A luscious opera of melodramatic folderol, 1946's Humoresque is one of those delightfully engrossing pictures of overblown emotions made nearly lyrical by the classical music that underwrites them. John Garfield stars as Paul Boray, a young street kid who falls in love with the violin as a youth (and is played at age eight by Robert Blake
no comment). Training with his longtime friend Sid Jeffers (Oscar Levant), he keeps practicing and becomes a master but during the Great Depression, it does little good. It isn't until he attends a party at the house of the Wrights that Paul gets any career heat, and that has everything to do with catching the eye of Helen Wright (Joan Crawford). Helen's a socialite known for her drinking and promiscuous ways all done directly in front of her husband Victor (Paul Cavanagh). Helen becomes Paul's benefactor and lover, even setting him up in a fancy apartment where he can practice. Paul's parents Rudy (J. Carol Naish) and Esther (Ruth Nelson) put up with this, but Esther keeps harping on her son that this isn't exactly the right thing to do. And when Victor finally gives Helen a divorce, she's overjoyed until she tries to tell Paul, who's too busy with his concerto to celebrate. Directed by Jean Negulesco (at best a journeyman who hit hard artistic times but steady work when CinemaScope became prevalent), Humoresque is a love triangle between a man, a woman, and a violin and in this case the violin wins. Negulesco does a fine job of making this paltry story engrossing, but it helps to be working with such talented leads. John Garfield is one of those actors who has presence to spare. Even playing the violin (with doubles providing the fingering), he's a star who commands attention. He's well matched by Crawford, who tailored this role for herself and vamps it up accordingly. She plays a broken woman who has to wear glasses to read, and her nervous and damaged character fits her well, while it's also nice to have Oscar Levant as the comic relief. Humoresque is the very definition of what was (often derisively) referred to as a "woman's picture," and it lives up the assumptions one can make from that description. But in comparison to its contemporaries and antecedents, it at least creates characters and relationships that mean something, even if in only an ephemeral way. Warner presents the black-and-white film in full frame (1.33:1 OAR) in a very nice transfer, with DD 1.0 audio. Extras include the featurette "The Music of Humoresque" (9 min.) and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.