The title describes exactly what you get here…or does it? Much of this film consists of somebody else filming George Gershwin winding his camera and occasionally not even operating it, instead choosing to enjoy a leisurely tennis court hangout session with his buddy Arnold Schoenberg, Schoenberg’s wife Gertrud, and King Vidor’s ex-wife Doris. So if you’re coming to Gershwin Films Schoenberg expecting Schoenberg filmed by Gershwin and nothing more, then you will be sorely disappointed. But keep an open mind and you may realize that sometimes we need to reconfigure our expectations to fully absorb what’s there, rather than getting hung up over what isn’t.
Who would have thought that a composer whose music is so characteristically dissonant could possibly get along with anyone, let alone such a beloved fixture in the history of jazz, popular music, opera, and Broadway as George Gershwin himself? But apparently they were friends who played tennis regularly, and they look pretty happy in this footage. Watch in awe as such fragile myths are shattered before your very eyes. And, of course, there’s the added poignancy of the film having been shot shortly before Gershwin’s death that same year, which makes it all the more disturbing to note that the composer’s cheerful disposition was being experienced in between or, more likely, in the midst of Glioblastoma multiforme symptoms mercilessly firing away at his decaying nervous system. Watch for yourself and see whether or not said knowledge makes the viewing experience into something that’s life-affirming, a bit of a downer, both, or neither. Gershwin would have probably been better off not smoking that pipe, regardless.