Song of Russia
|Song of Russia|
|Directed by||Gregory Ratoff
László Benedek (uncredited)
|Produced by||Joe Pasternak
Pandro S. Berman
|Written by||Leo Mittler (story)
Victor Trivas (story)
Guy Endore (story)
Paul Jarrico (screenplay)
Richard Collins (screenplay)
|Running time||107 minutes|
Song of Russia is a 1944 American war film made and distributed by MGM Studios. The picture was credited as being directed by Gregory Ratoff, though Ratoff collapsed near the end of the five-month production, and was replaced by László Benedek, who completed principal photography; the credited screenwriters were Paul Jarrico and Richard J. Collins. The film starred Robert Taylor, Susan Peters and Robert Benchley.
Ayn Rand, in her 1947 testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, cited Song of Russia as an example of Communist propaganda in the Hollywood motion picture-industry, depicting an idealized Soviet Union with freedom and comfort that never existed in the real Soviet Union. The film ends with the Nazi invasion of Russia. Rand said that the Nazis invaded Russia from Poland, which the Soviets and Nazis had divided up in their peace agreement.
American Conductor John Meredith (Robert Taylor) and his manager, Hank Higgins (Robert Benchley), go to Russia shortly before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Meredith falls in love with beautiful Soviet pianist Nadya Stepanova (Susan Peters) while they travel throughout the country on a 40-city tour. Their bliss is destroyed by the German invasion.
- Robert Taylor as John Meredith
- Susan Peters as Nadya Stepanova
- John Hodiak as Boris Bulganov
- Robert Benchley as Hank Higgins
- Felix Bressart as Petrov
- Michael Chekhov as Ivan Stepanov
- Darryl Hickman as Peter Bulganov
- Jacqueline White as Anna Bulganov
The picture was a major studio release, its positive portrayal of the Soviet Union clearly linked to the wartime alliance of the Soviet Union and the U.S. After the end of the Second World War and the outbreak of the Cold War, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) cited Song of Russia as one of the three noted examples of "pro-Soviet propaganda films" made by Hollywood, the others being Warner Brothers' Mission to Moscow and RKO's The North Star. This assertion was supported by the Russian-born pro-capitalist and anti-Communist writer Ayn Rand, who was specifically asked by a HUAC investigator to see the film and provide an expert opinion on it.
Robert Taylor himself protested, after the fact, that he had had to make the picture under duress, as he was under contract to MGM. This is the rationale he used to explain why he was a friendly witness during the HUAC hearings in the 1950s.
Despite the criticism it received in later years, historians claiming it is nowadays more remembered for its contents rather than its quality, Song of Russia was initially received positively. The New York Times called some scenes "a fine bit of cinematic art". Furthermore, the reviewer praised the cast, writing:
- "Taylor makes a very good impression as a young American caught in Russia by love and war. And Susan Peters is extraordinarily winning as a mentally solemn but emotionally bonny Russian girl. Robert Benchley throws some straws of cryptic humor into the wind as the American's manager, and Michael Chekhov, Vladimir Sokoloff and Michael Dalmatov are superb as genial Russian characters."
The movie was also popular, earned $1,845,000 in the US and Canada and $1,884,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $782,000.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- Scott Eyman, Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer, Robson, 2005 p 350
- Song of Russia at the Internet Movie Database
- Hearings Regarding The Communist Infiltrations Of The Motion-Picture Industry, October 20–30, 1947, Hearings Before The Committee On Un-American Activities. House Of Representatives. Internet Archives.
- Testimony before HUAC by Ayn Rand concerning this film, including synopsis
- Mayhew 2005b, pp. 91–93
- "Song of Russia,' Rich Musical Picture, With Robert Taylor and Susan Peters, Opens at the Capitol". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-02.[dead link]
- "'Song of Russia' Co-Stars Taylor, Peters at Ritz", Big Spring Daily Herald, March 26, 1944, p. 6