Aug 23, 2011
I've been re-reading James M. Cain's Serenade, as I'm planning to write an
article on the book *and* the film version for an academic journal.
Has anybody else here---apart from Armando, who discusses it on pages
198-199 of his book---actually read the novel? If so, I'd love to know your
opinion of it.
Reading it again after a thirty-year break, I could certainly understand why
it would have appealed to Lanza---especially if he was encountering it for
the first time in 1954. First, there's the slangy first-person
narrative---similar in a way to the style of Damon Runyan, one of his
favourite authors. Then there's the all-pervasive subject of opera. But most
of all, there are the eerie parallels in the novel to his own life:
For instance, its protagonist (baritone John Howard Sharp) is an opera
singer who goes to Hollywood, unexpectedly becomes a star after his first
movie, has creative differences with his Hollywood bosses, feels he's
cheapening his talent by appearing in tacky musicals, and then walks out on
the studio! The only difference is that he breaks his contract in order to
sing at the Met. But imagine how that would have resonated with Lanza, who
by 1954 was painfully aware that establishing himself on the world's great
opera stage was crucial to his sense of self-worth. The novel even begins
with the singer at his most down and out---another point in common with the
Lanza of 1954.
So what do I think of the novel? Hmmn, definitely a mixed bag. It certainly
has some memorable moments, but it's almost-self-consciously streetwise
first-person narrator is difficult to like, and he never really rings true.
For one thing, he's too much Sam Spade to convince me that he's the serious
and sensitive operatic artist he's supposed to be. While it's hard to know
whether it's Cain's own prejudices---or merely his narrator's---that come
through loud and clear in the constant comments about Mexicans, "wops" and
"fags," the putdowns and sneers do get a little tiring as well. Somewhat
gratuitously (for such a short novel), Cain even has his narrator complain
about Puccini in several places! I also found Cain's handling and
understanding of the homosexual theme pretty dubious, though, again, it's
hard to say whether the novel reflects Cain's views or simply his conflicted
I have plenty more to say on Serenade the book versus the film, but in the
meantime I'd love to hear others' views!
Hi Derek: What a fascinating topic! Yes indeed I have read
"Serenade" and my initial impressions / feelings are virtually the
same as yours. It is most definitely a period piece - as you point
out so very well. It also, in my opinion, is not Mr. Cain's strongest
work. It cannot, for example, compare to "The Postman Always Rings
Twice." Your metaphor with Damon Runyon is a good one and, if
Hollywood in 1956 hadn't had to slice and dice the "Serenade" story so
drastically, almost beyond recognition, it would have made a good film
noir. As several folks on the forum have pointed out, perhaps the
weakest facet of "Serenade" the film is the screenplay. IMO it most
cetainly is. Artistically, it comes nowhere near the musical score
that Lanza gave over to the work. I know I am preaching to the choir
here but I think there is little doubt that of all his films,
"Serenade" is the finest musically both in artistic content and vocal
worth in terms of what Mario both possessed and was capable of. It
remains a true and haunting glimpse of what might have been.
Ciao ~ Tony
Hi Tony: Many thanks for your comments.
I'll take your word for it that Serenade isn't Cain's best work! (The New
Yorker recently described it as "under-appreciated.") I haven't read
anything else by him; in fact, I've always steered clear of the
"hard-boiled" school of American fiction of the 1930s and 1940s---though I
do enjoy some of the film versions of novels like Chandler's The Big Sleep.
(Speaking of Chandler, his screenplays of other novelists' work,
including Cain's, was often excellent--- the Hitchcock-directed Strangers
on a Train, for example.)
Incidentally, there's an insightful essay on Cain's intriguingly up and
(more often) down career here.
I also enjoyed this take on Serenade the movie (scroll down to "Super Mario" to find it).
I think the basic plot line of Serenade had the potential for a terrific
and grandly melodramatic film (think Douglas Sirk and his Magnificent
Obsession & All That Heaven Allows) --- even in the 1950s. It was
actually Cain who suggested years before the book was ever adapted for the
screen that the then-unfilmable issue of a homosexual love affair could
easily be resolved by turning the gay antagonist in the story into a femme
fatale. The only real problem, as I see it (other than dramatically toning
down the novel's seedy eroticism) was how to come up with a satisfactory
ending to the story, since there was no way that a Hollywood musical in the
mid-1950s was going to end in despair! (Perhaps Serenade should have been
filmed---with Lanza, of course---in Italy, where happy endings, even in the
1950s, were not a requirement. Come to think of it, what a great way it
would have been for Lanza to have made his cinematic debut in Italy compared
with the pretty dire Seven Hills!)
Problematic ending aside, I think Serenade had the potential to be a far
better film than the book it was based on. From my own perspective,
everything that grates with me about the novel---the tiresomely macho
narrator, the homophobia and racism, Cain's intrusive attempts to pass
himself off as a musical expert, etc---would have ceased to be an issue.
Did you realize, by the way, that we almost had Serenade the (non-movie)
musical? Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim worked on a stage musical
adaptation of the novel in the mid-1950s that, by the sound of things,
wasn't going to hold back on the controversial elements. But then Leonard
Bernstein & co distracted the pair with their plans for West Side Story.
I'm surprised, though, that a contemporary composer hasn't turned it into an
It's not a habit of mine to post other people's Amazon reviews on this
forum, but I think this pseudonymous writer hits the nail bang on the head
about the flaws and merits of the novel:
"Compared to his earlier and much better The Postman Always Rings Twice,
which tells a story as taut and inevitable as a Greek tragedy, James M.
Cain's Serenade offers a plot as giddily rococo and improbable as the
grandest of operas. I suppose that's appropriate, as this is the only
hard-boiled novel I know of that features an opera singer hero/narrator; he
may sing Rossini, but he talks like the sort of tough guy Bogart and Mitchum
used to play. The settings have an operatic range as well, running the gamut
from a verismo account of Depression-era Mexico to a phantasmagorically
high-camp vision of New York's 1930s gay bohemia.
"Unfortunately, I'm afraid I'm making this book sound like more fun than it
is. The last third of this relatively short novel explores an intense,
unusual (and, I suppose, daring for its time) sexual triangle leading to a
crime and its ultimate punishment. The first two-thirds, however, are
slow-going, as we follow John Howard Sharp, a down-and-out opera singer in
Mexico, as he falls in love with Juana, an Aztec princess variant on the
prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold theme. After a brief romantic idyll in an
empty church on the way to Acapulco, during which Sharp displays the sort of
wilderness survival skills not seen since the heyday of James Fenimore
Cooper (and at the same time regains his singing voice), the pair flee north
to Los Angeles, where Sharp becomes the overnight star of Nelson Eddy-esque
"Then the story gets good. Dissatisfied with his success in movies, Sharp
comes to New York to sing at the Met (Juana comes along to take night school
classes in English) and reencounters his old mentor/tormentor Winston Hawes,
a fabulously wealthy composer, conductor and apostle of the love that dared
not speak its name (at least back in 1937). While the plot from here is
riveting without being particularly surprising, I don't want to give
"If the whole novel were as good as this last section, it would merit at
least another star. However, if you are easily offended by outmoded social
attitudes toward Mexicans and gays (in other words, if you don't read
anything that borders on the racist or homophobic), please deduct a star or
avoid this book altogether. For my part, I certainly think Serenade deserves
to be in print, although I'd say anyone new to Cain would do well to read
Postman and Double Indemnity first."
Ciao Derek: I hadn’t read Serenade in years, so when you told me that you
were thinking of writing an article on the book and the film I started to
read it again, but I only managed to get to about the halfway point. I found
it pretty hard going this time around. In fact, quite tedious and the John
Howard Sharp character not very likable.
In view of the current discussion taking place, I’ll attempt to finish
Aug 29, 2011
Well, this is no small topic!
Since the pseudonymous Amazon writer gave such a nice overview of the
plotline--including its operatic dimensions--well, skipping forward. But
with a disclaimer. I really don't like the book and the characters, and I
intensely dislike Cain's treatment of sexuality and ethnicity. It's
difficult to separate a personal response from a critical look at a work in
the context of the author and his times. And Serenade is certainly
reflective of attitudes and beliefs of the time in which Cain wrote, and
even though it's not considered his best work, reflective of his literary
voice as well.
Cain biographer David Madden believes
that Cain's characters, themes, and situations throughout his short stories
and novels are "so simple and exaggerated that we must simply exercise a
willing suspension of disbelief for aesthetic remuneration."
Well, the concept of an opera star who talks and acts like a hard-boiled
pulp fiction character required too much suspension of disbelief for me,
whether you look at him as a sort of universal, elemental man or as the
individual, John Sharp. I think he's Cain's archtypical tough-guy
protagonist, but the artificial musical discussions and the fact that
Sharp's relationship to music is never really about the music--it's about
his pummeling it into submission to his own macho persona--create too much
of a disconnect. It's all about self-perception, ego, and conquest. Cain's
unembellished, bullet-fast writing pulled me along, though, and I couldn't
put down the book, even though the disconnects kept smacking me in the
eyeballs. Perhaps the opera star was a very self-conscious choice of
character that gave Cain a shot at integrating his own musical background,
aspirations, and opinions into his writing.
I'd argue there's no romance in John Sharp. There's need. There's
desperation borne out of the total smackdown of his affair with Winston
Hawes. The affair struck at the very heart of his tough-guy persona,
shattered his concept of his own manhood, if you will. And it terrified him.
That seems one of many points of divergence with the movie. Even with all
the faults of the screenplay, I wonder if Lanza's character doesn't just
make more sense. I'd say he was a bundle of vulnerability and yes, romantic.
Can you actually be an opera singer without those sensibilities?
So many character, chronological, and narrative changes happened on the way
from novel to movie script. So many scenes and threads picked up and plopped
down differently; yet it's clear there was an overall intent to stay true to
the most fundamental points of the novel.
What remained as Serenade into film? I suppose there's a basic
storyline built around themes of the self-destruction accompanying forbidden
and obsessive love, then redemption and resurrection. It's as if an echo
comes back to you garbled, in a different rhythm or sounding like a
I agree this had all the makings of a more prototypical film noir, and
it's too bad that for whatever reasons, Anthony Mann didn't treat it as he
had his earlier films.
Certainly his film Border Incident (1949) worked
themes and attitudes about Mexico-US that run somewhat in the same veins as
some of the attitudes Cain explores--among the many, Mexicans as primitive,
yet with an elemental wisdom. And Mann was already known for films whose
characters were grappling with personal moral and ethical dilemmas.
And both he and Cain share an affinity with the noir genre; Cain's
biographers classify him as the [literary] "father of noir."
Well, there's a lot to be said on this topic and it's going to be exciting,
Derek, to hear how you're thinking about this paper and to hear more about
how others think about the book and the movie. Best, Lee Ann
Aug 30, 2011
Great post, Lee Ann.
I think you make a very valid point about Lanza's character in the film
version making more sense than John Howard Sharp in the novel. Damon
Vincenti may not be very well fleshed out in the screenplay, and his
dialogue is mostly dull, but in terms of what happens to him, it's a heck of
a lot more believable in the film that a sensitive and basically simple
man would lose the will to sing---even to live---than the novel's tough guy
Sharp. As you pointed out, there isn't a hint of romance in Sharp---and that
extends even to his supposed great love of opera. (Which reminds me: it's as
difficult to visualize Sharp singing opera as it is to imagine Humphrey
Bogart in his Sam Spade persona performing the great arias!)
But, of course, the problem with the film is that it doesn't spend nearly
enough time on the Kendall Hale/Damon Vincenti relationship, thus creating
its own credibility problem when Lanza's character is supposed to be
distraught over Fontaine's abandonment of him. Another couple of minutes of
screentime---say, even a Casablanca-style montage showing their
relationship developing---would have made all the difference, plus, of
course, a better ending and superior direction during the last ten minutes
of the film.
It's interesting, as one recent commentator has pointed out, that the film
carries over the novel's implication that Damon/Sharp never entirely gets
Kendall/Hawes out of his system. Mario's character may say to Kendall,
"[Juana] didn't have to kill you---you're dead," but there's really nothing
to suggest in the movie that she really is "dead" to him. (And,
incidentally, I've always felt that the line should have been "You're
already dead." Sounds much better.) We've seen him sobbing in his hands
after the Lamento scene---clearly still struggling with his feelings toward
Kendall---and then all he does is sing "Nessun Dorma," presumably to
indicate that he will conquer his feelings for her, although few in the
audience would have understood the implications of the Italian lyrics. Even
when Damon proposes to Juana, it's not passion that seems to motivate him
(although we get that in the subsequent storm scene), but gratitude: "I owe
you so much."
As for having to suspend disbelief when it comes to Cain's characters and
their actions, at least one of his biographers---Roy Hoopes---has suggested
in the case of Serenade that maybe the old grouch (my description, not
Hoope's!) was pulling our legs the whole time. Hoopes writes that when
critics argue that Serenade and several other Cain novels verge on
burlesque at times and are "always in danger of becoming unintentionally
funny," it's worth questioning whether "Cain's predilection for comedy,
burlesque, and humor" actually was unintended in these books. After all,
"Cain really began as a satirist and humorist."
Incidentally, Serenade the novel never convinces me that Cain
was as musically knowledgeable as he imagined himself to be. He
throws in musical terms here and there to show off, but none of it rings
true to me. Let's not forget either that this is the same man who claimed in
an interview that he "suspected" Lanza's singing in Serenade of lacking "the intricate
cadenzas" --- a statement that makes little sense --- and/or being the
result of studio trickery. (Talk about trying to have it both ways!!) All
this from a man, who, according to Hoope, only ever watched "fifteen
minutes" of the film version.
September 3, 2011
Armando recently sent me some extracts from a very interesting book
entitled A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera, by
Australian-born Peter Conrad, a lecturer at Oxford University. Conrad
devotes two pages to Serenade (the novel), and has some insightful things
to say about Cain's macho posturing:
"Cain . . . adored [opera], but had guilty misgivings about his weakness
for it. . . . In America, opera connoted effeminacy, and this is the reason
for the hard-boiled Cain's fear of it. If tough guys don't dance, they
shouldn't sing opera either, or be so knowledgeable about the trills and
shakes and portamenti of the fat ladies who do. Cain saves the situation for
himself by identifying the voice with virility."
Couldn't agree more!
Conrad also sees the novel as a version of Carmen, told from the point of
view of the baritone Escamillo. In Cain's treatment, Conrad writes, Juana is
Carmen and Winston Hawes Don José, and "Carmen kills Don José to keep him
from erotically tempting Escamillo."
Again, spot on!
September 6, 2011
I've just stumbled on the original trailer for Serenade at tcm.com:
I'd never seen it in its entirety before, and at 3:26 it's the longest Lanza
film trailer I'm aware of (appropriate, I guess, for the longest Lanza
movie). It's quite well done, actually, with a great opening (the "O
Paradiso" scene, in which Mario looks and sounds magnificent), and some
clever editing, eg., cutting from the last note of "La Danza" to a thrilling
moment in the *Otello* duet ("Giura e ti danna!"), and later from Joan
Fontaine's "Do you think that would free him" to gunshots in San Miguel. The
colour's a little different here too (sometimes better). I think they were
unwise, though, to opt for so many loud examples of Lanza's singing in the
film--especially the overdose of the title song!!
But definitely worth a look.
Sep 6, 2011
Here's a photo which I spotted yesterday just by accident on a website. It
shows the front of the Majestic Theatre in Rhode Island (Providence), and I
pressume it was taken in the mid 1950s. As you can see the film that was
shown there was "Serenade." Read the neon signs announcing "The Thrill of a
Great Voice." The original source of this picture is quite amazing. I
understand it was taken by someone from the Providence Police Department, at
least it comes from their archives. I am sure the photographer didn't want
to focus on the movie but rather on the policeman regulating the traffic at
the crossways.... Anyway, our eyes focus on Mario Lanza....
Sep 6, 2011
Well done, Steff! A very nice piece of history.
I'm sure that photo was taken in 1956, when the film was on its original
run. Looking at the marquee, with the film described so proudly, it does
make me feel a little sad that the movie wasn't the box-office success that
Lanza had hoped for (and needed). Imagine, though, if it had been a hit:
there would almost certainly have been a second film for Warner Bros, and,
if so, the move to Italy would have been delayed---or possibly not have
happened at all.
Sep 7, 2011
What a great clip! ( the only thing missing was a few notes from his
stunning Ave Maria). This trailer would induce anyone to go and see the
Sep 7, 2011
Well, being European I am happy that Mario moved to Europe .... And proud
that he gave one of his few German concerts in Stuttgart, which is only
about 85 miles from my hometown Freiburg.
Incidentally, I just noticed that regarding the German motion picture rating
system (age restriction) children being younger than 6 years were not
admitted to see "Toast of New Orleans" and "That Midnight Kiss", whereas for
"Serenade" and other Mario Lanza films children at least had to be 12 of age
to watch the film in the cinemas (and children between 7 and 11 when
accompanied by parents). No special treatment for "Serenade."
Sep 8, 2011
Hi Steff: Oh, I'm pleased that Mario moved to Europe; in fact, I think it
would have been much better for his psyche if he'd gone there four to five
years earlier---after the cancellation of his MGM contract. He was never
happy again in the US, I feel, and as Armando discovered while interviewing
so many of Lanza's friends and associates in Italy, the Italians understood
him. They understood his artistic temperament, passion, and sensitivity.
Let's face it: the conservative USA of the 1950s was not the place for
someone as unconventional as Lanza.
That Stuttgart concert in late January 1958 was by all accounts one of the
highlights of his final tour!
I'm surprised that children younger than six were not allowed to see either
of Lanza's first two films. Were the German censors concerned about the
effect of Kathryn's high notes on young ears? :)
Sep 9, 2011
Hi All: What wonderful posts, pictures and trailers. I still say what a
shame that Cain's book wasn't better and the screenplay for Mario wasn't
better too. As I believe I said before, there is no question that the score
of SERENADE far outdoes the story. Still, what a wonderful piece of musical
history we are left with. This, in my opinion, was the operatic score Lanza
probably longed for with THE GREAT CARUSO. As wonderful as that film is,
the purity of the music comes through in SERENADE far more clearly than in
THE GREAT CARUSO.
Ciao ~ Tony
Sep 9, 2011
Hi Tony: Thanks for posting those pics. The HMV version of the Serenade album
was the one I grew up with, so I've always had a soft spot for it. (In fact,
it was years before I even knew that the RCA cover in the USA was
different.) Mario's a pretty big boy in the photo, though, and the synopsis
of the movie on the back cover made the film sound even more melodramatic
than it actually was :)
I certainly agree with you that, musically speaking, Serenade is superior
to The Great Caruso. Lanza's in terrific voice in Caruso, but when it
comes to his actual singing, Serenade is the more impressive of the two
for my money.
What are the musical highlights of The Great Caruso? Of the numbers Mario
sings *complete*, I'd say: "Vesti la Giubba," "Because," "Celeste Aida," and
the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria." Then there are some glorious snippets of
things, e.g., the endings to "Cielo e Mar" and "Che Gelida Manina" and the
Serenade, on the other hand, ventures (musically) where no Pasternak had
been before, and gives us superb *complete *versions of "Torna a Surriento,"
"Amor Ti Vieta," the Otello Monologue, "O Paradiso" and the Schubert "Ave
Maria," plus virtually complete renditions of "Di Rigori Armato" and the
Lamento di Federico, and a good "La Danza" that's a notch above The Great
Caruso one. No frustratingly brief snippets of just the high notes, as one
might find in *The Great Caruso*. As Armando writes in his book,
it's a musical programme for opera connoisseurs!
For me, Serenade's only musical fault is that retakes weren't made of a
few of the operatic selections, i.e., "Nessun Dorma," "O Soave Fanciulla"
and "Di Quella Pira." Perhaps if The Great Caruso's Peter Herman Adler had
been on board as conductor, that might have happened too. Unlike Serenade's
Ray Heindorf, Adler insisted on multiple takes in many instances, and it's
just as well he did, as two of the most celebrated vocal moments in The
Great Caruso---"Che Gelida Manina" and "Cielo e Mar"----are not nearly as
impressive in the surviving outtakes for the movie. So while some
(erroneously) point to the pinched high C ending of Serenade's "Di Quella
Pira" as "proof" that Lanza's high register wasn't *quite *what it once was,
an earlier take of "Cielo e Mar" for The Great Caruso features even less
impressive high notes---and they're mere B-flats that Mario disappoints on.
It just goes to show the value of a retake (or a remake, on a day when the
voice is responding better)!
I'll leave you with a few quirky Serenade posters (all of them designed
for Spanish-speaking audiences).
The most controversial of Cain's filmed novels is arguably the 1937 noir thriller Serenade, the off-beat and often torrid tale of a sexually conflicted male opera singer—and a book described upon its release as “one of the least filmable novels ever written” (Barrios 239).
Indeed, the executives of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., which purchased the screen rights to Serenade in 1944, were keenly aware of the monumental difficulties inherent in adapting Cain’s novel for the cinema. This was, after all, a time when the rules of the then-recently renamed Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) (formerly the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, or MPPDA) the self-regulating film censorship body responsible for the Production Code Administration (PCA), were strictly observed. Among other things, the Production Code, or Hays Code as it was popularly known, specifically prohibited the on-screen depiction of sexual passion, homosexuality (or its suggestion), the mockery of religion, prostitution, nudity, swearing, or explicit violence (Zeisler 29). Serenade included all of these ingredients and more.
Presumably emboldened, however, by the critical and popular acclaim that had greeted Paramount Pictures’ heavily laundered screen adaptation of Cain’s 1935 novella Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944) earlier that year, and anticipating the box office success of its own similarly bowdlerized Cain adaptation—of the 1941 novel Mildred Pierce in Michael Curtiz’s 1945 film of the same name—Warner Bros. quickly assigned screenwriter John Twist to create a workable script from Serenade.
It was a formidable task. As Richard Barrios observes, “Always, when [screenplay adaptations of Serenade] were submitted, the MPAA’s reply came back the same: ‘It will have to be affirmatively established that there is no homosexuality’” (239). Yet the novel’s homosexual theme was only one of many difficulties that Twist faced in adapting the work. The novel’s most notorious scene—the rape of prostitute Juana Montes by the novel’s narrator, John Howard Sharp inside a Mexican church—presented a daunting challenge, one that was matched only by the grisly murder later in the novel of Sharp’s lover/nemesis Winston Hawes, whom Montes stabs with an espada. By August 1946, Warner Bros. had quietly deferred the project. Michael Curtiz, then under contract to the company, expressed interest in filming the project in 1947, and a revised screenplay was submitted to the MPAA the following year, but casting (and presumably scripting) difficulties reportedly contributed to the cancellation of the project (Cesari 197).
An apparent breakthrough occurred in June 1950, when it was announced in the New York Times that Breen had tentatively approved a new screenplay by Zachary Gold (1918–1953), best known for co-writing (with Clifford Odets) the screenplay to Humoresque (Jean Negulesco, 1946). According to Warner Bros. producer Jerry Wald, Gold’s screenplay was “a thorough dry cleaning of the novel, although nine-tenths of the story remains intact” (Brady 77). No film adaptation emerged at the time, however. Then in 1954, the American operatic tenor and film star Mario Lanza (1921–1959) read Serenade, and expressed interest in appearing in a screen version of the novel. Apprised of this news, Lanza’s billionaire admirer Howard Hughes, then Head of RKO Pictures, approached Warner Bros. with an offer for the screen rights. Negotiations ultimately broke down, however, after Warner Bros. demanded $250,000 for the rights, a substantial sum in 1954 and more than seven times the price paid to Cain for the novel a mere decade earlier (Biesen 212). At that point, Warner Bros. Head Jack Warner decided that his studio would film Serenade itself, with Lanza playing the role of Sharp, and the project was announced in December 1954 (Cesari 198).
Warner’s first thought was to adapt the Gold screenplay into a musical version of the novel, but by late January 1955 Twist had been rehired with the goal of simplifying the storyline and improving the characterization, while also working with Lanza, musical director Ray Heindorf and composer Nicholas Brodszky on the “music plot” (Trilling 1). Although the extent of Twist’s contribution is unclear, he presumably made substantial changes to Gold’s script, and is one of three writers officially credited for the movie’s screenplay. The other two credited writers, Ivan Goff (1910–1999) and Ben Roberts (1916–1984) subsequently adapted Twist’s script, and it was their “final” version of August 1955 that was employed when shooting began on the film in Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende shortly afterwards.
 After MPPDA president Will H. Hays (1879–1954), its head from 1922–1945.
 Twist (1898–1976) was arguably best known for his work on two Garson Kanin-directed films for RKO, The Great Man Votes and Next Time I Marry (both made in 1938). In a 1986 interview, Kanin describes Twist as “an adorable hack” who never took “his writing seriously” (McGilligan 98).
 It was not the first projected musical version, however. In 1954, writer Arthur Laurents and composer Leonard Bernstein briefly worked on a stage musical adaptation. The project was abandoned when the producers learned that Warners’ film musical version was in pre-production (Bryer and Davison 192).
 Goff and Roberts were regular writing partners, and collaborated on the screenplays of nineteen films from 1949 to 1981, including the noir thriller White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949), Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N. (Raoul Walsh, 1951), and Man of a Thousand Faces (Joseph Pevney, 1957).
When it comes to playing fraught human wreckage, Mario is unexpectedly adept, and we can forget his age now as he convincingly gives us a singer who has lost his voice, his self-belief and his reason to live.
Mann seems much more excited by the psychological mayhem and tense confrontations of the second half, although his enthusiasm comes and goes. Lanza fans will appreciate the large quantity of loud singing laid on for our enjoyment, and I appreciated it too whenever it synched with a valid plot motivation, which admittedly was about 75% of the time. With its two-part structure, use of San Francisco as a major location, broken-down hero, and hispanic influence, the movie seems at times like a faint pre-echo of VERTIGO, a film still waiting to be born at this point.