AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Torch Song
Alternate Title: Why Should I Cry?
Director: Charles Walters (Dir)
Release Date:   23 Oct 1953
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Columbus, OH, Syracuse, NY and Richmond, VA: 1 Oct 1953; New York opening: 12 Oct 1953
Production Date:   27 Apr--late May 1953
Duration (in mins):   89-90
Duration (in feet):   8,052
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Joan Crawford (Jenny Stewart)  
    Michael Wilding (Tye Graham)  
    Gig Young (Cliff Willard)  
    Marjorie Rambeau (Mrs. Stewart)  
    Henry ["Harry"] Morgan (Joe Denner)  
    Dorothy Patrick (Martha)  
    James Todd (Philip Norton)  
    Eugene Loring (Gene, dance director)  
    Paul Guilfoyle (Monty Rolfe)  
    Benny Rubin (Charlie Maylor)  
    Peter Chong (Peter)  
    Maidie Norman (Anne)  
    Nancy Gates (Celia Stewart)  
    Chris Warfield (Chuck Peters)  
    Rudy Render (Singer at party)  
    Charles Walters (Ralph Ellis)  
    John Rosser (Chauffeur)  
    Frank Mazzola (Merle)  
    Norma Jean Salina (Margaret)  
    Donna Jean Stewart (Elsie)  
    Peggy King (Cora)  
    Gary Stewart (Eddie)  
    Mitchell Lewis (Bill, the doorman)  
    Mimi Gibson (Susie)  
    Adolph Deutsch (Conductor)  
    Reginald Simpson (Cab driver)  
    Bess Flowers (Audience member)  
    Steve Carruthers (Audience member)  
    Mary Benoit (Audience member)  
    Estelle Etterre (Audience member)  
    Paul Power (Audience member)  
    Dick Winslow    

Summary: At a rehearsal for her new show, temperamental Broadway star Jenny Stewart lashes out at anyone who displeases her, from her dance partner to her arranger, Charlie Maylor, who has been driven to drink by her bullying. After abruptly walking out of the rehearsal, Jenny goes home and practices a scene with her sympathetic secretary, Anne, then gets into bed and tearfully gives in to feelings of loneliness. The following day, Jenny's boyfriend, playboy Cliff Willard, comes by as she is redesigning her costumes for the show, and she insists that her love for her audience justifies her domineering ways. When Jenny eventually shows up for rehearsal, she is surprised to discover that Charlie has quit and has been replaced by the distinguished Tye Graham, a blind pianist. Tye proves more than adept at accompanying Jenny and accommodating her changes, although she rudely disregards his suggestions. After Tye tries to change the tempo on one of her songs, Jenny orders director Joe Denner to fire him. When everyone has left the theater, however, Jenny secretly tries the song Tye's way. Jenny then goes to a restaurant, where she encounters Tye. The pianist buys her lunch and suggests that she uses her tough demeanor to conceal her fear of being vulnerable. After lunch, Tye returns to his elegant apartment and tells his house man, Peter, that he paid for his friend Charlie to travel to Cuba so that he could get his job. That evening, Jenny goes to Tye's apartment, where he is rehearsing with his jazz quintet, and insists that he come back to work for her. After Jenny leaves, Tye admits to fellow musician Martha, who is in love with him, that despite her fine qualities he will never be able to "see" her as he does Jenny. Tye returns to rehearsals, and Jenny comes to value his opinion. One Sunday morning, as the bored Jenny mopes around her apartment, she tries unsuccessfully to perform simple tasks with her eyes closed, and is struck by the grace and dignity with which Tye lives. In a rush of feeling, she goes to visit her mother, but Mrs. Stewart just nags her for money. Jenny decides to throw a party that night, and instructs her agent, Monty Rolfe, to round up guests and arrange for Tye to entertain. Tye is unavailable, however, which puts Jenny in a sour mood, and she abruptly sends her guests home. Later, after the final dress rehearsal, Jenny is enraged to learn that Tye will not be accompanying the cast to Philadelphia for out-of-town tryouts. She summons Tye to her home later that evening, and he tells Jenny that he used to be a drama and music critic before losing his sight in the war. When he still refuses to go to Philadelphia, they quarrel, and Tye warns Jenny that she is on the road to a terrible decline and lonely end. Jenny goes to see her mother and reluctantly admits her frustration over Tye. Mrs. Stewart produces the scrapbooks she has filled with newspaper clippings about Jenny's career, and Jenny finds a review written by Tye the evening before he went into the service. At her mother's request, Jenny puts on a recording she once made of the song "Tenderly," which Tye had seen her perform. Jenny then goes to Tye's apartment and slips in unnoticed as he is playing "Tenderly" for Martha. After sending Martha away, Jenny surprises Tye with her presence and says she knows how he arranged to get Charlie's job. She adds that she read the old review and knows that he loves her. Tye lashes out in a rage, but Jenny declares her feelings for him. Acknowledging their need for each other, Tye and Jenny kiss. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Charles Walters (Dir)
  Al Jennings (Asst dir)
Producer: Charles Schnee (Exec prod)
  Henry Berman (Prod)
  Sydney Franklin Jr. (Prod)
Writer: John Michael Hayes (Scr)
  Jan Lustig (Scr)
  I. A. R. Wylie (Based on a story by)
Photography: Robert Planck (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Preston Ames (Art dir)
Film Editor: Albert Akst (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Jack D. Moore (Set dec)
Costumes: Helen Rose (Women's cost des by)
Music: Adolph Deutsch (Mus dir)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec supv)
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe (Spec eff)
Dance: Charles Walters (Mus numbers staged by)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Hair styles)
  William Tuttle (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: Jay Marchant (Unit mgr)
Stand In: India Adams (Singing voice double for Joan Crawford)
  William B. Lee (Singing voice double for Rudy Render)
Color Personnel: Henri Jaffa (Technicolor col consultant)
  Alvord Eiseman (Col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Blue Moon," music by Richard Rodgers.
Songs: "Follow Me," music and lyrics by Adolph Deutsch; "You Won't Forget Me," music and lyrics by Kermit Goell and Fred Spielman; "Tenderly," music and lyrics by Jack Lawrence and Walter Gross; "Two-Faced Woman," music and lyrics by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz.
Composer: Adolph Deutsch
  Howard Dietz
  Kermit Goell
  Walter Gross
  Jack Lawrence
  Richard Rodgers
  Arthur Schwartz
  Fred Spielman
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 24/9/1953 dd/mm/yyyy LP3853 Yes

PCA NO: 16608
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Sound System
  col: Technicolor

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Show business
  with songs
Subjects (Major): Blindness
  Mothers and daughters
Subjects (Minor): Critics
  Jazz music
  New York City--Broadway
  Seeing Eye dogs
  Theatrical agents
  Theatrical directors
  Unrequited love
  War injuries

Note: The working title of this film was Why Should I Cry? According to 1951 news items in DV and HR , the I. A. R. Wylie story "Why Should I Cry?" was originally to be filmed as one of the short sequences in M-G-M's Three Love Stories (see entry above). A 23 Jun 1952 HR news item reported that Lana Turner had been cast in the film, and a 5 Mar 1953 item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column announced that Ann Sheridan would star. According to a Jun 1952 news item in HR , Fred Wilcox was originally set to direct the picture. A HR news item and production charts add Lillian Randolph and Dave O'Brien to the cast, but they were not in the released film.
       The song "Two-Faced Woman" was originally recorded by singer India Adams for a Cyd Charisse dance number in The Band Wagon (see above), but was cut from that film and added to Torch Song . The 1994 film That's Entertainment! III features a segment in which the omitted footage of Charisse is shown on a split screen with the Joan Crawford production number from Torch Song . Torch Song received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Marjorie Rambeau) and was Crawford's first color film. The picture also marked her return to M-G-M after seeking release from her contract a decade earlier. Crawford began her career and rose to stardom at M-G-M, and was under contract to the studio from 1925 to 1943, but dissatisfaction with the roles she was being offered prompted her to become a free agent (although some modern sources suggest that the studio was displeased with her recent films and wanted her to leave). According to a 16 Dec 1953 HR news item, music publisher Edwin H. Morris & Co. sued Loew's Inc., M-G-M's parent company, for allegedly using the song "Tenderly" in a manner that violated the licensing agreement. The outcome of this suit has not been determined. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   3 Oct 1953.   
Daily Variety   15 Aug 1951.   
Daily Variety   2 Oct 53   p. 3.
Film Daily   9 Oct 53   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jun 52   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jun 52   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Mar 53   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Apr 53   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Apr 53   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Apr 53   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   29 May 53   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Sep 53   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Oct 53   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Dec 53   p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily   2 Oct 1953.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   3 Oct 53   p. 2014.
New York Times   13 Oct 53   p. 34.
Variety   7 Oct 53   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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