Symphony of the heart

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German title Symphony of the Heart
Original title Rhapsody
Country of production USA
Original language English
Year of publication 1954
Length 115 minutes
Directed by Charles Vidor
Script Ruth Goetz, based on a novel by Henry Handel Richardson
Production Lawrence Weingarten for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Music Johnny Green
Camera Robert H. Planck
Edited by John D. Dunning
  • Elizabeth Taylor: Louise Durant
    (German speaker: Marion Degler)[1]
  • Vittorio Gassman: Paul Bronte
  • John Ericson: James Guest
  • Louis Calhern: Nicholas Durant
  • Michael Chekhov: Prof. Schuman
  • Barbara Bates: Effie Cahill
  • Richard Hageman: Bruno Fürst
  • Richard Lupino: Otto Krafft
  • Celia Lovsky: Mrs. Sigerist
  • Stuart Whitman: Dove
  • Madge Blake: Mrs. Cahill
  • Jack Raine: Edmund Streller

Symphony of the Heart is a 1954 American romance film by director Charles Vidor. The film is an adaptation of the 1908 novel Maurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson and was produced for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Elizabeth Taylor plays a young woman caught between two men, violinist Paul, portrayed by Vittorio Gassman, and pianist James, portrayed by John Ericson.


The place of action is initially the south of France, the time the present. The assertive and spoiled young Louise tells her rich father that she is determined to marry her beau Paul, even though he knows nothing about it yet. Paul is studying violin in Zurich, where she follows him and enrolls as a piano student. Professor Schuman, who is not unaware of her motives for studying and her lack of musical interest and talent, warns her not to marry a musician. How right he is becomes apparent when Paul prepares for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, which he is to play as soloist with the Zurich Philharmonic Orchestra. Louise quickly realizes that music is more important to him than anything else and that he has little time for it during the practice periods. Her father, who gets to know Paul during a holiday together in St. Moritz, also warns her that Paul will never need her as much as she would like.

Further tensions and arguments follow. After the concert, which is a great success for Paul, Louise observes Paul kissing a fellow student and attempts suicide. James, an American piano student with whom she has made friends in Zurich, saves her life. James loves her, and although she initially rejects him, she is moved by his behavior.

Time passes. Paul travels the world as a famous violinist, comes to Paris and, after a chance meeting with her father, arranges to meet Louise at the bar of the Ritz. There he bumps into James, who tells him – unhappy and drunk – that he has since married Louise. Louise is ready to divorce him for Paul, who still loves her, but is rejected by him.

After her father urges her to do more for her husband than before, as this will eventually make a favorable impression on Paul as well, Louise urges James to return to Zurich and the conservatory, where she patiently supports him in the time that follows. As James’s first concert approaches, she again makes contact with Paul, who – as she had intended – is moved by her change of character and willing to live with her. When Louise tells James before the concert that she will be leaving with Paul after the event, he is deeply unhappy. Louise tries to make him understand why she needed to talk to him before the concert. She says he needs to believe in himself, and he is capable of doing great things without her help. It had nothing to do with her. However, during the concert, which James plays brilliantly despite this impending tragedy, Louise comes to her senses and decides to stay with her husband.

Production and reception

Part of the filming for the movie, produced in Technicolor, took place in Pontresina, Grisons. Other locations in Switzerland included Zurich and St. Moritz, as well as the French capital Paris. Shooting began in early June and lasted until August 10, 1953.[2]

Michael Rabin, who performs the violin solos in the film, was 17 years old at the time of filming.[3] The piano solos were performed by Claudio Arrau. The film features music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Violin Concerto), Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninov (2nd Piano Concerto), and Pablo de Sarasate.[4]

The film premiered in New York City on March 11, 1954 and grossed $1.3 million in the U.S. alone. It was first shown in Austria on September 10, 1954 and in West Germany on September 17, 1955.


Newsweek judged, “The Taylor floats beautifully to the strains of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky or Sergei Rachmaninoff … the perfect picture of a woman in luxury.” Otis Guernsey of the Herald Tribune found, “All the story is intended to do, after all, is to highlight Elizabeth Taylor in attractive gowns, in sobbing solitude or radiant at a concert … It’s almost as if Miss Taylor has stolen everyone’s thunder, so that the film really lives only on her undeniable charm.”[5]

Web links

Individual references

  1. Symphony of the Heart.In: Deutsche Synchronkartei, retrieved 12 February 2021.
  2. Rhapsody – Information
  3. Rhapsody – Michael Rabin
  4. Rhapsody – Music in Film
  5. Foster Hirsch: Elizabeth Taylor Her Films – Her Life. Heyne Filmbibliothek No. 32/2, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, 1979, p. 86.