Since this is the tenth edition of “Lost In the Shuffle,” I thought about putting some sort of 10th anniversary spin on it. Then I realized that counting by weeks is something you do when you’re first dating. And celebrating a 10-week anniversary never ends well. So no spin.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) – Main Title[audio:miracleon34thstreet.mp3]
Christmas irritates me. There’s never enough money in the bank, there’s never any snow on the ground here in Manhattan, and there are too many people clogging the streets with too many shopping bags and fake cheer. I don’t listen to Christmas music, which only exacerbates my Scrooge-like tendencies. The only Christmas movie I can stomach is WHITE CHRISTMAS, more for the cheesy productions numbers and that bizarre gap between Vera Ellen’s legs than for any holiday cheer. I’ve only seen MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET once (same with IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE), and that was probably 20 years ago. Edmund Gwenn’s pitch-perfect portrayal of Kris Kringle deservedly won him the Oscar, but I just want to kick Natalie Wood in the teeth. And given my “bah humbug” attitude, you can see why I’ve never returned to this film, though it’s a lot less saccharine than much of the holiday fare. Because I take such a hard-line stance at that time of year, I’ve missed Cyril J. Mockridge‘s delightful score. Complete with the requisite sleigh bells, this main title has all the bustling energy of stressed-out Macy’s shoppers without the elbowing and desperate, last-minute search for a gift that will ultimately be returned. This score is a keeper.
TRIBUTE TO A BAD MAN (1956) – Punishment[audio:tributetoabadman.mp3]
James Cagney in western mode is a bit hard for me to imagine. Gangster? Yes. Hoofer? Most definitely. But cowboy? That’s a stretch for me. Miklos Rozsa also seems an odd choice for the “big country,” but any Rozsa score is cause for rejoicing. This cue is marked by Rozsa’s trademark dotted rhythms. With nary a harmonica or guitar in sight, this cue could be dropped down in nearly any Biblical or historical epic that Rozsa scored. But that’s what makes his music so dependable.
THE SEARCHERS (1956) – Brad Dies[audio:searchers.mp3]
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen John Ford’s classic THE SEARCHERS. I’ve started it numerous times but I really have to be in the mood for a western, even if it is considered one of the best of the genre. And because of that, I’ve never really explored Max Steiner‘s score either, which is particularly shameful for a Steiner fan like myself. If you’re looking for a true western sound in a film score, Steiner supplies the goods. A strumming guitar, echoes of “Taps,” and that inimitable Steiner sound complete this dramatic cue.
FINDING RIN-TIN-TIN (2007) – Enemy Dog Trainer[audio:findingrintintin.mp3]
I love dogs. Yet I usually can’t watch films starring man’s best friend. Half the time the film is so insipidly stupid that it gives me fleas. The other half puts the animal in danger (and/or death) and it upsets me. (Yeah, I know I’m a wuss.) Even though he’s composed for film and television for the last 20 years, I’m not familiar with most of Stephen Edwards‘s work. This cue from FINDING RIN-TIN-TIN is serviceable–piano and pizzicato strings and harp underscore a melancholy French horn melody and a more noticeable theme in higher instruments. Charming, but slight.
THE SWIMMER (1966) – Lovely Hair[audio:swimmer.mp3]
I love Marvin Hamlisch. His Oscar-winning adaptations of Scott Joplin rags in THE STING spurred a love of ragtime that continues even now. And though he’s not given much respect as a film composer (winner three Oscars in one night probably didn’t help), the man knows his way around a melody (see “The Way We Were” and “Nobody Does It Better”). THE SWIMMER was Hamlisch’s feature film debut and it’s a haunting score for a seemingly unfilmable John Cheever short story. This cue is infused with joy, with its rhythmic pulse in the piano and its lovely low flute theme. When the trumpets take over, I get a shiver down my spine. Hamlisch is back with a new score this month with the Matt Damon comedy THE INFORMANT, his first since the Barbra Streisand 1996 piece of dreck, THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES. Here’s hoping it’s a big success and brings him more scoring work.