Movie about the life of Jascha Heifetz

February 2, 2007 at 04:19 AM · Would anyone besides me love to see a movie about the life of Jascha Heifetz? The constant adulation which over time wore him down until he didn't know who to trust? Being booed by G.I.s in World War Two because they didn't understand his music? The depth of feeling and complexity which those who knew him say he had, but would never allow his audience to see? I mean, this is the kind of stuff Hollywood lives for! (and usually does pretty well!) What do you guys think?

Replies (26)

February 2, 2007 at 04:26 AM · I would not let Hollywood touch the life story of any great musician with a ten-foot pole. They would simply sensationalize, trivialize and scandalize it. Some artsy European director, now...

I would counter the Heifetz-worship by saying "What about a movie about SZIGETI, huh?!" but he belongs more in a novel than a film anyway. :)

February 2, 2007 at 04:47 AM · I can picture the Euro version. A 15 minute long zoom to a close up of his shadow. Then Liv Ullmann stares at him for another 15 minutes.

February 2, 2007 at 04:57 AM · HAHAHA Jim....

I just read that and it REALLY made my day.

I should preface this by saying that I watch a lot of "Euro" film, but I see what you mean and there is a tiny bit of truth to it. In fact, to be a bit more contemporary, it should have a scene where Heifetz is seen totally nude doing some scandilous, and juxtapose that scene with beautiful music (recalling A Clockwork...)... if you want to keep it Euro.

Maura, I have to say that you don't give filmmakers a lot of credit.

It would be difficult to make a film about Heifetz since it would be hard to find an actor who can play and looks like Heifetz. At the end of the day it's very difficult to make a film with any measure of integrity where the musician is faking it. That's my big problem with Red Violin. And for the hollywood demographic, it would be hard to find enough people who care. However, I can see a great, honest film about Heifetz having a lot of success at Cannes and the subsequently (fairly) large art house film subculture in North America.

February 2, 2007 at 04:56 AM · Heifetz As I Knew Him

By: Ayke Agus

February 2, 2007 at 05:28 AM · Well excuse ME, Pieter...the directors I was referring to, I thought it was rather obvious, are the MAINSTREAM Hollywood directors. You know, the ones who do stuff like make two or three or four unbelievably inane sequels to an already inane action movie, purely for profit.

I'm tempted to say that the only reason Americans don't like "Euro" films is because they have the attention span of a fruit fly, but on second thought I won't.

(Sorry about my grouchiness lately btw--can you tell I'm a little bit stressed? :)

February 2, 2007 at 05:48 AM · Greetings,

yes. Why are you stressed? Is it potentially the subject of a movie?

Curious,

Buri

February 2, 2007 at 05:57 AM · No, just the usual college-audition crap. Nothing terribly interesting/scandalous/dramatic. :)

February 2, 2007 at 06:14 AM · There's other stuff going on while she's staring at him. The shadow was on her wall, and she slowly gets off her lounge thing and slowly walks through some veil stuff, gracefully brushing it aside with the back of her hand. She opens the top half of a split door just an inch and watches him playing in the courtyard as people gather around him. He's just come back from the Q.E. competition where he placed fifth or something so he's pretty good. But he's just turned 21 and she's old enough to be her father's older buddy. Her mother's older sister or something. Also she barely speaks english, but she finds him quite av-vincente. All of a sudden he spies her. He says he's heard her playing piano before through the window. She used to play piano on the Turkmenistanian vaudeville circuit in the old days. He invites her to play some funny stuff together. She's very nervous about it because she hasn't been out of the house in about forty years. He says ah, ok. But no, she didn't mean it. See, she's still hot. She doesn't look a day over 39. It becomes the story of violin transcending age barriers, something it's never done before. So it's not just a remake of Harold and Maude.

February 2, 2007 at 08:11 AM · Hey did anyone see the movie Hilary and Jackie? Based on jacqueline du pre? well, it was supposed to be a "biography" of her life, but it turned out that hollywood did exactly what maura said. they embellished to make the story more entertaining and the real family and friends of jacqueline said that the portrayal was totally off...

February 2, 2007 at 08:35 AM · I finally walked out of that when Dog the bounty hunter came on screen.

February 2, 2007 at 11:08 AM · Wouldn't that movie be quite boring? Practice, practice, practice, ping-pong, ping-pong, ping-pong. The crying woman in the Tchaikowsky bit on "The Art of the Violin" -- but then why is she crying? Heifetz goes so very visibly "Phooey" after finishing the first movement, and brilliantly though he played, that's as banal as can be. It is his playing that was fascinating. But as a character, he doesn't seem to have been very interesting -- and you need characters in a movie, not violinists.

And then: Who would play him, eh? Watching actors who pretend they were playing is one of the worst torments in modern entertainment! Remember that (otherwise quite loveable) "Music of the Heart" business?

No, I think Jim is right. Cinema means watching beautiful women doing dangerous things (who said that? Hitchcock? Anyway, it's basically true), and where is that violinist? OK, there was Ginette Neveu, and her story has some romantic and tragic potential, but then she was not beautiful at all.

Let's be all ears.

Best,

Friedrich

February 2, 2007 at 12:49 PM · It was Oscar Levant who said that you have to strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood to get to the real tinsel underneath.

February 2, 2007 at 03:50 PM · Haha, that sounds like kind of a double entendre Sander :) Back to the original question, "Would anyone besides me love to see a movie about the life of Jascha Heifetz?" Absolutely, I mean movies are made on just about anything today. If a movie could be made on Bobby Kennedy's life - why shouldn't there be a movie made based on the life of Jascha Heifetz or Toscanini? The trouble though is, there is less cultural interest in the States when it comes to the arts, classical etc. making such a film probably would not appeal to most people unfortunately.

February 2, 2007 at 03:52 PM · Nate: Jasha Heifetz did not have a very interesting life, had almost no friends,selfish, cordial but cold with his son, and a terribly annoying personnality...Read about the book concerning Kreisler ( I gave the reference on your blog about recordings Heifetz did not make)...you will be surprised about how interesting the life of Kreisler was ( he was on the battle field during the first war ), considered an ennemy in america, knew Brahms and many other great artists, was the equivalent of a pop star during his days...very , very interesting as a truly great human being...

Marc

February 2, 2007 at 03:59 PM · I think a movie about Szeryng, Ferras, or Rabin could be better since they led much more apparently interesting or tragic lives. If it's a movie that focuses mainly on an inner struggle I'm sure you could come up with a whole bunch of artists, or people of many other professions too, whose stories would be as suitable as that of Heifetz.

February 2, 2007 at 04:18 PM · Marc,

I read that book and thought it was great. Some of the stories are pretty funny, one that comes to mind is when he didn't realize he had been smoking hashish cigarettes throughout his entire stay with the sultan in Turkey. I thought it was rather touching that when american audiences rejected him as an enemy (I believe he took a bullet wound in the Austrian Army?) he decided to play the entire seasons worth of concerts for charity. Also his career struggle was interesting, how he got poor reviews on his first tour, then went to med school, then decided to be a violinist and failed his first audition into an orchestra. Then you have his wife...

I suppose that could make a very entertaining movie.

February 2, 2007 at 04:24 PM · Brian:you forgot about Ginette Neveu...in the plane crash, there were her brother, but also Marcel Cerdan, the boxer and lover of Edith Piaf who was coming to New-York to fight against La Motta...I have a wonderful picture of Neveu and Cerdan meeting at the airport just before embarking the Constellation a few hours before the crash in the Acores...Cerdan is holding the Strad of Neveu in his hands and they are joking apparently...It would be interesting to make the parallèle of their life , him boxing, her struggling and becoming the most famous woman violinist in the world...

Marc

February 2, 2007 at 04:25 PM · Thank you Brian for your comments...yes what a couple...Quite a strong woman, Harriet!!!

February 2, 2007 at 10:18 PM · Heifetz may have been a difficult and hostile person, and Kreisler may have been a wonderful and warm person, but in the realm of art, who cares? In the realm of Hollywood, it makes all the difference in the world.

Of course, perhaps the most appealing "story" for Hollywood is Paganini, but it's been done (badly).

Ysaye would be good, too, and what about Hassid or Ole Bull?

But I think perhaps the most noble story of them all would be a movie about Bronislaw Huberman. And, yes, Hollywood would probably screw it up (That lisp and his walleyed problem have got to go!).

Sandy

February 3, 2007 at 12:20 AM · Actually you aren't exactly right Marc about Heifetz. As far as having an interesting life - I'm sure he had a very interesting life that most of us (including myself) could only ever dream of having. Secondly, those books don't paint a great picture of him at all, that's how I assume you are basing these sweeping generalizations. One of the wide distributed books written about Heifetz (which he openly criticized for its content) is by a convicted criminal, just some food for thought. I know Heifetz was a very generous person when it came to students - he would lend them violins and bows. He even game Pierre Amoyal an expensive Vuilliaume to keep. In all the years Heifetz taught my teacher, he refused to ever charge him. I heard he also sent checks to students or colleagues that were in financial trouble. Sure he probably was quite difficult at times, you can choose to focus on the negatives or look at what he accomplished. Name me one perfect person :)

February 3, 2007 at 05:41 PM · I think the biography of Hiefetz by Wechsler-Vered is pretty well balanced and with great (and well-considered) admiration for Heifetz as an artist, but also with genuine appreciation of his many positive qualities. His more problemmatic qualities are also handled in, I think, an appropriate way. All in all, a good read.

Sandy

February 3, 2007 at 05:54 PM · I hear Hefeitz had a good sense of humor. Some of his jokes are pretty funny. We all know the video where he pretends to play like a bad student violinist. Hilarious. Somehow, I really doubt that he had no personality. I think to really be an artist you need personality and an interesting life. Otherwise, what else is there to communicate to the audience? It'll just be a bunch of notes without those vital aspects.

-Laura

February 3, 2007 at 07:13 PM · Hi, Laura: As I've said a few other places on violinist.com, I think Heifetz was one of those people who sublimated his emotional side and put it into his music. He may have looked cold when playing, and he may have been highly obsessive about preparing and playing in a pre-set way, but what he put into the sound is absolutely passionate and, yes, often very very warm.

And, yes, there are lots of examples of his sense of humor, which was not necessarily at his own expense, but which could be excruciatingly funny. And don't forget, he numbered among his friends Charlie Chaplin and Harpo Marx. They certainly wouldn't have associated with someone with no sense of humor.

Sandy

February 3, 2007 at 10:40 PM · What I would prefer to see is a documentary on Heifetz, rather than a fictionlized movie. Maybe we could get Ken Burns interested! Heifetz left plenty of film of himself performing, teaching, etc. It could include interviews with those who knew him, worked with him, etc.

BTW, I've seen this question come up a couple of times re the mysterious, sad-looking lady that the camera cuts to a couple of times during H's filmed performance of the Tchaik. 1st mvt. It was originally part of a long movie called "Carnegie Hall". It included many performers, such as Rubenstein, Piatigorsky, etc. The less than scintillating story line revolves upon a woman who comes to work in the Hall's administration. At the point at which Heifetz plays, she has had a serious falling-out with her son, and is about to quit her job. After his performance, Heifetz is shown speaking kindly to her.

February 3, 2007 at 11:33 PM · I agree that a film about Kreisler or Neveu would probably make better cinema, although I think Sandy is spot on with the comments above about Heifetz having, underneath, a very strong sense of humor, and being quite a character. But this aspect of his personality is hard to see, I think. That is why his character might be too subtle for the camera lens.

I find the stories of Kreisler's early career attempts to be poignant. How he used to be known by his Med school colleagues for turning his head away, eyes closed, while doing disections on corpses. And how the professor told his father (a doctor) one day that young Fritz would never make it. And yet Kreisler had his heart set, at that point, on medicine. Then he holed himself up in a Viennese pub for a few months and re-started his musical training, and found again his true calling.

Neveu was certainly an unusual character. She is normally described as being somewhat odd-looking, or unattractive, but I think she has an interesting face. Very deep, thoughtful, and intelligent looking. Definitely not Hollywood material, I suppose. I don't know much about her life.

February 5, 2007 at 02:49 PM · Nate, I never read any books about Heifetz, I am simply not interested ...

Marc

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