In my mini-retrospective of Kim Novak’s movies from the 1950s, her role as a mostly self-confident socialite, Marjorie Oelrichs, who promotes, then weds, then bears a son to pianist-turned-bandleader Eddie Duchin (1909-51) in “The Eddy Duchin Story” (1956). In another way, in pairing Novak with a considerably older man, in this case Tyrone Power who was born nineteen years before her, it fits the template. (Having mentioned this repeatedly, I should note that while some actresses (Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly) were also paired with male stars old enough to be their fathers, at least some others (Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Lee Remick) were not.)
Although no one knew it at the time, there was some resonance between Power and Duchin beyond their black hair: both would die in their early 40s (Duchin at 41, Power at 44). At the start of the movie when Duchin comes to New York City fresh out of pharmacy school, Tower looks way too old (a 42-year-old playing a 22-year-old). It is a little odd for Novak to be playing an assured, established woman who can help the musician who is the child of Moldavian Jewish immigrants to entertain at the Waldorf Astoria to be a generation younger than the supposed young man (the real Marjorie Oelrichs was less than ten months older than Duchin).
Though class differences appear, ethnic ones produce not even the slightest bump. And the notorious womanizer Duchin is turned into a one-woman man for/by the censors of the era.
I think that Novak was credible outside what was her usual range of insecure beauties (though she is remarkably healthy-looking and cogent on her deathbed, but is that her fault?) and that Power was passable, though not especially impressive in a role that moved to heavy melodrama with a WWII interlude. (The actual piano playing was done by Carmen Cavallaro btw. Power clearly worked hard at making his playing look real.) I think that Duchin was a far more negligent father than the screenplay by Samuel L. Taylor (who wrote the screenplay for “Vertigo”though the play “Sabrina” is more relevant) pretends.
Rex Thompson as the son (who in reality was raised by Averell Harriman and his wife Marie) makes a bigger impression than Power, though unmistakably a British rather than an American child. As his nanny, Victoria Shaw (who also died young), is OK.
I don’t much like big band music, but the music that annoys me in the long movie is the “original music” supplied by George Duning, which was Oscar-nominated (as had been his earlier scores for “Picnic” and “From Here to Eternity”).
The only bonus features for what was in its time a big hit are trailers for it and “The West Point Story,” another sodden biopic starring Power. There must be some footage of the real Duchin playing that could have been added, though the movie already drags over the two-hour mark, even with a deft and understated finish.
My other reviews of Novak 1950s movies starting in 1954 with “Pushover” (with Fred MacMurray, 25 years Novak’s elder), continuing with the 1956 “Picnic,” (with William Holden, who was fifteen years older than Novak), the 1957 “Pal Joey” (with Frank Sinatra who was born 18 years before Novak), and the 1959 “Middle of the Night” (with Fredric March, who was 36 years her elder).