A Doll's House: The Musical

     Henrik Ibsen's 1979 play A Doll's House was brought to the screen in 1973 by directors Joseph Losey and Hillard Elkins with two surprisingly different leading ladies. Joseph Losey's casting of Jane Fonda as the meek Nora Helmer seemed to be a strain for the publicly opinionated Jane Fonda I remember in the 1970s. Producer Hillard Elkins casting of Claire Bloom as Nora was not as surprising. Claire Bloom presented a much calmer Nora without the active image Jane Fonda presented.

     Neither film version made a significant impression, so I proceeded with the mind set of "What would I have done differently"? Joseph Losey's film version, with the many different scene locations, seemed to lend itself to a musical better than Hillard Elkins' version, directed by Patrick Garland, that stayed mainly at the Helmer's house.

     I would have opened up the play with Nora (Jane Fonda) singing J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie's 1934 "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" as she enters the front door. Jane's lithe movements and song, while placing Christmas presents around the tree, could have enhanced the "happy lark" image of Nora at the beginning of the play.

     The next musical interjection would have been Jerome Kern and Buddy DeSylva's 1920 "Look for the Silver Lining." Christine Linde (Delphine Seyrig) could have sung this to Nora during the scene where she was encouraging Nora to confess to Torvald about the loan. Christine's reasonings in the film did not have the conviction I think a song could have added.

     The staircase struggle scene where Torvald (David Warner) is insisting Nora (Jane Fonda) leave the fancy dress party upstairs, could have been much more dramatic with the addition of a song. Dorothy Terriss and Julian Robledo's 1921 "Three O'Clock in the Morning" could have emphasized the time drag Nora was creating to keep Torvald from opening the letterbox.

     To accentuate the purpose of the Black X calling card, Dr. Rank ( Trevor Howard) could have sung Thomas A Dorsey's 1939 "Peace in the Valley" as he descended the steps to go home. This could have added to the sadness Nora and Torvald felt upon the prospect of losing their good friend.

     I would have closed the play with one last song. Torvald (David Warner) singing Andre' Popp and Bryan Blackburn's 1966 "Love Is Blue" after Nora (Jane Fonda) shuts the door with her final exit. This song might have brought a tear to the eye to an otherwise "Oh well, she left" ending.

Julie Kinder

Table of Contents