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Song of Norway (film)

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Song of Norway
1970 theatrical poster
Directed byAndrew L. Stone
Written byAndrew L. Stone
StarringToralv Maurstad
Florence Henderson
Music byRobert Wright
George Forrest,
based on the music of Edvard Grieg
CinematographyDavis Boulton
Edited byVirginia Stone
Distributed byCinerama Releasing Corporation
Release date
  • November 4, 1970 (1970-11-04)
Running time
142 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$7,900,000[1]

Song of Norway is a 1970 American biographical drama musical film adaptation of the successful operetta of the same name, directed by Andrew L. Stone.

Like the play from which it derived, the film tells of the early struggles of composer Edvard Grieg and his attempts to develop an authentic Norwegian national music. It stars Toralv Maurstad as Grieg and features an international cast including Florence Henderson, Christina Schollin, Robert Morley, Harry Secombe, Oskar Homolka, Edward G. Robinson, and Frank Porretta (as Rikard Nordraak). Filmed in Super Panavision 70 by Davis Boulton and presented in single-camera Cinerama in some countries, it was an attempt to capitalize on the success of The Sound of Music, and was the first musical in Cinerama.[2]


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Florence Henderson and Edward G. Robinson on the set of Song of Norway (April 1969)
Florence Henderson and Edward G. Robinson on the set of Song of Norway (April 1969)


Earl St John announced he would make the film in 1950.[3]


Song of Norway had its premiere on November 4, 1970 at the Cinerama Theatre in New York and in Oslo.[4][5]


Song of Norway was conceived in the wake of successes like My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, two films which had suggested to studios that a revival of full-scale musical films was in demand. The operetta from which the music was derived had been an enormous success on both sides of the Atlantic, running for over 1000 performances on Broadway and in the West End.

However it was a critical and commercial disaster. Filmgoers' appetites for a musical revival had been completely misjudged, and it ultimately was to join other box-office failures of the same period, such as Darling Lili, Mame, Paint Your Wagon, and Lost Horizon.[6] Initially, box office prospects seemed promising. In Britain, it was the most popular "reserved ticket" film of 1971.[7] But it only went on to earn rentals of $4.4 million in North America and $3.5 million in other countries, recording an overall loss of $1,075,000.[1]

Critics were virtually unanimously negative on its release, noting especially the aping of The Sound of Music and its generally poor production despite obvious expense. In The New Yorker, Pauline Kael wrote: "The movie is of an unbelievable badness; it brings back clichés you didn’t know you knew - they’re practically from the unconscious of moviegoers."[8] The New York Times wrote that the film "was no ordinary movie kitsch, but a display to turn Guy Lombardo livid with envy."[9] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film half of one star out of four and wrote "The fjords aren't exactly alive with the sound of Grieg thanks to a disastrous screenplay by Andrew Stone who finds it more convenient to photograph a mountain than to write intelligent dialog."[10] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called the film "inoffensive but unsatisfying" and compared it unfavorably to The Sound of Music, which "had a strong narrative line and generated a good deal of suspense. It's not Grieg's fault he wasn't chased by Nazis, of course, but such trials as there were in his life seem either lacklustre or inappropriate to a family musical."[11] Critics also cited the uninspired cinematography, clumsy editing and a ham-fisted insertion of cartoon trolls (supervised by former Disney animator Jack Kinney). These flaws seemed only amplified by their presentation in Super-Panavision and Cinerama. Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that the film had "next to no plot" and "beautiful scenery or not, people are going to lose interest as slowly but surely as they do when watching the neighbors' slides of their trip to Europe."[12]

Critics' views were echoed by cast members. Florence Henderson said that Andrew Stone "approached scenes quite literally and without a lot of imagination".[13] Harry Secombe called it a film "you could take the kids to see... and leave them there."[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "ABC's 5 Years of Film Production Profits & Losses". Variety. May 31, 1973. p. 3.
  2. ^ "Cinerama Holiday". Daily Variety. February 6, 1970. p. 2.
  3. ^ "SONG OF NORWAY" TO BE ALL BRITISH". The Mirror. Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. October 14, 1950. p. 15. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  4. ^ "Set 'Norway' Preem". Variety. June 3, 1970. p. 4.
  5. ^ "New York Sound Track". Variety. June 17, 1970. p. 4.
  6. ^ Gray, Timothy M. (February 25, 2003). "Hollywood heavies facing the music". Variety. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
  7. ^ Waymark, Peter (December 30, 1971). "Richard Burton top draw in British cinemas". The Times. p. 2.
  8. ^ Kael, Pauline (1971) Deeper into Movies, Calder Boyars
  9. ^ Quoted in Beck, R. (2002) The Edward G. Robinson Encyclopedia, McFarland. p. 293
  10. ^ Siskel, Gene (January 1, 1971). "Song of Norway". Chicago Tribune. p. 21 (Section 2).
  11. ^ Champlin, Charles (November 11, 1970). "Grieg's Life in 'Norway". Los Angeles Times. p. 17, Part IV.
  12. ^ Arnold, Gary (January 1, 1971). "Song of Norway". The Washington Post. p. B10.
  13. ^ Kennedy, M. (2015) Roadshow!: The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, OUP. p. 215
  14. ^ TV-am interview, 1987
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