Friday, April 09, 2010

Oscar Levant on Film Music


The Siren is on a major Oscar Levant bender, having ordered A Smattering of Ignorance, Memoirs of an Amnesiac and A Talent for Genius: The Life and Times of Oscar Levant all in one binge. She isn't sure what prompted it, unless it was watching his big encore from The Band Wagon on Youtube and wondering once more what in holy hell was going on with his hands. Still, Levant, with his dangling cynicism and constant cigarette, is a welcome presence in every movie he ever made. And he's a wonderful writer too, stylish and assured, funny as hell and so informative about George Gershwin. (If you put the Siren under hypnosis she would probably admit Gershwin is her favorite composer.)

Anyway, from A Smattering of Ignorance, published in 1942, here are some vintage Levant thoughts on film scores.

It is a tradition in pictures (one of the most stubbornly respected) that nobody in the world goes to hear a movie score but the composer, the orchestrator and other composers. As a kind of compensation, I suppose, they hear every single sixteenth note in the score and are thereafter equipped to discuss its most obscure subtleties. Frequently, however, they have to be told what the picture itself is about.

This has its parallel in another tradition in the movies with which every composer comes into contact as soon as he reports to a studio. It was probably devised by the first producer ever to use a musical score for a dramatic film and runs as follows: If the audience doesn't notice the music, it's a good score. This I could never quite understand...

Perhaps one of the reasons for the low repute of picture music may be found in the words that fill the air when a Hollywood score is discussed by those versed in such matters. You never hear any discussion of a score as a whole. Instead, the references are to "main-title" music, "end title" music, "montages," "inserts" and so on, with no recognition of the character of the complete score. It is much as if one would discuss a suit in terms of its buttonholes, pleats, basting and lining, without once considering its suitability to the figure it adorned...

In the early days of the talkies the idea of writing music under dialogue was so revolutionary that a number of prominent producers (as, for example, Irving Thalberg) countenanced it only under the greatest pressure, and then but sparingly. They were not merely unfriendly to music; they were actually suspicious of its potentialities.

They made a great fetish, for example, of pointing out the conflict between the so-called "reality" of the movies and the "unreality" of music. Always when a situation seemed to demand a heightening by music effect they would come back at the composer with the question, "But where would the audience think the orchestra is coming from?" This was supposed to be the stopper for all arguments. When a musical background was absolutely inseparable from an effect they would go to the most extravagant lengths to relate the music to the scene by having a band playing outside the window, or secreting a string quartet behind a row of potted palms or having the sound come out of a radio. Unquestionably it is an additional virtue to make music an integral part of a dramatic situation, but it always seemed to me an example of remarkable shortsightedness that even the best directors and producers could not reconcile themselves to the thought that they were dealing with a completely artificial medium and adapt themselves to it accordingly.

The second half of that last sentence melted the Siren into a puddle.

Anyway, in honor of Levant, here is a list of twenty film scores. The Siren, at this point, knows better than to give this list a designation like "Favorites" or, god help us, "Best." After much thought, she has decided to call it "An Alphabetical List of Twenty Film Scores I Could Still Recognize and/or Hum After Two Glasses of Scotch," an organizing principle she feels Levant might approve despite his being more the prescription-drug type.

A Summer Place, Max Steiner
Alexander Nevsky, Sergei Prokofiev
Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, Miles Davis
Band à Part, Michel Legrand
Limelight, Charlie Chaplin
Doctor Zhivago, Maurice Jarre
Giant, Dimitri Tiomkin
How Green Was My Valley, Alfred Newman
Kings Row, Erich Wolfgang Korngold
On the Waterfront, Leonard Bernstein
Peyton Place, Franz Waxman
Shaft, Isaac Hayes and J.J. Johnson
Spellbound, Miklós Rózsa
The Bad and the Beautiful, David Raksin
The Big Country, Jerome Moross
The Reivers, John Williams
The Third Man, Anton Karas
To Kill a Mockingbird, Elmer Bernstein
Vertigo, Bernard Herrmann
Walk on the Wild Side, Elmer Bernstein

194 comments:

Avery said...

Sorry this is about your masthead not Oscar, though i do love him :)

Is that Danny Kaye lighting Ingrid Bergmans cigarette?
Excellent photo!

Vanwall said...

Hmmm. Been away for a few days, new granddaughter arrived - Eva (pronounced A-vah, not Ee-vah or Eh-vah...or else) Irene Ann - and this looks like a great idea! I've always been partial to Erich Wolfgang Korngold's work on "The Sea Hawk", and I like Brian May's under-rated work on "Mad Max 2" (AKA "The Road Warrior"), and I'm sure to get slapped around by some for Richard Addinsell's "Dangerous Moonlight", with help from the uncredited Roy Douglas's arrangements which actually helped the score a lot - Grieg and Rach influences, and carpers be damned, I like it. PFFHHTT. Also look into Jerry Goldsmiths's work for "The Satan Bug", as cool a score as ever was, and also his haunting "Chinatown". Brian Easdale's "Red Shoes" and "Black Narcissus" music was always nice to hear, and can't leave out Jarre's "Lawrence of Arabia" and his 1966 "The Professionals" from my list, and Steiner's "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and "The Big Sleep". And no GWTW? Brave, Siren, brave.

Charles Noland said...

I think the reputation of composers of movies scores has gone up a good deal since Levant wrote that (I can't cite anything to back that up, just an impression I have). I also think the quality of scores in general is better now than ever. I sometimes notice the score of a second rate movie from the 1940's or 1950's and I get the idea that someone with no idea of what sort of music was required for a particular scene just tossed some random theme out there.

A couple of more stray scores that pop into my head that I think are particularly memorable -

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - Bernard Herman
Lawrence of Arabia - Jarre

And one that bugs me right down to my toenails, bombastic and overblown - Tiomkin's score for High Noon, dreadful.

gmoke said...

I recently digitized Georges Delarue's music for "Jules et Jim" and "Tirez sur le Pianiste" from my old EPs. Been trying to learn "Vacances" and "Charlie" by ear.

One of the most interesting experiences I've had with film music was in Rohmer's "Autumn Tale," a remarkable film in many ways. It wasn't until the very end of the movie, when a live band plays for dancing at the party after a wedding that I realized there was no other music in the film. It made that music a real release and pop.

Another great music moment is, of course, "Ikiru" when Takashi Shimura (who was offered a record contract at one time) sings his sentimental song, "Life Is Brief," first in the after hours club and then finally alone on the swing in the snow.

There's also a classic score from a little remembered Roger Vadim film by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, "One Never Knows," the title tune of which never fails to move me.

I'll let someone else talk about Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota.

Oscar Levant himself composed music as well and in my stacks I have one of his pieces reprinted in the late lamented "Piano Today."

Dave said...

The thing about Levant (and the reason I love him) is his total amateurishness -- and I mean that as a compliment. He knows he's not an actor, a singer, or a dancer, so he just throws himself into everything with total enthusiasm and commitment. He's like the twin brother of Adolph Green -- and a higher compliment is hard to think of.

Scores: Franz Waxman for "The Philadelphia Story" and "The Bride of Frankenstein" (who else would use a Hawaiian theme for a monster movie?)

Also, Herrmann for "North by Northwest."

Most annoying is easily Maurice Jarre's score for "Doctor Zhivago." If he wouldn't play that @#$%ing "Lara's Theme" -- LOUD -- every five damn minutes, it might be tolerable, but after the umpteenth time hearing it, I just want to punch the score in the face.

Peter Nellhaus said...

I hope you will get around to seeing John Woo's Red Cliff (the complete version, please). I fell in love with that film because of the opening theme music by Taro Iwashiro.

Gloria said...

When I first caught Levant fever myself, I read those books on a row!... What a character!*

The good thing is, if you like them, there's still "The importance of being Oscar" to read.

I must have at home an old article from "Focus on film" devoted to him... Would you like me to check?

Arthur S. said...

For me the problem is that I can rarely remember film music. Like the first time I saw the Eisenstein-Profokiev movies, I couldn't remember the music(save for the Ballad which the Oprichniki dance to) or when I saw Scorsese's gangster films, I couldn't place the rock sounds either. I had to see it twice and thrice to get into it and my shame-of-shames, I couldn't remember Herrmann's score for ''Citizen Kane'' and was confused when everyone talked of how great and important it was.

So I don't think whether you can remember or recall the tune as being any criteria for whether the score is truly great. For me, there's music-as-music and film as film and for me the music often melds into the dialogues and other sounds of the film.

Among the music I remember however,
VERTIGO, Bernard Herrmann.
(Especially the love theme that plays during the chase and the percussive music of the dream scene and of course Scene d'Amour, the piece that plays during the Ressurection).
CONTEMPT, Georges Delerue.
LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, Alfred Newman
(especially the drumming theme that plays when she disperses the ashes)
LA SIGNORA SENZA CAMELIE, Giovanni Fusco
KUNDUN, Philip Glass
Then I love the main guitar riff theme in Jack Nitzche's score for PERFORMANCE.

Then it's not original music but the piece that plays in ''Barry Lyndon'' during the seduction scene between Barry and Lady Lyndon(which was by Schubert) was imprinted into my memory.

The Siren said...

Avery, yes, that's exactly it. Because it was an al fresco party and it looked like fun the banner seemed good for the springlike weather we are--or perhaps it's WERE now--having in New York.

The Siren said...

Dave, Pauline Kael was on your side with DZ -- she said, if I recall correctly, that the balalaika music was so repetitive she wanted to kill the composer. The problem was that for some reason I can't remember, Jarre had to come up with the music much faster than he had thought. So a bunch of themes he'd planned just didn't get written and instead we got a major leitmotif which to this day some people just hear as "same goddamn song over and over." It works for me though, maybe becuase I conjure up Julie Christie when I hear it. It's amazing what picturing Christie will do for any piece of music, in fact.

Flickhead said...

Oscar's clenched fists? The sign of someone who just doesn't want to be there. Unless a stagehand just shy of camera range was dangling a bottle of Dewar's from a fishing pole.

I'll go with the suggestion of Jerry Goldsmith's Chinatown, and there are some interesting parts to his score for the first Star Trek movie. Then there's the lovely piece Ròzsa wrote for The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (click here).

The Siren said...

Flickhead, I haven't read the bio yet so I'm not sure, but I think he had just had a heart attack or something and had to practically be propped up. His graceless hands in The Band Wagon fascinate me, considering he was such a great pianist. They're even more noticeable in the first "That's Entertainment" number with Fabray. Was he protecting them?

I am a stout defender of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in all aspects, including the score and Robert Stephens' sex appeal.

gmoke said...

When I was a kid, on the few occasions that I saw Levant on TV talking to somebody like Jack Paar, his hands were always wandering, flapping like distracted birds, and his mouth was all over his face. It was very strange.

And that MJQ score for Roger Vadim is the film "No Sun in Venice."

CrayolaThief said...

I'd like to distribute the following awards for the most...

Stirring: Fahrenheit 451, Bernard Herrmann
Menacing: Experiment in Terror, Henry Mancini
Rousing: The Untouchables, Ennio Morricone
Wayfaring: Theme from Route 66, Nelson Riddle

DavidEhrenstein said...

I watched Oscar Levant on Paar too, smoke. He was my role model.

Candace Bergenm, btw, found the body. She had dropped by the house to interview Oscar that day. June directed her to his room -- and there he was.

Donald O'Connor acknowledged that in Singin' in the Rain he was palying the Oscar Levant part. Oscar of course could never have done the "Make 'em Laugh" number, but still. . .

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's a clip of his TV show with special guest Fred Astaire.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Re film sctores, Deklerue's score for Contempt is the ULTIMATE film music. It eats up everythign around it -- acros, settings, camera movement, color.

Herrmann's score for Hangover Square is the film's central character. It was a major fave of Little Stevie Sondheim -- who paid it copious hommage in his core for Sweeney Todd.


Once Upion a Time in the West is my favirite Morricone, with his scores for and Partner palcing a strong second.

I also love his work for Pasolini with Domenico Medugno, particularly Che Cosa Sono Nuovole? (the puppet Othello with Ninetto as a confused Moor of Venice and a green-faced Toto as Iago.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Michel Legrand is of course another peerless score-writer. Everyone knows Umbrellas of Cherbourg. But I treasure his score for Demy's Lola and Bay of the Angels (with theat pouning piano) and Le Mans as well as The Thomas Crown Affair

And above all, Cleo de 5 a 7

DavidEhrenstein said...

et Voila!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Michel's so adorable here. The lyrics, by Agnes, are a series of puns on the word liar (menteur)

Lynn said...

On The Beach - Ernest Gold
and
The High And The Mighty - Dimitri Tiomkin

The whistling for the High and Mighty score can still move me to tears. Was that the first of the disaster movie genre?

Yojimboen said...

How many composers can you name in this piece?

Hint: (As some true believers insist about the very subject of film music) It begins and ends with Herrmann.

The Siren said...

Glenn Kenny writes via email:

As you might have intuited, MAJOR Levant fan here. Read "Talent For Genius" a LONG while back. Lent it to my mom, who still has it. Had never gotten the two books BY him but I haven't gone looking since the advent of Amazon. I'll have to check into that.

I do enjoy the passage you cite. It is interesting to remember, in light of Levant's remarks, that both Buñuel and Bresson both abhored film music. Although obviously not out of concern for "realism," as neither was what you might call terribly concerned with that notion...

Do you know the CD "Oscar Levant Plays Levant and Gershwin?" A gem. He peppers one Gershwin medley with personal reminiscences of George. Levant's own music is a little more radical than his friend's was; knottier, more atonal, a bit tortured, as is entirely apt. Except, of course, for the wonderful pastiche he wrote for "charlie Chan At The Opera," which is a hoot.

The Siren said...

Charles, I had replied to your comment but Google ate it, and then I got depressed. Levant mentions that he thinks film scores were getting better at that date (1942, which is just as they really started coming into their own.) They definitely got better later on; notice most of mine are from the latter half of the period I usually cover. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is lovely indeed, as is Lawrence.

The Siren said...

Gmoke, the Ikiru music is heartbreaking.

Peter, I will, I will!

Gloria, I will get around to the third book I'm sure. I also had to slot a George Sanders book in that Abebooks order. :)

Arthur, Performance is on my must-see list. A favorite of Flickhead's.

Crayolathief, Experiment in Terror! A great one. Forgot it. Damn it.

The Siren said...

David, Hangover Square was GREAT. I loved it. An Old Dark Square movie. :) That's so sad about Bergen finding him. It's kind of amazing Levant lived as long as he did, though. He took self-destruction into the realm of art form.

Lynn, The High and the Mighty is a good one too. Now I am looking around to see where's X Trapnel, though, as "Tiomkin" is his "Beetlejuice"...

Yojimboen, I will follow the link after dinner when the kids don't pop up and demand to know what I'm playing and why it isn't Playhouse Disney.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

> The thing about Levant (and
> the reason I love him) is his
> total amateurishness

I realize that that's not pejorative. Yet, at the same time, I want to point out two examples of his genuine skill as a composer. First of all, there's the song "Blame It On My Youth" (words: Edward Heyman), which is a genuine classic. I believe that Levant, himself, used to play it and then claim to've performed "a medley of my hit."

But I'm especially fond of a song called "Don't Mention Love To Me," which he and Dorothy Fields wrote for a picture called "In Person." Here's the YouTube clip. (Start looking around "1:29".)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc1kB86mC3c

Ginger Rogers may not have been the best performer for it -- I fell for Bobby Short's recorded performance -- but it's still a good one.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Performance isn't just a masterpeice, it's a founding text of the British Crime film.

After you see it I'll tell you about the time I met Donald Cammell.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Blame it on My Youth" is one of the greatest songs ever written. Here's an exquisite version by Jamie Cullem

Yojimboen said...

Lest we forget, the man could play a piano like ringin' a bell.

The Multi-talented Oscar.

pvitari said...

Is there a version of "Blame It On My Youth" more exquisite than the one recorded by Frank Sinatra for his album Close to You? If there is, I haven't heard it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLwX0Cq5xR0

DavidEhrenstein said...

And then there's Chet Baker

Yojimboen said...

Pardon, M VW - this should have been the first comment:

Congratulations! Like Sayyid Ben Adhem, may your tribe increase!

The Siren said...

Y., I thought it was Abou Ben Adhem, may his tribe increase/Awoke one night from a great dream of peace...My own paternal grandmother used to recite that one to me. So it's very appropriate. :)

I am loving these links.

Vanwall said...

M. Yo - Thankee kindly.

And MHWV - Bobby Short was great with any song, IMHO! In "Man of the Century", he was a Sam-wise sorta part, but boy could he crank out "Nagasaki"!

Rich said...

Fave film scores -- Korngold's glorious score for "Robin Hood"!

Also -- Bernard Hermann's score for "On Dangerous Ground" (he said this was his favorite)

Arthur S. said...

PERFORMANCE isn't exactly a masterpiece, at least in my opinion, but it is one of the most fascinating films made in that time and gives you more insight into 60s England than BLOW-UP. It has Mick Jagger, James Fox and Anita Pallenberg and they are terrific. As David, says all British gangster films come from here but PERFORMANCE is something different.

Nitzche's score is part of the effectiveness of the film but the ultimate moment is of course when they invent the music video with the Mick Jagger penned ''Memo from Turner''(a great track that Scorsese used in ''GoodFellas''), which has some of Ry Cooder's best slide guitar work.

Vanwall said...

Siren - Thanks for the elucidation, and it's even more apropos, as I've had that dream before.

verification word is whingato - I like the sound of that!

Yojimboen said...

Mes regrets, chère Madame et M VW for the confusion. Ever the Brit (never having been introduced to Abou), I was being formal: ‘Sayyid’ in Arabic is ‘Mister’.

The Siren said...

Y., it must be that I just never call the DH "Mister." :D

DavidEhrenstein said...

Arthur, you must read Colin McCabe's BFI film book on Performance which goes into everything about it in great detail. For me it's beyond a masterpiece in that it's a fiction film that's a documentary of it's maker's mind. McCabe makes plain that Cammell is the film's auteur with Roeg taking credit the better to echoe Powell and Pressburger. Roeg was the DP and responsible for all the visual bloacking. Cammell , the writer, was therefore free to direct the actors in what can only be called a cinema verite psycho drama. Mick is playing Brian Jones. Anita Pallenberg is playing her self. She had had an affair with Brian, but her then-main-boyfirned was Keith Ricahrds. He wasn't allowed on the set and was frequently foudn outside the house pacing back and forth -- brooding. He was sure Mick was going to snatch Anita away from him. Michelle Breton was aptly described by someone as "a creature of Donald's. Reports vary as to wheter she still remians a carbin-based life-form.

The set-up for the film is basic Joe Losey -- the "outsider" comes into the home/castle/retreat and power-relations shift. The seemingly passive and effeminate-to-the-edge-of-transgendered rock star is fascinated with the gangster and gives him psychedelic mushrooms in order to "take him aprt" -- the way he takes his gun apart to clean it. All the information about Harry Flowers and his gang is practically a Xerox of The Krays -- who were still very much in power at the time the film was shot (1968). Cammell's friend David Litvinoff was his entree into the Kray world as he was having an affiar with a Kray thug.

Francis Bacon was also having and affair with a Kray thug -- covered in exceedingly acurate detail in John Maybury's Love is the Devil -- ideal as a double feature with Performance.

There's a quite good documentary out too Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance whose highlights include interviews with James Fox, Johnny Shannon (who played Harry Flowers), Kenneth Anger, and of course Barbara Steele.

Arthur S. said...

I've heard of McCabe's book. The talking-heads extra on the recent DVD also makes Cammell's centrality clear. McCabe is the host of the piece and along with Anita Pallenberg, Frank Mazzola was also interviewed. He started his career in cinema, I believe as a real-life teenage gang-member who supplied research for ''Rebel Without A Cause''. Mazzola made it clear that he and Cammell worked on the final editing which Roeg absolved himself from.

Mick Jagger gives a pretty good performance as Turner, he isn't afraid of making him unlikable or unidentifiable. The Stones have been far more interesting in their contributions to film than any other rock band, there's ''Performance'', ''Gimme Shelter'', that Godard movie and a recent Scorsese concert-portrait. And also Robert Frank's film on the Stones which they themselves have suppressed, and so I haven't seen yet.

The Siren said...

"That Godard movie" about the Stones was a pretty hard thing to watch, I have to say, despite the occasional lurch to life. "Gimme Shelter" is great.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Frank Mazzola was also IN Rebel Without a Cause as one of the members of the gang. He told me some very interesting things about James Dean. When East of Eden opened at the Egyptian theater here in Hollywood he went to the premier with him. When it was over Dean raced out of the theater and yelled to Mazzola "Hide Me!" He knew he'd made an enormous hit and was rather terrified by that fact.

After Performance Mazzola remained a loyal freunds and ally of Cammell's. He edited Wild Side to Cammell's specifications once the film was won back from the company that produced it. That version is available as a Region 2 from the UK.

Cammell was a incredibly brilliant, deeply troubled, exceptionally sweet man. I would guess that he suffered from some form of bi-polar disorder.

But that never stood in the way of his art.

Flickhead said...

Robert Frank's Cocksucker Blues is available on bootleg (most prints are terrible), and it wouldn't surprise me if if were in its entirety somewhere on YouTube under another name. It's also occasionally screened at museums.

Donald Cammell: the Ultimate Performance is excellent. Most bootlegs are of a one-time televised viewing from roughly ten years ago. I'd hoped Warners would've included it in the bonus features of the Performance DVD, but this never happened.

In their effort to remaster the film for DVD, Warners left out one of Jagger's best lines in Performance, "Here's to old England!"

Also worth reading: Mick Brown's book on Performance, and, if I may be so bold, my own piece.

The Siren said...

Flickhead, that Performance write-up is one of my favorites of yours.

Flickhead said...

I heard you twice the first time!

The Siren said...

Flickhead, I just can't say it enough! Seriously, WTF with Blogger this am? quite a lot of inscrutable error messages.

Arthur S. said...

Godard's movie was initially titled "One Plus One" but the producers in order to create more publicity renamed the film ''Sympathy for the Devil'' and added the song at the end credits in the print bearing that title(which isn't the final album version either). At the release, Godard addressed the audience to boycott the premier and follow him to an underground screening of his cut. Upon being spurned by the crowd, Godard called them fascists, punched the producer and later defended himself by saying, "They wanted to make my One plus One equal two." Keith Richards said that Godard nearly killed the Stones when during the making, the studio caught fire and he continued filming without telling them.

The footage in either version of the genesis of that incredible song, step by step, inch by inch is something else without parallel in trying to show how music is made. While the film isn't among Godard's strongest it's in a league of its own.

I heard about the change of that piece of dialogue in the DVD release. Can't understand why. Usually they make changes out of copyright(like the DVD of Altman's ''California Split'' is shorter because they didn't pay royalties to a couple of songs used in the film and so trimmed it).

Thanks Mr. Flickhead for the headsup on the Frank movie and your piece on PERFORMANCE>

DavidEhrenstein said...

Excellent article, Flickhead!

I met China Cammell at (of all places) Lance Loud's funeral. Quite a fascinating woman.

DavidEhrenstein said...

BTW, if you look closely you can spot James Fox in One Plus One. I imagine he'd dropped by to see Jagger about Performance.

Fox's own performance is quite uncanny. Her he was a perfectly polished upper-class British man turning himself into a lower-class hoodlum in a sharply tailored suit (the way The Krays liked 'em.) He was playing Cammell's fantasy of himself as a hood.

Flickhead said...

Thanks, Arthur and David!

Siren, I was kinda hoping you'd leave in the peat-and-repeat comment... it was doing wonders for my too-easily-bruised ego!

Flickhead said...

The only time I ever saw the Godard Stones movie was about thirty years ago at the 8th Street Playhouse, where it was playing with Weekend. Although I was in my early twenties, I was either too young or too green to fathom what JLG was doing with Sympathy for the Devil... and haven't had the courage to find out since!

Flickhead said...

Also worth reading: Donald Cammell: A Life on the Wild Side.

Dan Callahan said...

Have to mention John Barry's wonderfully sad scores for "Petulia,""Frances" and "Out of Africa."

I love the plaintive Bernard Herrmann score for "The Ghost and Mrs Muir."

And three cheers for Franz Waxman's "Sunset Boulevard" score, especially the music that accompanies Norma Desmond down those stairs, which always gives me goosebumps no matter how often I see it.

Yojimboen said...

That’s the annoying thing about film music, it tends to turn us all into fickle and unfaithful sluts. You play something like Herrmann’s Scene d’Amour and insist to anyone who’ll listen that “This is the best music ever written for film. It’s just doesn’t get any better than this…” Then you listen to Delerue’s Theme de Camille from Le Mepris and think, “On second thoughts…” Then, I dare you, go listen to Delerue’s Platoon (London Sessions, Vol 1) and not just throw up your hands and say, “WTF, it’s all good… It’s all good.” What would Laura be without Raksin? Or Curtiz without Korngold? Or Lawrence without Jarre?
There is no competition. I’m afraid we have no choice but to celebrate that we’re blessed, all of us, to be open and sensitive to the mystery and magic of the great screen composers.
It’s all good.

gmoke said...

"Performance" is a very trippy movie and the soundtrack is great. Merry Clayton singing "Poor White Hounddog," Buffy Saint-Marie and the jaw bow twanging, the Last Poets and their proto-rap, it's all there along with some great Ry Cooder work, Randy Newman's "Gone Dead Train," and "Memo to Turner" (and if you think that was the invention of music videos you really need to go back and look at some of the progenitors, from the soundies of the 30s to the video jukeboxes of the early 60s).

gmoke said...

There is a "finished" collaboration between Donald Cammell and Marlon Brando, the novel _Fan-Tan_. Not quite as strange as "Performance" and no soundtrack but strange enough.

cgeye said...

Seconding on the Korngold ROBIN HOOD score, with ANTHONY ADVERSE's score also fondly remembered.

Goldsmith's scores for the Flint films rivaled John Barry's work with Bond (and Giacchino mopped from both for THE INCREDIBLES, and created a reminder why both composers were so influential). Rosza's THE POWER score is zither-heavy, but I can still want to hum it, even though I can't. Bill Conti and THE RIGHT STUFF? Nummy.

Lastly, I've got to speak up for THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR T. Deliberately weird, and Freudian, but I like Frederick Hollander's approach.

The Siren said...

I confess to great overall fondness for Anthony Adverse. I tried to read the book way back when and gave up, but the movie is a different matter, and March and de Havilland were dead sexy in it.

The Siren said...

Quite marvelous article on Levant here at The Picture Show Man. Worth clicking for the New Yorker cartoon alone.

Also, via an email correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous:

"One of my favorite Oscar Levant lines (he probably used many times) was when he told Jack Paar his recent stay at the mental asylum had been a brief one. Oh, Paar said. 'Yes, I was asked to leave. They said I was depressing the other patients.'"

Arthur S. said...

-------------------
There is no competition. I’m afraid we have no choice but to celebrate that we’re blessed, all of us, to be open and sensitive to the mystery and magic of the great screen composers.
It’s all good.
--------------------------

Well not all. Like Maurice Jarre is highly uneven as a composer. His score for David Lean's maligned and flawed(but often beautiful) ''Ryan's Daughter'' is really bad. Just florid and unsubtle in the worst sense. ''Lawrence'' is just right. Around the same time of ''Lawrence of Arabia'' he worked with a very different film-maker like Georges Franju and created a haunting score for ''Eyes Without A Face'' totally different from his other stuff and for me, his best.

One film-maker who had an interesting taste with regards to film music is Altman, with the multiple repittions in different styles of the title song in ''The Long Goodbye'', then scoring ''McCabe & Mrs. Miller'' with just three Leonard Cohen songs. Then there's the modernist scores by Gerald Busby for ''3 Women''. Most problematic for me is Gabriel Yared's score for ''Vincent & Theo'', it's on paper a great idea to play against-type post-modernist music for a film about Van Gogh but the music is just annoying.

The Siren said...

If you listen to the Ryan's Daughter score all by its lonesome it's beautiful. It is a little off in the movie though, I agree. But then I do think the movie is a muddle, though it isn't the unmitigated disaster it was tarred as upon release.

X. Trapnel said...

Ah, the post of my dreams (thank you, Siren) and wise words from the Incomparable Oscar (this is as good a place as any to note that Henry Mancini's memoir is entitled Did Anybody Mention the Music?)

My first criterion for a great score, contra much conventional wisdom: does it stand up musically appart from the film, and how much of it does. Thus the following favorite scores (in no particular order):

Vertigo--Greatest film score ever and a masterpiece of 20th century music no matter what the form or medium.

Henry V--Walton and Olivier, that is. I love that Sir Larry gives Sir Willie the last credit at the final grand chord of the Agincourt Song. Walton is the only great composer who gave of his best to his film music (Honegger and Shostakovich did not [Prokofiev only scored 3 films])

Odd Man Out--William Alwyn. That great tragic, despairing dirge/march moves me to tears, especially as we see Mason and Kathleen Ryan sidling along the iron fence as their escape ship is pulling out to sea.

The Best Years of Our Lives--Hugo Friedhofer. The first and still the best "American" score (all due respect though to the great E. Bernstein).

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. Korngold's most sheerly beautiful score, enough ravishing melody for 3 Puccini operas. This also illustrates the dilemma of great score/not so great music.

Part 2 to come

X. Trapnel said...

Crikes: great score/not so great MOVIE

X. Trapnel said...

I agree with Dave about the Zhivago score, though the repitition is fully understandable as the rest of the score is bland and cliched. Incidently, the Big Tune in Lawrence is lifted from Edouard Lalo's piano concerto (from 1890 or thereabouts).

The Siren said...

XT, Slightly off-topic Zhivago music story--it was filmed partly in Spain. And during the scene where they're singing The Internationale, apparently some Spaniards came out cheering, thinking this was a signal that Franco had been overthrown. The police eventually showed and began hanging about in a menacing sort of way. The power of music!

Not that anybody asked, but my favorite use of The Internationale is in Reds.

Trish said...

Definitely On Dangerous Ground, but where are North By Northwest, Vertigo and the modern masterpiece, Psycho? And let's not forget Cape Fear...

Vanwall, I watched The Satan Bug two days ago and noted the electronic score. Goldsmith was so versatile -- how different is A Patch of Blue from The Wind and the Lion? I know Chinatown is considered superior, but I think L.A. Confidential's score is super.

The Siren said...

Trish, A Patch of Blue is a gorgeous score, and it breaks my heart almost as much as To Kill a Mockingbird. I think several have mentioned Vertigo (including me!) but North by Northwest is also superb and I almost listed it instead. Psycho is a landmark and it adds immeasurably to the film's impact, even with long familiarity.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Long Goodbye is John Williams' most innivative score. I also love his jazz score for Earthquake. Spielberg is only one part of what he does.

X. Trapnel said...

The score to On Dangerous Ground is indeed magnificent (esp. the piercingly beautiful passages for the viola d'amore [this esoteric instrument couldn't be more apt for the film's unusual love story])and sadly remains the major yawning gap in the Herrmann discography. If I'm not mistaken, the original score or manuscript is missing in whole or in parts.
Fortunately, there are excellent recorded excerpts, and privately distributed cd of the (poorly recorded) soundtrack.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I couldn’t help it. I just had to give you this award:

http://thrillingdaysofyesteryear.blogspot.com/2010/04/when-skies-are-gray.html

Keep up the good work!

surly hack said...

Back to Levant, he was also terrific on radio, where he was a regular with Al Jolson, undercutting Jolie's aggressive show-biz chutzpah with his own downbeat personality.

The Siren said...

Surly, so I gather that 73 comments is not too far? :D I haven't heard the Levant/Jolson radio programs but the combination sounds downright inspired. BTW, Glenn has a great post about "Mammy" up.

Ivan, aw, I am touched!!! And gosh it's good to have you back. I know I said that but it bears repeating.

surly hack said...

73 is plenty. I simply disregard numbers 1-72. ;-)

The Siren said...

Well, by S-SS standards, the party's barely started.

X. Trapnel said...

Hugo Friedhofer wrote striking opening credit music for Lifeboat, but Hitchcock told him no more was needed: "The audience will be wondering what an orchestra is doing in the middle of the ocean." Friedhofer's Parthian shot: "Won't they be wondering what a camera is doing there as well?"

Stephen Brophy said...

Looks like I'm the one who has to speak up for Nino Rota. I'll just stick to his collaboration with Fellini, who loved to play with us about whether the music was diegetic or not. My favorite moment of this sort comes in Nights of Cabiria, when Cabiria has decided to go cruise the Via Veneto. Some dance music accompanies her as she goes down a dark street and pauses in front of a club, and then STARTS DANCING TO THE MUSIC. A

Another similar moment occurs in 8 1/2, after Guido wakes from his first dream and deals with the doctors. We get a music bridge from that to the next scene of Wagner's Valkerie music. The camera strolls around the grounds of the spa and suddenly we come across an orchestra, playing the music we've been listening to. I think that Rota is conducting the on-screen orchestra.

DavidEhrenstein said...

While Rota is synonymous with Fellini, his work for Visconti shoudl not be overlooked -- particularly Rocco and His Brothers and The Leopard

X. Trapnel said...

Hitchcock/Herrmann, Fellini/Rota, Truffaut/Delerue are three uniquely symbiotic relationships in which the work of director and composer enrich and expand each other even beyond the (rare enough) combination of great film/great score.

Even so, when we try to imagine Vertigo, Jules and Jim, 8 1/2, with different music, we should remember that there are great films fully scored with mediocre, merely functional, or downright bad music. Try and remember anything of Roy Webb's bland score for Notorious. Do everything you can to forget Tiomkin's atrocious score for Strangers on a Train.

Your move, Y...

Vanwall said...

Trish -

I loves me some "Satan Bug", it's superior to the book and still downright scarily relevant, and the score is way advanced in concept for films back then. Goldsmith is always a fave. I like "L.A. Confidential"'s score, too, but it reminds me of "On the Waterfront" an awful lot.

I also like the scores for "The Flim-Flam Man" and "The Culpepper Cattle Co." - more Goldsmith goodness.

Stephen said...

What X said. I know that Fellini considered Rota his most important collaborator, and I think I recall that Hitchcock had similar feelings for Hermann.

I used to have a great Delerue CD, which included Jeanne Moreau singing that circle song from Jules et Jim - which was why I bought it, but it also had other great stuff, like Brigitte Bardot asking Michel Piccoli what he thought of her various body parts, accompanied by that great repeating theme.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Le Mepris

Yojimboen said...

(I think I’ve mentioned it here before) Poor composer Lyn Murray whose score for To Catch a Thief so pleased Hitchcock that he asked Murray to do The Trouble With Harry. Unfortunately, Murray was busy on an orchestral project and had to beg off; but he recommended a friend and colleague to Hitch, name of Bernie Herrmann. “Worst professional mistake of my life…” says Murray in his delightful memoir “Musician: A Hollywood Journal…”. (Though Murray did later score about 40 episodes of Hitch’s TV show.)

M VW – Whenever I open up the Goldsmith box, I usually go here first. Then I’m stuck - I put it on replay and it’s in the background for the rest of the day.

Stephen – “Le Tourbillon”.

X. Trapnel said...

Stephen,

The most recent incarnation of the near complete score to J&J (Universal France UNIFR49) comes with the score to Two English Girls and has Moreau singing Le Tourbillon. Everybody grab it before the barbarians find out.

Yojimboen said...

“…we should remember that there are great films fully scored with mediocre, merely functional, or downright bad music.”
More often vice-versa in my book; Morricone’s soaring crescendo from The Untouchables is so transcendent it almost makes you forget it’s De Palma.

Rozsaphile said...

Good to see the interest in film music here. There's a whole subculture of music lovers that seems to exist in isolation from both academic discussions of film sound (semiotic, deconstructionist, etc.) and the classical music world. Here's one point of entry for the curious: www.filmscoremonthly.com. (See especially its Message Board.)

To the person who found [i]High Noon[/i] bombastic: Tiomkin could certainly be convicted of that crime, but not for [i]High Noon[/i]. In 1952 the notion of using a solo voice and some muffled drumbeats to accompany a Western was extraordinary for its economy.

The Siren said...

XT, you know I love you, but I'm with Rozsaphile on High Noon. (Welcome, btw, and great nom de screen.)

Yojimboen said...

Trying to remember some other favourites… That big western about the cattle drive, Walter Brennan was in it… “Red” something…? Ooh and that Mitchum picture with Peter Ustinov? Happens in Austria or somewhere? That was good. And that story of the boxer rebellion - in China was it, or Japan – one a them places? And wasn’t there a movie about the Decline and Fall of someplace – had that Italian actress in it – the one with the big bazoombas? That was excellent, too. But my fave of faves is that movie with Duke Wayne in a plane – I wanna say “Jet Pilot” but that’s not it… Damn, the music was great in all them pictures. Wish to hell I could remember the titles!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Yojimboen -- thanks for sending me Judith hearne and Parsifal, but the disc won't work on my player OR my computer.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And you're thinking of Red River.

gmoke said...

Mitchum and Ustinov in Austria is "The Sundowners"
Boxer Rebellion is "55 Days in Peking"
John Wayne in a plane ("I'm sick and tired of this m#th^rf(ck!ng Wayne on a plane!") is "The High and the Mighty"

But somehow I think you already knew all that.

The Siren said...

No way, Yojimboen didn't remember ANY of those. That's all we do around here. Remind him of which damn movie he's talking about. ;)

BTW, ""I'm sick and tired of this m#th^rf(ck!ng Wayne on a plane!" should be my chatboard signature line from now on...

Rozsaphile said...

Legs are being yanked here, but what people may not realize is that these scores, including [i]The Fall of the Roman Empire,[/i] were all written by Dimitri Tiomkin -- as was the wildest of them all, [i]Land of the Pharaohs,[/i] a Howard Hawks-William Faulkner(!) epic in which a pre-[i]Dynasty[/i] Joan Collins vamps her way through the story of the building of the Great Pyramid. (Well, actually it was the Fourth Dynasty.)

More about Levant at http://filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=50140&forumID=7&archive=0

Yojimboen said...

And first prize goes to... Rozsaphile, for nailing the common thread!

Welcome to our kaffee klatch.
In your honour, I am currently listening to Miklos the Mighty's Ben Hur.

P.S. Tip: For Italics use < > instead of [ ].

Joe Thompson said...

Oscar Levant is like Robert Benchley. When I see that he has a supporting role in a movie, I know I'm going to enjoy it.

At an early age, I started going through the movie/entertainment books at the local library. I read "Memoirs of an Amnesiac" and didn't understand much of it, but I knew that the writer would be a great person to hang around with.

Arthur S. said...

Among Williams' Spielberg work, his work on ''AI, Minority Report'' is quite good as his Mancini hommage in ''Catch Me If You Can'' and although the film itself casts a shadow on it, the music for ''Schindler's List'' is quite good for what it's worth.

The repititions of ''The Long Goodbye'' remind me of Bertolucci's ''Partner'' where Ennio Morricone supplies one of his most creative scores. It's a quartet of four pieces which is constantly rotated and repeated throughout the film. In ''The Long Goodbye'' it's one song in different versions repeated ad nauseam or ad nausea, considering the style of the film.

Arthur S. said...

Some more little known scores...

David Raksin - For ''Force of Evil'' and especially ''Bigger Than Life''.

Elmer Bernstein - ''Some Came Running'' and ''The Age of Innocence''.

Then one piece of music I haven't mentioned yet but that's really powerful. Among music that's really meant to be stirring and affecting, the best I have ever heard is the opening title music of ''La Grande illusion'' by Joseph Kosma. It starts on this sombre tone than moves to a defiant tone and a crescendo that combines the two to create a mood of sombre defiance which is the essence of that film.

X. Trapnel said...

Roszaphile,

My favorite from the Master: Lust for Life; keeps things gorgeously impressionist while Kirk gnaws and gnashes sunflowers, shoes, stars, and Postman Roulin.


Siren, basking in your love, I hereby abjure all Tiomkin bashery but must note that DT tried to get Rozsa drafted during the war to eliminate a vastly more talented rival.

A word for the criminally neglected (at least as far as recordings and general name recognition go): David Raksin. The monothematic Laura is brilliant in the way it tantalizes the viewer with fragments of the great melody, weaving a spell like a lingering perfume. The Bad and the Beautiful is undoubtedly his masterpiece but Forever Amber and Force of Evil are nearly as good.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Speaking of Elmer Bernstein his great score for Airplane! sits all by it's breathtaking self as the greatest of all aprody scores. It's a great "palate cleanser" for those longing to get The High and the Mighty out of their heads.

Elmer's sawn song, Far From Heaven came abotu quite interestingly. When Todd finished shooting the film he said to his producers ( the All-Powerful George Clooney among them) that he wanted a real full orichestral score. Someone said "What about Elmer?' Todd never thought of that because to him Elmer seemed on an unreachable high plateau. So they got together and Todd showed him the film. He'd been using Elmer's magisterial score for To Kill a Mockingbird as a temp track. The minute he heard it Elmer yelled "TURN THAT DAMEND THING OFF!!!" He then gave his estimate for the require cuse -- wall-to-wall music. Todd was Over The Moon with the result.

steve simels said...

Siren --

Forgive me if somebody has already mentioned this (100 comments??) but Michael Feinstein put together a really terrific Levant CD a few years ago including the aria he wrote for a fake opera, sung (dubbed, obviously) by Boris Karloff, in Charlie Chan at the Opera.
http://www.amazon.com/Oscar-Levant-plays-Gershwin/dp/B000000PHY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1271168629&sr=1-2

It's out of print but you can still get it at Amazon...

The Siren said...

The score for Far From Heaven is perfection, I agree. What a great story. I would kind of like to see FFH with a temp track of To Kill a Mockingbird. The few film people I know have told me that falling in love with a temp track can be a problem, since it's almost always something you could never get the rights to.

XT, I am completely crazy about the "Laura" score. In fact, whenever I find myself in a piano bar, that song is the one I request, every time. The Mercer lyrics are exquisite too.

X. Trapnel said...

Sinatra once said Laura was his favorite song.

It was also recorded (in French) by Danielle...

The Siren said...

Steve, yeah, we talk a lot. A lot a lot a lot. :) Thanks for the pointer! I am definitely going to try for some Levant music after I am done soaking up his wit and wisdom.

XT -- good on Frank.

X. Trapnel said...

Levant wrote a gorgeous swatch of faux Gershwin for the sailboating scene in Nothing Sacred.

He, Benny Herrmann, and Jerome Moross (The Big Country) were pals in the 30s

DavidEhrenstein said...

The most famous tempt track of all-time is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick liked it so much he used it instead of the score Alex North had written for the film.

Rozsaphile said...

And therein lies the evil of the temp track: it encourages directorial control freaks to demand what they think they want (i.e., what they already know) while discouraging genuine musical creativity. Few filmmakers would ask for carbon-copy scripts or performances, but somehow many seek to do it with music--an art that they cannot fully understand.

X. Trapnel said...

Hear, hear, Rozsaph. Kubrick set a bad precedent. Chopping up bits of preexisting music always diminishes the film and the music, the latter takes off in one direction the former in another, with a completely different set of emotional associations. It can work when one piece (Liszt's Un Sospiro in Letter and Rachmaninoff Cto. 2 in Brief Enc.) acts as a symbolic idee fixe, otherwise the result is an aesthetic mishmash, or else a case of emotionally leeching off the music what the filmmaker can't provide. Or a pathetic attempt at "prestige." Don't get me started on Visconti's atrocious and indefensible travesty of Mahler and Mann.

Vanwall said...

Actually, Henry Mancini's work for "The Great Waldo Pepper" came to me in a dream last night. I always liked that one.

X. Trapnel said...

I'd like to mention two movie-maniac composers as a sidelight. Toru Takemitsu was said to have watched 5 or 6 movies a day (how is this possible?) on a regular basis. He also scored quite a few. A stranger case is the eccentric visionary French composer Charles Koechlin (1867-1950). A pupil of Faure, he worked in a hallucinated, sublunar impressionist style and was obssessed with movies. His great amour fou was for Lilian Harvey to whom he dedicated hundreds of piano pieces and songs (on seeing an endorsement she did for Palmolive, he wrote a song beginning "Keep that schoolgirl complexion..."). He also sent her film scenarios involving waif/gamines finding refuge with kindly elderly composers. His catalog also includes a set of danses for Ginger Rogers, an Epitaph for Jean Harlow, and The Seven Stars Symphony (individual movements named for Garbo, Chaplin, Lilian H., Clara Bow, Emil Jannings, Dietrich, and Fairbanks, Sr.)

X. Trapnel said...

Koechlin also collaborated on a ballet with Cole Porter.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Don't get me started on Visconti's atrocious and indefensible travesty of Mahler and Mann."

You rang?

I see nothing atrocious or indefensible about it.

Guess I'd better not bring up He Who Must Not Be Named (ken russell)

As for the "aesthetic mishmash" of "Chopping up bits of preexisting music" as it (allegedly) "always diminishes the film and the music, the latter takes off in one direction the former in another, with a completely different set of emotional associations," there's the case of The Greatest Motion Picture Ever Made (aka. Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train) in which Patrice Chereau magisterially slices and dices Jeff Buckley, James Brown, Sade, Les Rita Mitsoukou, the Mahler 10th fragment and "Save the Last Dance For Me."

(cha cha-cha)

Charles Noland said...

is anyone still here, is it too late to post another comment? They have times but not dates, well, here goes anyway -

Another great score, a movie I'm watching now - Excalibur. Haunting at times when something mystical is going on, rousing when that is called for, really memorable I'd say. (of course, some of it is classical - Wagner)

I'm the person who didn't like Tiomkin's High Noon score. What I remember is a good part of the score is Do Not Forsake Me played over and over in different variations... Maybe earlier sections of the movie had milder versions, what I remember is during the climax that song is taken to new heights of loudness, pretty much a full orchestra it seemed, not subtle in the least.

A one minute clip from High Noon with a some of the score at the start, doesn't work for me, just too much -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpABJHwsZG0


Looking at Tiomkin's filmography at IMDB, he has a real mixed bag of scores, a couple of serious misfires, some good stuff (Guns of Navarone), one that is just plain odd (The Unforgiven) that I can't quite make up my mind about.

Buttermilk Sky said...

X.Trapnel -- So right. The two-part "Little Dorrit" was wrecked for me by borrowings from Verdi, all with their own dramatic associations. To save money?

Yojimboen -- Morricone's "Untouchables" almost makes you forget what a dumb movie it graces.

"On the Waterfront" -- fine music but too loud, esp. the rooftop scenes.

I have no idea who Werner R. Heymann was, but his "Ninotchka" waltz plays in my head often without being asked.

Bernard Herrmann, the Beethoven of film music. His last score, "Taxi Driver," may be better than the (IMO overrated) movie.

And dear Oscar...you will love his books. I'm just old enough to remember his talk show. Wife June did most of the talking, and Oscar occasionally opened his eyes and dropped in a bon mot to show he was still alive. He began the show playing Gershwin's second Prelude, as far as possible. What a waste. Forget the eggs in the pan, THIS is your brain on drugs...and your career...and your life. Great wit, great musician.

What a wonderful thread, Siren and friends.

Yojimboen said...

Gotta give it to you, David, "You rang?" made me laugh louder than I have in weeks.

The Siren said...

I know that as a classical music lover I am supposed to not like having things chopped up and used in movies, but in truth it usually doesn't bother me a bit. I loved the use of Mahler in Death in Venice; to me it's an integral and marvelous part of the film. And the music in Shutter Island was superb as well; even the parts of the drama that didn't work for me were aided by it. Including Mahler. Maybe especially Mahler.

If I am listening to the radio and all I'm getting is the "greatest hit" movement I get irritated, but in a movie where playing the symphony in its entirety is out of the question, I don't mind a snippet if it's used artfully.

And here is where I bring up Looney Tunes, where the WB maniacs were CONSTANTLY using familiar pieces of classical music to hilarious effect. And while a case could be made against that, I suppose, fact is that in my youth I wound up checking Lucia di Lammermoor out of the library for the sole reason that the psychopathic tenor in "Long-Haired Hare" is singing the sextet in the final showdown with Bugs Bunny. "Rabbit of Seville" had me doing the same for Rossini. (Wagner took a bit longer, despite the immortal "kill the wabbit.")

Rozsaphile said...

Excalibur -- Aargh, that's a perfect example of the problem with borrowing existing music. There's more than a bit of Wagner: large chunks were borrowed from the Ring, Tristan, and Parsifal. Some viewers will have deep personal associations with this music. At best, the film is trafficking in borrowed emotions; at worst, it is seriously confusing the audience. The bit from Carmina Burana is an instance of the latter. The imagery is of rebirth in a dead land; the music is a tavern song about the fickleness of fortune. The disconnect might have appealed to Brecht or Godard. I seriously doubt it was what Boorman intended.

X. Trapnel said...

David,

Got your message. To make Aschenbach a composer (i.e., by the nature of things in touch with the Dionysian) and then identify him with Mahler of all people (an emotionally volatile Central/East European Jew) is to completely misunderstand the character both as a man and an artist and thus miss Mann's theme that the most classically austere art (MAHLER!!!???) has roots in irrationalism, absurdity and degradation. The deep subtext of Mann's great novella is, I believe, Goethe's Marienbad Elegy, the sublime product of the 70 yr old poet's foolish fond passion for an 18 yr old girl. Everyone thought the great Olympian was making a fool of himself, but ss another great poet put it, "ha, ha, ha who's got the last laugh now?"

Oh, and Visconti's suggestion (via Aschenbach's totally invented disciple) that A is a mediocre artist because he suppressed his True Sexual Nature has no basis in the story. Mann gives us no reason to suppose that Aschenbach is not indeed a great writer. He is a classicist, Appolonian. Flaubert, writing years before said of Madame Bovary "Beneath this marble edifice runs a river of tears." Exactly.

X. Trapnel said...

In l'esprit d'escale, I'll add that Mann dropped a touch of mascara into that river of tears.

X. Trapnel said...

Buttermilk S., thanks but it's you who are right on all points.

Werner Heymann was a German/Jewish film composer and songwriter. He also did Shop Around the Corner. I can never get his weirdly Herrmannesque "Chanson de la Puppee" (recorded by the 13 yr old Danielle Darrieux. I'm no Aschenbach; my fixation kicks in with Meyerling) out of my head.

Of course the On the Waterfront music is too loud. Lenny as second banana? No way, and out decibling Kazan is an achievement in itself.

My favorite Oscar story: At some point he developed an obssessive passion for chocolate pudding. Habitually spilling as much as he actually ate he once asked a waitress to "just serve it on my lapel." WV: ingest

Charles Noland said...

Rozsaphile - I know Wagner almost exclusively through what I've heard via movie scores, I suspect most movie goers are the same, so I don't really have any associations of his music with anything else. Well, maybe Ride of the Valkyries with Apocalypse Now. He may have the longest filmography of any composer at IMDB, 607 credits, below (think of the royalties if he were alive), so Boorman isn't alone in using him.

(I think my favorite use of a Wagner piece is the opening 5 minutes of The New World.)

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0003471/

DavidEhrenstein said...

Sorry X, but Aschenbach was insoired by an incident in mahler's life.

a fortiori Dirk Borgade is wearing Mahler's actual caot in the movie.

I don't recall that bit about the disciple being sexually repressed. Next time I see Death in Venice I'll get back to you on that.

as for
"Of course the On the Waterfront music is too loud." Indded. Lenny was nothing if not LOUD. All the time.

When he visited us in the chorus at the High School of Music and Art the rafters shook.

The Siren said...

I worship Leonard Bernstein and as far as I'm concerned, the man could be as loud as he wanted. (Not that I don't see the point about On the Waterfront.)

Vanwall said...

In the flavor of "The Third Man", ala spare and distinctive, I want to throw in John Addison's wonderful "Tom Jones" work - it was sprightly and perfect for the story, and Micheál MacLiammóir's narration was like spoken music in itself.

As an aside, I always thought the late, great Severn Darden was like a kid brother of Oscar's, close in looks, and his deliveries were droll and winking, as well.

The Siren said...

I am coming back to add to Rozsaphile that while Excalibur is a wonderful movie, I have always hated Carmina Burana, although I can't claim to have realized that it was thematically inappropriate. It just always sounded loud and vulgar to these ears.

For a short while it seemed the Verdi Requiem was popping up everywhere and although I love it, it never worked for me in movies.

X. Trapnel said...

David, I have read the exhaustive (somtimes stupifyingly so) four volume de la Grange biography of Mahler, his published correspondence, Donald Mitchell's 5 vol. musicological study, probably another 25 books, innumerble essays, and have written about him for publication. There is no such incident in his life. Bogarde could be wearing his socks and he'd still be no closer Mahler. There is far more of Mann himself in Aschenbach, but even here a direct biographical reading would be misleading. Mann's artist figures are always ironic and elusive in conception.

Lenny (one of the supreme Mahlerians; we owe him much)could do soft and subtle too. His recording of the Dvorak 9 "From the New World" (with the Israel Phil.)is miraculous in the slow mvmnt. Genius-level conducting. It will change your view of the work.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Severn most certainly was VanWall. I'm proud to say that I knew him. He provided me with invaluable assistance when I took on Oliver Stone's noxious JFK as his father (Severn sr.) was New Orleans district attorney back in the day . Jim Garrison was Severn sr.'s assistant -- and was fired due to insubordination. New Orleans being New Orleans he ran for D.A. and won. The Clay Shaw trial was a total farce. The jury was back in less than an hour because everyone knew Clay Shaw -- and Garrison's "witnesses" were a pack of crackpots.

Severn darden's imporvosationla mastery was so legendary it was said he was the only person capable of striking fear into the heart of Elaine May.

My favorite Severnism came from an improv over "It was a dark and story night." How dark was it Severn?

"It was darker than the inside of a nun."

DavidEhrenstein said...

"There is no such incident in his life."

Then I sit corrected.

"Bogarde could be wearing his socks and he'd still be no closer Mahler."

No but he's closer than THAT, to Mann.

X. Trapnel said...

Listening to Lenny right now at the piano in Mozart's Piano Qt. K. 487 (WQXR for those in the greater NY area).

David, I suspect Bogarde's Aschenbach is closest of all to Visconti himself. He seems a middle-aged sybarite right from the beginning.

The Siren said...

"David, I suspect Bogarde's Aschenbach is closest of all to Visconti himself. He seems a middle-aged sybarite right from the beginning."

Bingo. That was always my impression too, as someone who knows neither Mann nor Mahler.

Charles Noland said...

"I have always hated Carmina Burana, although I can't claim to have realized that it was thematically inappropriate. It just always sounded loud and vulgar to these ears."

Holy Cow!? Maybe it's my half German side, plus all I know of that piece is the tiny section in Excalibur, very rousing excerpt anyway. Everyone has that thing that just bugs them that other people find perfectly fine. Mine would be "High Noon" I guess.

Since I'm a total sap for this movie and seem to work it into every third thread, here is a soundtrack that is the opposite of bombastic or vulgar -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C-wYB6Ka3o

cgeye said...

Oh, yeah -- Shutter Island's score should be remembered as one of the great post-classical classical mashups.

Even when it doesn't work (the reveal of the drownings, the voice of an evangelical preacher? Really? For a family that doesn't look like it saw the inside of a church that often, 'cause that mean there'd be folk WHO GAVE A DAMN IF A MOM WAS GOING NUTS -- sheesh, that still bothers me...), it's interesting, and when it does work, it transcends the movie.

The Siren said...

Charles, because I lack any real musical background I couldn't tell you exactly why Carmina Burana never fails to make me clap my hands over my ears, and yet it does. I have nothing against rousing music, German composers or taverns. I can't explain it.

My P&P loyalty is strictly for the MGM version, appalling liberties and all. :)

The Siren said...

Cgeye, among all the other gaps in the movie's logic the preacher thing did not strike me, but you sure made me laugh.

X. Trapnel said...

The "O, Fortuna" intro to Carmina Burana sounds like a gorilla imitating Stravinsky. Some of the middle sections are quite lovely if you can get past the awful preliminaries. I'm in the mood to hear it once every five years.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"David, I suspect Bogarde's Aschenbach is closest of all to Visconti himself. He seems a middle-aged sybarite right from the beginning."

In which case Bjorn Andersson is Helmut Berger cut down to manageble size.

Stephen Brophy said...

Visconti's transubstantiation of Aschenbach from writer to composer isn't completely off the mark: Mann modeled his description of A in the first section of the novella on a photo of Mahler, who was recently deceased while he was writing it in 1911.

I have to say I don't have anything against using bits of music, or any other art, when putting together a film, or any other text. Just as words can be chosen for their power of evocation to beef up a sentence, a strong, familiar musical theme can beef up a scene or sequence - the only problem is whether it's done well or poorly.

X. Trapnel said...

Tadzio is supposed to be about 12. Does anyone know what became of Bjorn A? David?

ladybug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trish said...

What about Georges Auric, for no other reason except that I watched Caesar and Cleopatra the other day, and a beautiful b&w photo of Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh now adorns my desktop....

Vanwall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vanwall said...

David - Wonderful to hear Severn was as expected! Loved his film and TV work. As a sorta musical connection of Mr. Darden:

Metaphysical

X. Trapnel said...

Auric's film music masterpiece is La Belle et La Bete, and his music is the only good thing in Moulin Rouge (as Brahms is once alleged to have said, "if there's anyone here I haven't offended, I apologize). His Lola Montes tune is pretty enough, but doesn't have the subtly piercing beauty of what Oscar Straus and Georges van Parys gave Ophuls in La Ronde and Madame De. A great pity Auric's (and Cocteau's) friend Francis Poulenc was never lured into a film studio.

As far as I know the only composer to ever have his name above the title was Ralph Vaughan Williams (then, now, and forever England's greatest composer) for The Forty-Ninth Parallel. Ken Russell did a wonderful documentary on RVW which is unfortunately hard to find.

Trish said...

The Forty-Ninth Parallel is one of my all-time favourites, and the music is very stirring. This film may be considered war propaganda, but I don't judge it on those terms. It's the Canada I remember from The National Film Board, done beautifully by Powell and Pressburger. My 82-year old father remembers running down to the train station in Niagara Falls the day they filmed the scene where the train is about to cross into the USA. And don't get me started on the wonderfulness that is Leslie Howard, Raymond Massey and Eric Portman.

The Siren said...

Trish, I have a vague memory of defending 49th Parallel in comments somewhere else (the House Next Door?). I also like it very much.

X. Trapnel said...

Trish,

Vaughan Williams was asked to turn the opening music into a patriotic anthem. He sent the lyricist the following dummy lyric to work from:

Look, I wrote a beastly tune/
You'll probably hate it...

It's a glorious tune, but I can't get those words out of my head when I hear it. The Leslie Howard part is my favorite. If I recall aright he's reading The Magic Mountain.

Trish said...

I wish you hadn't told me that, X. Now I'm going to start singing along with those lyrics too! :D It does sound very much like an anthem.

Siren, I also love The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Lovely theme, and film. Does anyone know who is responsible for the loss of the hour cut from the length of the film?

Yikes, sorry - this is supposed to be about Oscar Levant...

The Siren said...

No worries Trish, it's also about scores in general and besides, Meandering Threads R Us.

Goose said...

A few opinions about a great topic.

1. X Trapnel as usual raises thoughtful points, but I have to disagree with his assertion that pre-written music, unless specific (as in Letter from an Unknown Woman), must conflict with the film. I maintain that Portrait of Jennie is superbly effective, no doubt because Dmitri Tiomkin did not have to write any of it. Debussy does go so well with the mood and the point of the film.

2. Tiomkin generally is awful, and his standing is beyond my comprehension, but among his few career highlights I will admit to enjoying The Thing and The Sundowners. The Thing does not require a melodic gift at all, which is OK because he could not often compose a melody that was not bombastic or banal. Except for the Sundowners, which is appealingly gentle in a simple way. The river crossing in Red River also is good.

3. Everyone seems to like Tiomkin’s High and the Mighty. Not me – see above. Better aerial scores are Waxman’s Spirit of St. Louis and Victory Young’s Strategic Air Command.

4. Among favorite scores not previously mentioned in the thread, I would like to mention Korngold’s Between Two Worlds, Steiner’s Woman in White (the closest he came to Korngold’s definition of film music as “opera without words”), Waxman’s Nun Story, Rozsa’s Thief of Baghdad and Ivanhoe, Hermann’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mario Nascimbene’s Barrabas, Alfred Newman’s Diary of Anne Frank.

5. I do not think much of Jarre’s Lawrence of Arabia score. It seems mostly the ambling “camel across the desert” theme and the Arabian dance cribbed from Saint-Saens’ Samson and Delilah, repeated (a lot). Not by Jarre is the sequence in Ryan’s Daughter where Shaughnessy follows the lovers’ footsteps in the sand to the strains of the funeral march from Beethoven’s Eroica. It is so ridiculous, I find it funny and would like to think Dmitri Tiomkin had something to do with it. I suppose David Lean is the culprit.

6. Another Gershwinesque score would be Waxman’s for the Philadelphia Story, which is all too brief.

The Siren said...

Ah Goose, you bring up two movies I like very much: Between Two Worlds, and The Woman in White. Is it a coincidence they both star Greenstreet? He is the best Count Fosco I could possibly imagine.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Just to muddy the waters, let me observe that it was Wagner who died in Venice. Make what you like of that.

Vaughan Williams also scored "Scott of the Antarctic," then recycled the music into his Sinfonia Antartica (No. 7). It's the opposite of the usual procedure of using bits of symphonies and operas in film.

A lot of "serious" composers made good money writing for the movies, including Prokofiev, Copland, Britten, Thomson and Shostakovich. I like Philip Glass's film scores a lot better than his concert music, esp. "The Hours" and "The Secret Agent." And I must put in a word for Randy Newman's "Ragtime," which actually contains very little ragtime but some lovely evocations of the early 1900s.

gmoke said...

The score for "American Graffiti" was ground-breaking when it was produced but has become a cliché since. Lucas used those old tunes well and Wolfman Jack's voice from the aether was a real link to that remembered past.

The original "Black Orpheus" was incredible and there at least two tunes from that movie which are classics. Jobim, de Moraes, Bonfá, it is what introduced bossa nova to the world. The remake with a score by Caetano Veloso is also very worth listening to.

Vanwall said...

When I was a lad, I would take every chance I could to watch the 1961 "Mysterious Island" on TV, not because I loved the Harryhausen FX, (which I really did), but I loved the score by Herrmann more - it was the first movie score I was interested in enough to look up the composer in the credits. To this day the hair rises on the back of my neck when I hear it, and still take every chance to watch that movie. The film and the score are inseparable for me now, one wouldn't work without the other, but the film suffers more when sundered from the score, rather than vice versa. I have a lotta other film running thru my head that have scores that I cannot associate with anything else, but nothing as strong a bond as "Mysterious Island".

Yojimboen said...

M VW - enjoy.

Vanwall said...

M. Yo - "Niirrrrvvaaaannnnaaaaa..."

Yojimboen said...

Not to pile on, X., but in your not-unworthy thesis on excerpted classics, you haven’t made allowance for provincial proles like me who, by being exposed to even bits of that highbrow hi-falutin music, saw some light and, fortunately, learned that there was (is) good news yet to hear, and fine things to be seen, before we go to paradise by way of Kensal Green.

Yojimboen said...

Trolling through some titles in the vague category of classic movies with classical-music themes, I happened upon the NYT 1946 review of Humoresque - with the ice-queen JC and the earthy J Garfield playing a mean Strad (with Isaac Stern’s arms through his sleeves). Anyway, our hero Oscar’s name caught my eye…

(Oh, Mr. Crowther, must you be so ponderously predictable?)

“Apparently the latter-named gentleman [Oscar Levant] with his painfully artificial wit and his Groucho Marx style of delivery is an occupational hazard to which musical people are subjected. At least, they are in some Warner Brother films—and the only distinction in this case is that there is more of Mr. Levant and it is worse.”

The Siren said...

Y., you really MUST post a warning before quoting Crowther...I have my readers' sensibilities to consider, you know.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Anna Karina

DavidEhrenstein said...

THe Private Life of Sherlock Homes was the victim of the late 60's / early 70's pull-back of the industry. it was designed as a "rpadshow" film with intermission. But as a number of would-be spectacualrs along the smae liens had failed, it was cut back -- and cut. The same thing happened to Blake Edwards' -- which starred Julie Andrews, the very person who kicked off the il--starred era of studio largesse with The Sound of Music.

Visconti was well aware of what a Death in Venice might do to a young man like Bjorn Andersson - who wasn't an actor -- ust a kid plucked from obscurity for his heart-stopping beauty. He paid him quite well for his work on the film, and advised him to live his life and give careful consdieration to the pros and cons should he want an acting career. And so he did. About 20 years or so ago Andersson began appearing on stage in various productions. He hasn't become a Big Star, but he's managed to have (from all accounts) a nice life for himself.

Which is more than one can say of that fabulous 10-car pile-up on the I-5 known as Helmut Berger.

X. Trapnel said...

Trish, glad you mentioned PLOSH (plosh. I like that). Rozsa's score is based on his magnificent violin concerto, which if it bore the name Bartok or Kodaly would be standard rep. The complete score has been recorded. That MR's Magyar-accented music fit so well into noir is not surprising when we recall that Bartok is the inventor of angsty, edgy nachtmusik. For some reason in Story of 3 Loves Rozsa really overdid the paprika for the lamentable metamorphosis of Ricky Nelson into Farley Granger (Ovid wept). Then again, it would have been just as bad the other way around.

Another wondrous Rozsa score: Madame Bovary

Rozsaphile said...

Vanwall, you mentioned Bernard Herrmann's Mysterious Island. I wonder if you are aware of the splendid modern recording conducted by Herbert Stromberg with the Moscow Symphony? See http://www.tributefilmclassics.com/catalog/

This is just one example of the vigorous activity in the field that is often confined to a tiny niche market. Stromberg and reconstruction expert John Morgan (specializing in Herrmann and Steiner) are among those who have excelled in recreating old scores. Film Score Monthly is the unquestioned leader in releasing scrupulously documented archival material from studio tapes. They recently issued a 15-disc (!) set to complete their documentation of every note that Miklos Rozsa composed during his MGM period.

Goose said...

Among Rozsa scores, besides the noir and the costume pictures, the psycholgical scores are a high point. (I do realize there is an overlap in genre.) The Lost Weekend ends with a beautiful resolution that makes sense of sudden switch to the optimistic mood of the final moments. Herrmann, at the end of The Wrong Man, achieves the same catharsis.

X. Trapnel said...

Goose,

Out of reverence for our hostess, I've vowed no more Tiomkin bashing (one last shot: that silly fugal chase music in Strangers on a Train always makes me think of J.S. Bach with his shoelaces tied together), so the responsibility is now yours. Good point abt Jenny, but early Debussy, sunlit impressionist, just doesn't fit the eerie/eldritch quality of the story. Late Debussy (Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, 2nd bk of Preludes) can be very creepy (D was a Poe maven) and might have worked. Herrmann's music for Jenny's song ("Where I come from nobody knows...") is perfect.

High and the Mighty is a masterpiece of unintentional humor ("Humphrey Agnew" facing off against that Podunk Chamber of Commerce Vittorio di Sica, the canoodling honeymooners are highlights). The Big Tune (with delirious wah wah chorus) whatever its merits just doesn't seem to fit.

Right you are abt Waxman's Philadelphia Story! FW had a fine jazz/songwriting career before emigrating. In an ideal world "Sans un Mot" (written for chere Danielle) would be a standard.

Goose said...

Returning to Steiner, one of his gifts was transformation of a pop melody into something serious and dark. The famous Summer Place tune derives from the dark and gloomy title theme (perhaps representing Dorothy McGuire's sad existence) that brightens when "young love" enters. What could be sappy becomes serious and adult.

He also performs stunning transformations of "As Time Goes By" and "The Marseillaise" in Casablanca.

X. Trapnel said...

Goose, you have golden ears. I wanted to bring Steiner in as he's been seriously overlooked in the discussion so far. I'm a recent convert. He was not "classical" enough for me, and in truth he didn't have the compositional chops of Korngold, Herrmann, Rozsa, or Waxman. His background (honorable enough) was Viennese operetta, but his peculiar gift was a receptivity to all the musics in the air, a pasticheur of genius. Somehow he weaves 15 or 16 (can anyone here list them all) extant tunes (plus Sams's "a little something of my own," which I'm whistling as I write) into his own striking themes into a seamless tapestry of mood atmosphere and drama. Casablanca breathes with music.

Other great Steiner scores: Key Largo (my favorite MS), They Died with Their Boots On, Johnny Belinda, City for Conquest, Daughters Courageous (in which we hear one of Jeffrey Lynn's "modern tone poems," but it sounds like a musical portrait of John Garfield).

X. Trapnel said...

My list of songs heard in Casablanca (not including Sam's "little something" or the mandolin lady's song):

As Time Goes By
Marseilles
Watch on the Rhine
Deutschland uber Alles
Knock on Wood
Shine
Love for Sale
Perfidia
The Very Thought of You
Parlez Moi d'Amour
This is Paradise

There are more...

surly hack said...

Here's a thread: Excluding musicals, what about films in which the score or theme is sung by characters within the film? While it was common that a song was both performed in the film and incorporated into the score, I'm thinking about when characters--not singers or musicians--render the theme in some way. Two examples I recall are Glen Ford whistling in 3:10 to Yuma, and Mark Rydell as a juvenile delinquent comically doo-wopping in Crime in the Streets. I know there must be many others.

X. Trapnel said...

Although it's never sung "Laura" is only heard as "source music" (on the phonograph, in the restaurant, etc.). My memory may be playing tricks, but I can't remember (can never quite recall) music on the off-screen soundtrack.

Vanwall said...

Surly - In "Red River", the themme music is whistled or hummed at least once, I seem to remember a cowhand on a horse in the fog of night.

Vanwall said...

Rozsaphile - Thanks for the tip! I'm so on that ASAP!

Trish said...

Yojimboen - thank you for the youtube link. What a microcosm of my childhood on Saturday afternoons! Apologies if someone already mentioned this, but the thing that scared this little girl wasn't the skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts, but rather Hermann's theme for them.

Dave said...

X. Trapnel: The lyric to "Laura" was written well after the movie's success. People loved the tune and wanted to buy a recording of it, so Columbia went searching for a lyricist. I forget who the first choice was (Sammy Cahn?), but he refused saying the task -- fitting words to that tune and the required title of "Laura" -- was impossible. So they turned to Johnny Mercer, who was able to do both.

So, in short, no one could have sung the tune in the picture, since the lyric hadn't been written yet.

Vanwall said...

Another of my favorite uses of an existing piece of music is in Wellman's western remake of Shake's The Tempest, called "Yellow Sky", and the song used is not part of Newman's scoring. It’s at night, and Anne Baxter wanders into a corral to warily look out over the far desert in the moonlight, thinking she's alone, not realizing gang leader Gregory Peck is in the shadows watching her. One of Peck's gang, played by gruff old Charles Kemper, (his character is named Walrus, and there may never have been a more appropriate moniker!) is singing the doleful little ditty "I'm Sad and I'm Lonely" in the background, and Baxter is taking in the atmosphere – the shot is face-on to her, and for a few seconds her face relaxes and her eyes soften; then Peck silently comes up behind her without touching Baxter in any way; her facial expressions as she realizes he’s there run the gamut from reverie, to surprise, to narrow-eyed hatred in just seconds, before she whips around to confront him. Meanwhile the song in the background lends it an air of romantic loss. It was a minor masterpiece of visual communication without a word spoken other than the song, and done so subtly, it becomes better than any speachifyin’ could ever have done.

panavia999 said...

I'm a big fan of Miklos Rozsa. He is distinctive, so when I recognize his sound at the opening credits, I have to watch the film.

Yojimboen said...

David E - a lovely interview of Karina - you captured, beautifully I think, her essential grace, gentleness and gentility.
Well done.

Yojimboen said...

I was watching TeeVee tonight and one of those annoying VolksWagen commercials came on, you know the one: "white one" punch! "green one" punch!

Then suddenly my jaw hit my chest.

The background music for the spot was lifted from Bernard Herrmann's score for "The Trouble With Harry".

I'm taking this as clear, official, unquestionably definitive proof (as if it were needed) that there is no god.

X. Trapnel said...

"In that 1944 noir, Dana Andrews plays a detective who, while investigating what he believes is the murder of the title character (Gene Tierney, a natural stiff), falls in love with the victim, or rather her portrait."--Manohla Dargis, from today's Times.

You're right Y, there is no God, but Bosley Crowther reigns eternal

Trish said...

"You were far away just now. Thank you for coming back to me."

Cue the Piano Concerto in Brief Encounter. This is a wonderful film, but I always feel manipulated by the excessive use of Rachmaninoff, especially in the closing scenes.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Meri Yojim! I'm having breakfast with her next Thursday. And next Friday I'll be on the panel with her to discuss Godard after the screening of Pierrot le Fou.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Best Celia Johnson EVAH!

estienne64 said...

Interesting original choice of music. I've just made a Spotify playlist from it, to remind me of the pieces I knew and introduce myself to the ones I didn't. I couldn't find anything from Bande à part, unfortunately, so I've replaced it with my own favourite Legrand tune – the Big One from Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

For anyone with access to Spotify, the playlist is available at http://open.spotify.com/user/estienne64/playlist/3dnWE9tkgqRkI3fpuBnTyO.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Anna Karina Extra!

gmoke said...

Picked up the Criterion double disc "Thief of Baghdad" and one of the extras is Miklos Rosza talking about the music. Haven't watched it yet. Picked up Wiseman's "La Deniere Letrre" instead as I've never seen the film but did see his live staging of the piece.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Carol Burnett's Brief Encoiunter.

Yojimboen said...

Re your new Banner, I don’t know which of these two photos is the more frightening.
One
and
Two. (Scroll down)

Didn’t she kill somebody once?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Did she kill somebody? You Betcha!

Trish said...

And so this is why she always appears "medicated". I always thought it was because of her husband...

Is that Wendell Corey?

Trish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DavidEhrenstein said...

Yes that's Wendell Corey.

David Stafford said...

Has anyone mentioned "Juliet of the Spirits?" My personal fave. And let's not forget Ròzsa's "Mutiny on the Bounty." A couple of years ago I was at one of those cheesy tourist luaus on the big island when the mistress of ceremonies tried to pass off the Mutiny on the Bounty Love theme as a traditional native song.

Jenny Lerew said...

Jesus, you get a lot of comments! Nice blog.

Re: Levant and his hands on film(a great observation there): I've noticed that in the few titles I've seen he's always given very specific business with his hands-"stuff them in your pocket, Oscar; light a cig, light another one, reach for a lighter" etc and then pockets again. And again. He has trouble even walking and controlling them somewhat naturally.

My best guess? it was just sheer nerves/too much nervous energy in front of the camera that was obvious in his hands and could be noticed on film-he could control his voice beautifully, his overall stance decently etc. but not his digits when he was acting.

I adore Oscar. And his score for the great "Nothing Sacred" is lovely-a very Gershwinesque feel to it, but still Levant's. Lush and romantic and a little neurotic.

The Siren said...

Jenny, thanks and welcome. Yes, the comments section can get intimidating but I read all of them and try to reply, though at some point past 50 to 100 I often skip around or miss one or two. I love your observations and they seem very plausible to me; in fact they make me want to go back and watch something like Humoresque. I have yet to dive into the Levant bio but I am hoping the hand mystery is covered there. And many thanks for bringing up Nothing Sacred; it is a lovely score and a great movie.

egads said...

Those who will be in the San Francisco Bay Area during mid-October (2014) can see 'The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T' as part of an 'Altered Realities' film series being shown Friday evenings in October at the Mechanics Institute Library:

http://www.milibrary.org/events/cinemalit-film-series