The 1946 film Humoresque, starring Joan Crawford, John Garfield, and Oscar Levant is a real gem, and a real oddball movie. It’s a New York movie at heart. Garfield is a rough and tumble guy who grew up above his father’s Brooklyn grocery store (I’m thinking in my haunt of Williamsburg– it has that A Tree Grows In Brooklyn feel). It turns out he’s a child prodigy violinist. He’s got a plain-jane musician girlfriend, until vampy Joan Crawford comes around, turned-on by Garfield’s music and ethnic upbringing. The film has amazingly witty dialogue courtesy of Clifford Odets. And sour Oscar Levant, as Garfield’s sidekick, steals every scene he’s in.
N.Y. Times critic Bosley Crowthers wrote of the film:
…there is certainly nothing humorous about the lachrymose “Humoresque,”…It is rather a mawkish lamentation upon the hopelessness of love between an art-dedicated violinist and a high-toned lady who lives for self alone…the Warner Brothers have wrapped this piteous affair in a blanket of soul-tearing music which is supposed to make it spiritually purgative…The music, we must say, is splendid—and, if you will only shut your eyes so that you don’t have to watch Mr. Garfield leaning his soulful face against that violin or Miss Crawford violently emoting,… you may enjoy it very much.”
Crowthers’ sentiments echo the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent some time writing in Hollywood and said of Crawford’s acting ability:
She can’t change her emotions in the middle of a scene without going through a Jeckyll and Hyde contortion of the face, so that when one wants to indicate that she is going from joy to sorrow, one must cut away and then back. Also, you can never give her such stage direction as “telling a lie” because if you did she would practically give a representation of Benedict Arnold selling West Point to the British.
Personally, I find nothing more sublime than watching Joan Crawford suffer on screen, despite her over-acting. Here she is looking brainy in glasses.
So, having hardly anything to do at all with Humoresque except opening up with a piece of dialogue from the film, I present the exclusive Gentlebear mix Humoresque. It’s a cold-weather mix, with patches of sunshine.
“New York Is full of all kinds of animals…”- from Humoresque
Are You Happy?- from Farenheit 451, Bernard Hermann
Tears In The Typing Pool- Broadcast
Speed of Sound- Chris Bell
Do You Finally Need A Friend- Terry Callier
Morning Glory- Bobbie Gentry
I Hear You Calling- Bill Fay
Symphonic Revolutions- Mandrill
Lovely Sky Boat- Alice Coltrane
Lady In My Life- Shinehead
Something On Your Mind- Karen Dalton
My Sister- Tindersticks
Try Some Buy Some- Ronnie Spector
I (Who Have Nothing)- Maxine Weldon
Don’t Make Me Over- Lynn Collins
Angel Come Home- Beach Boys
Close My Eyes- Arthur Russell
You Will Come- from La Double Vie de Veronique, Zbigniew Preisner