Vic Mizzy (1916-2009)
Long before I ever heard the name Vic Mizzy, he was a part of my life. As a child of the 60s, GREEN ACRES and THE ADDAMS FAMILY were required TV viewing and Mizzy’s now-classic themes have left an indelible mark on my cerebral cortex. For a proper bio and obit, Jon Burlingame salutes the composer on the Film Music Society site. Rather than rehash his many accomplishments here, I’d like to focus on the sheer joy that Mizzy’s music brings.
For all my many years of enjoying and studying film music, sometimes my knowledge is woefully inadequate. Combine that with a long-standing snobbery of TV music (thankfully since squelched), and I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never heard Mizzy’s name until a few years ago.
Though his songs had appeared in the movies in the mid-1940s and 50s, Mizzy’s film composing career began in 1964 with William Castle’s THE NIGHT WALKER. Over the next seven years, Mizzy’s composed scores for a baker’s dozen of films, including five films for funny man Don Knotts.
Much of the credit for Knotts’s film success must go to Mizzy. In THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN, the sly, chirping woodwind melody captures Knotts’s bumbling, stuttering mannerisms, alternating with brass punctuations and an electric guitar groove. It’s oh-so 60s, and oh-so delightful.[audio:ghostmrchicken.mp3] Click Track: THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN – Main Title
Hallmarks of Mizzy’s music are his uptempo and upbeat melodies. In my favorite Mizzy score, THE PERILS OF PAULINE, he spoofs silent film music with his slightly out of tune piano before seamlessly transitioning into the muted brass and delicate staccato strings and woodwinds so common in mid-60s comedic scoring.[audio:perilspauline.mp3] Click Track: THE PERILS OF PAULINE – Main Title
Mizzy’s wit and humor also shine in his bright and inventive orchestrations. On GREEN ARCES, in addition to the rare of use of an electric harmonica, Mizzy paired a bass harmonica and electric bass clarinet to simulate the sound of Arnold the Pig. Because the producers of THE ADDAMS FAMILY were too cheap to pay singers, Mizzy sang all the parts himself, dubbing himself three times to simulate separate vocals (though Ted Cassidy’s Lurch was added for the “neat, petite, sweet” section).
Much of Mizzy’s film work has been released by Percepto Records, though many of the limited edition CD’s are now out of print. Mizzy’s music is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and there’s not a clunker in the bunch. If you can find a copy, SUITES AND THEMES is an excellent introduction and overview of Mizzy’s film and TV scoring career.
Though I’m a relative latecomer to Mizzy’s music, his scores have provided me with countless hours of joy. His scoring techniques are a definite product of their period, but that shouldn’t overshadow their craft. The sparkling music sounds so simple and effortless in its execution that my appreciation for Mizzy’s skill continues to grow.