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July 26, 2022

Time Out of Mind

time out of mind.jpg

Robert Siodmak - 1947
KL Studio Classics BD Region A

If Time Out of Mind had not been directed by Robert Siodmak, would it still be a film of interest? Maybe for those who love melodramas or stories that take place in the late 19th Century. It is not as if this was a bad film, but there is only a hint of the visual style that has made Siodmak a film noir favorite. As for suspense, there is a little bit in the last reel when the estranged former wife makes plans, never clearly detailed, to sabotage a concert.

The story is about the misfortune of the Fortune family. Christopher Fortune III comes from a line of merchant sea captains, a prominent Maine family. His aspirations for composing music are put aside after being forced by his father to go to sea as a crew member to learn first hand how to handle a ship. After coming home with an apparent brain concussion, Chris' sister, Clarissa, and a family servant, Kate, conspire to have Chris sneak off to Paris to study music composition. Chris and Clarissa return home three years later, with Chris now married to Boston society daughter Dora. Chris has become an alcoholic, with self-doubts about his musical abilities. Kate, always in love with Chris, hopes to get him to still realize his dreams.

There is one interesting shot, the first time Chris is seen playing piano for Kate. The camera is tilted upwards towards the two, who are both straight parallel to the horizontal lines of the frame. But the barred windows in the background are slightly tilted, a less than obvious "dutch" or canted angle. More conspicuous are several point of view shots going in and out of focus, representing Chris' psychological haze.

The film was intended to inaugurate the Hollywood career of British actress Phyllis Calvert. Siodmak and Calvert had expressed interest in working together, which finally happened after a couple of false starts. As it turned out, neither was happy with the other. Calvert's Hollywood career was over within four years. She is seen to better advantage in the British films for Gainsborough, a studio specializing in period films and melodramas, in such films as The Man in Grey and Madonna of the Seven Moons. Calvert appears here as Kate. The film also marks the last of four films Ella Raines made with Siodmak, appearing here as Clarrisa. I do not know what kept him out of serving, but Robert Hutton's stardom primarily lasted through World War II and a few years later, eventually turning to lead roles in smaller films and supporting roles in a few bigger films. It is not that Hutton is miscast as Christopher Fortune, just not particularly memorable.

The commentary track is by film historian Lee Gambin with costume historian Elissa Rose. Gambin primarily covers how the film fits in with filmography of Robert Siodmak, as well as some notes on Phyllis Calvert. Rose covers the costuming by Travis Banton as well as an overview on his career. Rose also talks about some of the musical influences in the score credited to both Miklos Rozsa and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, name checking among others, Charles Ives.

A deeper look at the music, both as part of the narrative, and why the score is credited to two men, would be of interest. Prior to his first American concert, Chris describes his music as imitating Claude Debussy. Although Debussy was not internationally known until at least a decade after Time Out of Mind takes place, it is not a stretch to assume that Chris was aware of him during his time in Paris if one more closely identifies when the film takes place. On the evening of the first concert, an inebriated Chris doodles on a bar's piano, playing "Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built for Two)". That song was published in 1892. Chris incorporates the then popular song as an improvisation in his concert, which probably inspired the Charles Ives reference as Ives would use short stanzas from well known songs into his own compositions. As for the film score, while Rozsa's name is familiar, Castelnuovo-Tedesco rarely was credited for his own work. Not only did Castelnuovo-Tedesco only receive few credits, but much of his music was frequently recycled as stock music from other films. IMDb also noted that Castelnuovo-Tedesco may have been a ghost writer for other film score composers. As for Chris' concerto, it is a reworking from an earlier Rozsa score for Julien Duvivier's Lydia (1941).

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 26, 2022 06:22 AM