Symphony of Six Million

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Original title Symphony of Six Million
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1932
length 94 minutes
Director Gregory La Cava
script Walter Ruben ,
Bernard Schubert ,
James Seymour
production Pandro S. Berman ,
David O. Selznick for RKO
music Max Steiner
camera Leo Tover
cut Archie Marshek

Symphony of Six Million is the film adaptation of the novel Night Bell by Fannie Hurst with Ricardo Cortez and Irene Dunne in the leading roles.


The young Felix Klauber grew up in the Jewish quarter of the Lower East Side in New York. He dreams of becoming a famous surgeon. Thanks to the tireless support of his family, he succeeded in studying medicine and quickly became a well-known doctor who aroused the attention of his colleagues with often unorthodox treatment methods. His brother Magnus, who only wants a quick buck, convinces Felix to open a private practice and only treat wealthy patients. Within a short period of time, the practice, which is located on Park Avenue, became a great success and the Klauber family benefited from the increasing prosperity. However, Felix is ​​increasingly blinded by the wealth and the milieu in which his patients live. He no longer cares about his family and also rejects Jessica's childhood sweetheart. Jessica, crippled from birth, teaches Braille at a school for the blind. When she asks Felix to operate on one of her students for free and Felix refuses, she calls him a traitor to his family values ​​of decency and morality. Felix tries deeply concerned to save his father, who has a brain tumor, but the old man dies on the operating table. The loss plunges Felix into deep depression. Only when Jessica, whose disease is worsening, can only be saved by a dangerous, so far hardly tried surgical method, does the young man come to his senses. He carries out the treatment with success. He and Jessica confess their love to each other and Felix is ​​practicing again as a doctor for the poor and destitute.


After being kicked out of Paramount Pictures , David O. Selznick joined RKO in October 1931 . In his role as deputy production manager, one of his main problems was ensuring the internal integration of the various individual companies from which RKO emerged at the end of a series of mergers. In addition, he worked intensively on a few selected projects, including the film adaptation of the novel Night Bell by the then popular author Fannie Hurst . As in many of her novels, the action takes place in the milieu of the Jewish community of New York and describes the rise and fall of a young doctor who forgets his origins and falls into a deep crisis of meaning.

It was particularly important to David O. Selznick to leave the decidedly Jewish aspects of the plot intact during the adaptation. His aim was to avoid the Jewish stereotypes often used up to now, such as in Der Jazzsänger or Abie's Irish Rose, in order to allow a realistic and realistic depiction of Jewish traditions instead. Selznick insisted on showing the warmth and human cohesion of the Jewish community in New York's Lower East Side, described in the novel with much affection, on the screen. In addition to the more content-related aspects, Selznick also dealt intensively with the technical implementation of the material. So he asked Max Steiner , the head of the music department at RKO, to put background music under the entire film, an approach that was unusual at the time. In addition, Selznick asked for another title that suggests more pathos and drama than the rather banal Night Bell . At the end of the consideration there was Symphony of Six Million . Production costs ended up being around $ 270,000.

For Irene Dunne , the rather peripheral role of Jessica was important insofar as she convinced those responsible at Universal Pictures with her portrayal to give her the leading role in the film adaptation of another Fannie Hurst novel. The success of Back Street finally established Dunne as a recognized star, after initially only getting engagements in less ambitious films despite an Oscar nomination for best actress for pioneers of the wild west .


Most critics praised the film for its realism, especially in the depiction of the dramatic scenes in the operating room. The New York Times raved:

“This is one of the most outstanding hospital episodes ever filmed. She keeps the attention for every second. "

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  1. This is one of the outstanding hospital episodes that has been pictured. It elicits steady attention during its every second.