Lost in the Shuffle XIX
It took nearly five months of “Lost in the Shuffle” posts, but it finally happened. Five films, all of which I’ve seen. One of them is quite good, the other four range in varying degrees of dislike from mild disinterest to loathing.
Venture on, intrepid reader…
THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM (1945) – The Hill of the Brilliant Green Jade
Let’s get the good film out of the way right off the bat. Based on A.J. Cronin’s novel, THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM stars Gregory Peck as a Scottish priest sent to China to establish a Catholic mission. Alfred Newman incorporated Irish and Chinese elements into the score/ The beautiful theme at the heart of this track is associated with a local Chinese nobleman (Leonard Strong) who befriends Father Chisolm (Peck) for saving his son’s life. Newman later reused the melody in his Oscar-winning score for LOVE IS A MANY-SPLENDORED THING (1955). Richard Rodgers pulled a James Horner and borrowed (or lifted) the tune for the song “I Have Dreamed” in the musical THE KING AND I. SAE‘s release of Newman’s outstanding score is highly recommended.
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1958) – In the Tavern At Casa Blanca
Dimitri Tiomkin won his fifth Oscar for his music for this stagnant adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s unfilmable novel. The film has all the things Oscar loves–including a foreign locale, a famous Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and obviously Tiomkin himself. This track contains trademarks of Tiomkin’s music like the shifting moods in the music that telegraph every emotion and brazen orchestrations like the saxophone and growling, muted trumpets. Much of this score is quite lovely, though this is a particularly brazen track. My choice for the Oscar would have gone to Jerome Moross’ THE BIG COUNTRY or David Raksin’s SEPARATE TABLES. Tiomkin’s score has gone in and out of print a number of times over the years and the CD fetches hefty prices on eBay at the moment. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it’s reissued once again.
CROMWELL (1970) – Death of Cromwell’s Son
Oliver Cromwell is once again in the news with Hilary Mantel’s recent Booker Prize winning novel, WOLF HALL. But this 1970 costume biopic is rarely screened and Frank Cordell‘s Oscar-nominated score has never been released on CD. I haven’t seen the plodding film in years so I’m not sure how much of the score is missing from the original LP, but the unfortunate inclusion of dialogue and sound effects far outweigh what little music is included. Though it may not be a good business move, hopefully some label will bring the complete score to light someday.
THE PRINCE OF TIDES (1991) – The Village Walk
As much as I loathe Steven Spielberg’s glossy adaptation of Alice Walker’s THE COLOR PURPLE, I equally loathe Barbra Streisand’s wretched butchering of Pat Conroy’s THE PRINCE OF TIDES. Each suffer from the same problem–a director too big for his/her britches that doesn’t trust their source material to tell the story. Conroy’s novel is an enjoyable read filled with memorable characters with real emotion. But onscreen those characters become cardboard cutouts under Streisand’s amateurish direction. The film was nominated for an inexplicable seven Oscars, but thankfully Streisand’s name was missing from the ballot. James Newton Howard‘s deservedly broke into the Oscar club for his beautiful score. Howard’s lovely melodies and lush strings contain the honest emotion that is missing from the overwrought performances. This is one score that I wish was not “lost in the shuffle,” but I can’t listen to it without it dredging up memories of that awful film. So I don’t. What a shame.
THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT (1964) – Main Title
Bratty teenagers are only entertaining to other bratty teenagers. And few teenagers are more bratty than those at the center of this very unfunny comedy. Thankfully, we have Elmer Bernstein once again channeling his inner child to bring us a score of delight. With a mixture of duple and triple meters, Bernstein uses syncopation, accordion, and tripping woodwinds for a score of lightness and energy that this leaden film can only hint at. Thankfully I’ve blocked most of the memories from this one so I can at least appreciate Bernstein’s efforts on their own, unlike Howard’s above.