Cast & Crew
In 1895, in a small village in the Ukraine, young Soloman Solomonovich Hurok is told by his music instructor that he lacks talent and should resign himself to being an appreciative audience member. In 1910, in Saint Petersburg, Sol is reprimanded by the owner of the hardware store at which he works for ignoring his job to lead a choral group in the backroom. Sol goes that night with his fiancée Emma to see Feodor Chaliapin in Boris Godunov and is enthralled by the opera singer's majesty. At the opera's conclusion, Sol confesses to Emma that he quit his job, then sneaks into Chaliapin's dressing room, where he overhears Chaliapin's manager convince the singer not to undertake an American tour. Sol gains Chaliapin's attention by encouraging him to conquer the United States and convinces him to let him manage the tour, although after he leaves, Chaliapin derides Sol's ambitions. Sol then tells Emma that he must leave for America and that he will send for her soon. In New York, Sol boards with jeweler Ben Golder and his family, and becomes a trolley car conductor. Despite failing to receive an answer to the eighty letters he has written to Chaliapin, Sol remains devoted to the arts, and after arranging a pupils' recital at the Bronx Settlement House, is impressed that the working-class audience appreciates the music so intensely. Determined to bring the best of the performing arts to this audience, Sol marries Emma upon her arrival in America and is encouraged by her devotion to his dream. As a wedding present, Golder gives them tickets to the Hippodrome, and the couple is enchanted by ballerina Anna Pavlova's performance in Le Cigne . Sol again sneaks backstage, where he tells Pavlova that it is a crime against the arts for her to be performing on the same stage with trained seals and elephants. Sol states that he wants to assemble a great ballet company around her, but when he admits that he has no money, Pavlova dismisses him. Late that night, Sol receives a telegram from Chaliapin, summoning him to Paris, and although Sol wants to ignore it and settle down, Emma urges him to fulfill his aspirations. In Paris, however, a chagrined Sol learns that the egotistical Chaliapin wired him only to win a bet. Although Chaliapin offers to reimburse Sol for his trip, and introduces Gregory Lawrence to him as his American protege, Sol rips up Chaliapin's check and leaves in disgust. Gregory, a talented singer, follows and confesses that he is merely a doorman, but nonetheless manages to convince Sol to become his manager. On the ship to America, Sol meets famed Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaye and encourages him to play the Hippodrome, so that working-class audiences can see him. Sol explains that many immigrants cannot attend the higher class theaters because of advertisements only in English, advance sales requiring extra trips to buy tickets and embarrassment over their shabby clothes. Ysaye asserts that he would be honored to play for "the Hurok audience" if Sol will handle the booking. Following Ysaye's great success, Sol presents many artists at the Hippodrome, including Luisa Tetrazzini, Isadora Duncan, Ernestine Schumann-Heink and Gregory's debut. When the U.S. enters World War I, Sol entertains the troops by presenting shows at American training camps. While in Russia, Chaliapin finally responds to Sol's letters after his hotel room is bombed. At a party celebrating the Armistice, Sol announces that he and Emma will finally take their postponed honeymoon, but a call from the U.S. Immigration office relaying Chaliapin's arrival makes Emma realize that their vacation will be delayed again. Sol convinces Chaliapin to sign a ten-year contract with him and soon rehearsals begin for a production of Faust , although Chaliapin's extravagance angers Golder, now in charge of financing. After critics hail Chaliapin's success, Pavlova wires Sol, requesting that he manage her next tour, and although Golder advises Sol to wait until the opera tour is concluded, Sol insists on creating a dance company for Pavlova. The ballerina tours the country, but despite the standing-room-only crowds, the company loses money. In San Francisco, Emma, realizing that Sol has forgotten their wedding anniversary, bitterly decries his devotion to the artists who greedily demand his time. After presenting Pavlova with a jewelled swan pin and watching her performance, Sol returns to the hotel to discover that Emma has left him. Distraught, Sol refuses to come to Chaliapin's aid when the singer calls with laryngitis, and tells him that he has lost something more important than Chaliapin's voice. After searching in vain for Emma, Sol returns to the opera company in Philadelphia, where they face bankruptcy as they prepare for their grand New York opening. Signore Gritti, a rival impresario, offers to purchase Chaliapin's contract, and the ungrateful Chaliapin urges Sol to accept, even though it will leave the rest of the company unemployed. Soon after, the company has been dismantled, and Emma, who has heard the news, returns to Sol. The reunited couple is visited by Chaliapin, who attempts to blame the bankruptcy on Sol. Emma chastises the singer, who admits that he did not sign with Gritti due to the impresario's lack of taste. Giving Sol a satchel of money, Chaliapin praises his friendship and management skills, and allows Sol the honor of calling him "Feodor" just once. The rejuvenated opera company then puts on a successful season at popular prices, and at long last, Sol and Emma plan their honeymoon. As they ride in a horse-drawn carriage, however, they hear the driver's beautiful singing voice, and Emma instructs Sol to do something about it. Gratified, Sol replies, "Mrs. Hurok, I love you."
Walter Woolf King
Eda Reis Merin
George E. Stone
George W. Davis
Pablo Martín Meliton Sarasate Y Navascuez
Walter M. Scott
The working titles of this film were Impresario, The Hurok Story, Heaven for Sale, Stars in My Pocket, The Music Maker and The Music Master. In the onscreen credits, director Mitchell Leisen's name is written in script and is spelled "Mitele" Leisen. In a prologue to the film, before the opening credits, an offscreen narrator states: "The motion picture you are about to see is based on incidents from the life of one of the most colorful figures in the world of music. Although he is not a musician, not a singer, dancer or performer, he is responsible for bringing to you and to me more entertainment than any other living person." The film is loosely based on the life of renowned impresario Solomon Isaievich Hurok (1888-1974). [Hurok's patronymic is given as Solomonovich in the film.] Born in Russia, Hurok immigrated to the United States in 1906 and by 1916, was presenting concerts at New York's famed Hippodrome. Through Hurok's devotion to the arts, American audiences became familiar with many Russian performers, including ballerina Anna Pavlova and opera singer Feodor Chaliapin. Hurok presented performances by many ballet and opera companies, and discovered stars such as contralto Marian Anderson. Although the film depicts "Emma" as Hurok's only wife, he had been married once before.
According to studio publicity, in 1945, producer George Jessel read galley proofs for Hurok's autobiography, written with Ruth Goode, which was the basis of the script. The publicity notes asserted that the film "makes no pretense of portraying Hurok's life story [accurately]." According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department and Produced Scripts Collection, both contained at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Eugenie Leontovich and George S. George worked on early versions of the film's screenplay. The extent of their contribution to the completed screenplay, if any, has not been determined. According to November 1945 Hollywood Reporter news items, Gregory Ratoff was signed to direct the project, and Patrice Munsel, Marian Anderson, Artur Rubinstein, The Don Cossak Choir, Markova and Carmen Amaya were to be included in the cast. In a July 1952 New York Times article, Jessel noted that the project lay dormant between 1946 and 1951 until the success of the 1951 M-G-M production The Great Caruso.
According to studio records, Jean Negulesco was assigned to direct the picture, while a January 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Henry Koster would be the director. Studio records indicate Danny Thomas and José Ferrer were under consideration to play "Sol Hurok" in August 1951, and a March 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item adds that Paul Frees was tested for the role. In a biography of Leisen, he states that Oscar Karlweis, who played the role of "Golder," was originally scheduled to play Hurok, but Hurok wanted an actor more handsome and famous than Karlweis, and so David Wayne was cast. According to an October 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, Jessel was hoping to cast Robert Merrill in the film, but he does not appear in the completed picture. Hollywood Reporter news items include the following actors and singers in the cast, although their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed: Kit Carson, Serafin Davidoff, Catherine Lewis, Edward Dunning, Carlie Elinor, Vladimir Dubinsky and LeRoy Strand.
Studio publicity reported that Armando Agnini, who served as the technical director for all of the operatic sequences, had previously been the stage manager of the Metropolitan Opera for fifteen years and had been with the San Francisco Opea for thirty-five years. A mid-June 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Agnini had a heart attack while working on the film. Agnini recovered, however, and lived until April 1960. Studio publicity adds the following information: Pianist-conductor Sergei Malavsky was the technical advisor for the Russian operatic scenes, and also appeared in the picture in a bit part. Dancer and choreographer David Lichine had been one of Anna Pavlova's dance partner, while composer, conductor and pianist Edward Rebner, the special assistant to music director Alfred Newman, had once been Ezio Pinza's concert accompanist. Isaac Stern's longtime accompanist, Alexander Zakin, played "Mr. Grasch," the accompanist to Stern's character, "Eugène Ysaye." Stern played his own 250-year-old Guarnerius violin in the film. Serge Perrault, who played Pavlova's dance partner, was from the Paris Opera Ballet. Roberta Peters, who debuted at the Metropolitan Opera on November 17, 1951, was the Met's youngest soprano. Pinza, Stern, Peters, Tamara Toumanova and January Peerce all had been under Hurok's management.
Leisen, who, according to studio publicity designed the swan pin given by Hurok to Pavolova in the film, stated in a modern source that a proposed ballet sequence for Pavlova was not filmed because of a disagreement between himself and studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck. Another ballet sequence, the "Autumn Leaves" ballet, was cut by Zanuck, although a brief clip of it appears in the opening prologue of the film. Leisen also stated that sets for the operatic sequences were borrowed from the San Francisco Opera Company.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, publicity for the film included a soundtrack album of musical highlights from the picture and an appearance by Ezio Pinza at the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where he imprinted his hand-and footprints in the theater's forecourt. This film marked Pinza's last feature film appearance. Although actor Byron Palmer had completed work in Universal's Ma and Pa Kettle in Waikiki months earlier, that film was not released until 1955, and Tonight We Sing was his first released film.