Magic Fire

Magic Fire is a 1955 American biographical film about the life of composer Richard Wagner, released by Republic Pictures.

Magic Fire
Magic Fire 1955.jpg
Film poster
Directed byWilliam Dieterle
Produced byWilliam Dieterle
executive
Herbert Yates
Screenplay byBertita Harding
Ewald André Dupont
David T. Chantler
Based onnovel by Bertita Harding
StarringAlan Badel
Yvonne De Carlo
Rita Gam
Valentina Cortese
Music byErich Wolfgang Korngold
CinematographyErnest Haller
Distributed byRepublic Pictures
Release date
15 July 1955 (UK)
29 March 1956 (US)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Film still of cast members (from left) Valentina Cortese, Carlos Thompson, Yvonne De Carlo, Alan Badel, and Rita Gam.

Directed by William Dieterle, the film made extensive use of Wagner's music, which was arranged by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Dieterle worked with Korngold on several Warner Bros. films, including A Midsummer Night's Dream and Juarez. It was one of the final films Republic made in the two-strip color process known as Trucolor.[1]

Although many details about Wagner's life were accurately portrayed, the film often distorted some facts, apparently for dramatic purposes. One high point was the accurate depiction of the riot at the Paris Opera House for the premiere of the revised version of Tannhäuser. The film depicted King Ludwig II's patronage of Wagner, without going into much detail about the king's controversial personality.

The film used a very large cast, opulent sets, and lavish costumes. Since Republic was known primarily for westerns and adventure serials, Magic Fire was one of the rare "prestige" films to be produced by studio chief Herbert Yates. Nevertheless, critical response was mixed and box office receipts in the U.S. were disappointing.[2]

PlotEdit

Conductor Richard Wagner dreams of being a composer. He falls for actress Minna Planer.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

The film was based on a book by Bertita Harding published in 1953. It was described as "not strictly biography but not quite fiction.'[3] Harding had written a number of other books in this genre.[4]

Film rights were purchased in 1953 by William Dieterle, who had been interested in a film about Wagner for ten years. Dieterle had directed the film Juarez (1939) based in part on Harding's book The Phantom Crown. Dieterle wrote the script with David Chandler. Harding also worked on the script. Finance was obtained from Republic Pictures.[5][6] Republic were expanding their production facilities at the time.[7]

Howard Duff and Ida Lupino were originally considered for the leads.[8] Charlton Heston was also discussed.[9] Eventually the lead role went to Alan Badel who had just been in Dieterle's Salome (1953). Support parts went to Carlos Thompson, Rita Gam and Yvonne de Carlo.[10] Thompson was borrowed from MGM.

Filming started in September 1954. The film was shot in Italy and Germany over 12 weeks and wound up in December.[11][12]

De Carlo had discovered Carlos Thompson in Argentina and had him cast in Fort Algiers. The two had an affair and Thompson owed de Carlo money. Their relationship was over by the time they made this film though.[13]

ReceptionEdit

Dieterle wanted to make a film about Mozart[14] but it did not happen.

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ Republic Pictures documentary
  2. ^ Eyewitness account by Robert E. Nylund
  3. ^ Fuller, Edmund (25 October 1953). "LIFE OF COLORFUL WAGNER". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. h6. ProQuest 178651161.
  4. ^ Winwar, Frances (20 December 1953). "The Road Led to Bayreuth". New York Times. p. BR10. ProQuest 112678174.
  5. ^ "Vanessa Brown's 'Moll' to Costar Guinness; Vocalists Aid 'Carmen'" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 3 July 1954: 11.
  6. ^ Smith, Cecil (5 June 1955). "Films Call to Author Bertita Harding Again: Writer Sells Second Book in 20 Years". Los Angeles Times. p. e3. ProQuest 166776998.
  7. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (17 August 1954). "REPUBLIC STUDIOS CONTINUE TO GROW". The New York Times. p. 17. ProQuest 112945293.
  8. ^ HEDDA HOPPER: "Dieterle to Proceed With Wagner's Life" Los Angeles Times 17 July 1954: 12
  9. ^ Schallert, Edwin (3 December 1953). "Drama: Bartley Film Readied for Deborah Kerr; Jory Big Menace for Taylor". Los Angeles Times. p. B13. ProQuest 166581204.
  10. ^ "DIETERLE SHAPING MOVIE ON WAGNER". New York Times. 21 July 1954. p. 19. ProQuest 113068951.
  11. ^ "MOVIELAND BRIEFS: Director Finishing Lavish Wagner Film" Los Angeles Times 27 Nov 1954: 13.
  12. ^ "Yvonne De Carlo Will Narrate Foreign Film; Gobel Manager Irked" Ames, Walter. Los Angeles Times 30 Dec 1954: 22.
  13. ^ De Carlo, Yvonne; Warren, Doug (1987). Yvonne : an autobiography. St Martins Press. p. 184.
  14. ^ "MOVIELAND EVENTS: New Process Again to Enlarge Film" Los Angeles Times 27 Apr 1955: 26

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit