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Classical Notes: November 1, 2006 Archive

B is for biopic

Posted at 4:47 PM on November 1, 2006 by Rex Levang

In addition to the planned Vivaldi movie that John Zech wrote about, there's another composer biopic in the pipeline: a Beethoven biography that should be appearing in theaters later this fall. (It's called "Copying Beethoven," with the composer played by Ed Harris.)

Any discussion of this genre tends to be colored by the slew of biographical movies, often highly fictional, that were turned out during the heyday of the big Hollywood studios: “Song without End,” , "A Song to Remember,” and so on. Their reputation is not of the highest.

But even they had the ability to reach viewers, it seems. According to one account, the poet Frank O’Hara was profoundly struck by a viewing of the movie “Song of Scheherazade,” with Jean-Pierre Aumont, as was his fellow poet Paul Schmidt. As Schmidt tells it, “Our souls had been marked forever by that moment . . . when Aumont stomps through the snowdrifts into the colonnades of what I think, now that I’ve been there, was meant to be the Bolshoi Theater, and throws open his sable-lined overcoat to reveal himself in white tie and tails – no longer a naval officer, but a composer at last! Frank had spent two years in the Navy and I had spent two years in the Army, and that was an image that sustained us both: everybody thinks you’re a military man but it turns out you’re really an artist.”