playing cross-handed), as well as his showmanship and charisma. Then there is the Academy Award-nominated cinematography by Harry Stradling, which beautifully captures Manhattan as it looked may decades ago. There is an exquisite, dialogue-free sequence of Eddy and Marjorie spending a day and night walking through Central Park as "I'll Take Romance" plays in the background.
Kim Novak is beahtiful as always, although New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther criticized her performance as "slumberous." Victoria Shaw is impressive as Chiquita, and James Whitmore does a typically solid job as the wise assistant who tries - not always successfully - to keep Eddy grounded.
The Eddy Duchin Story unashamedly tugs at your heartstrings. However, what it lacks in subtlety is more than made up for by its star power, outstanding cinematography, excellent direction by George Sidney, and wonderful music. The poignancy of the film is only enhanced by the fact that Tyrone Power - who was friend of Eddy Duchin - died of a heart attack two years later at the age of 44 while filming a dueling scene for Solomon and Sheba.
The 1080p image is delivered via the AVC codec and accurately recreates the film's 2.55:1 Cinemascope aspect ratio (the packaging says 2.35:1, but HTF member Eddi Larkin has pointed out that it is actually 2.55:1, which is confirmed by my measurements). The film retains an appropriate level of film grain and displays strong contrast and vivid, accurate colors. The only negative feature is a lack of shadow detail. There is a considerable degree of black crush, which is particularly noticeable when the characters are wearing dark suits, tuxedos, etc. and the texture of the fabrics is barely visible. This may reflect how The Eddy Duchin Story was filmed, and it did not detract from my enjoyment of the film.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The English 2.0 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack beautifully reproduces the film's excellent musical soundtrack, giving it a surprisingly vibrant soundstage. The dialogue is crystal-clear and understandable throughout, and English SDH subtitles are available for those who need them.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
As usual, this Twilight Time Blu-ray has an isolated score track, which includes sound effects.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Also included are two theatrical trailers, both of which are in very good shape.
An eight-page booklet contains nine still photos from the film, a movie poster reproduction, and an intriguing essay by film historian Julie Kirgo.
While growing up the 1950s I was aware of Eddy Duchin only because my parents owned the soundtrack record album (which apparently was not a real soundtrack but rather a re-recording of the tunes which are featured in the film). Because his career was cut short, Eddy Duchin might be totally forgotten today were it not for his son, Peter, and The Eddy Duchin Story (Peter, incidentally, has been critical of Samuel A. Taylor's screenplay because it fictionalizes a considerable amount of detail about Eddy and Marjorie). This excellent Blu-ray is being produced in a limited edition of 3,000 copies, so readers interested in purchasing it should go the Screen Archives Entertainment website and confirm that copies are still available.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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