He Rammed the Fear of God Into Me

The bodies of deposed religious icons litter the landscape of pop culture. If ELMER GANTRY appears small-fry compared to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jim Jones, and Jimmy Swaggart (note a pattern here?) , he didn’t seem so in 1927 when Sinclair Lewis’  scathing indictment against religious corruption brought cries of “blasphemy” ringing around the globe. Americans don’t take kindly to having their religion skewered on a literary spit, and ELMER GANTRY turned the handle. The book was banned in Boston and other cities and denounced from pulpits across the country. One cleric called for Lewis’ imprisonment…

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A Woman of Independent Means

One of the great Oscar-winning performances and one of the great Oscar-winning scores, though few film score fans are familiar with it. THE HEIRESS stars Olivia de Havilland as mousy Catherine Sloper in turn-of-the-century Washington Square. She falls for money-grubbing, yet handsome, Montgomery Clift (and who wouldn’t!) against the wishes of her cruel, overbearing, and unloving father (Ralph Richardson). When the mouse realizes what a rat Clift really is, spinster descends upon her like a shroud. Clift’s comeuppance is one of the great scenes for any actress, and de Havilland…

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Off the Track

No two words can send film music fans into apoplectic seizures faster than the phrase “TEMP TRACK.” What is a temp track and why is it the bane of film composers and film score fans alike? Definition A TEMP TRACK is the use of pre-existing music or audio during the editing phase of post-production to guide the mood or atmosphere in a scene, or on the entire film, prior to the addition of the commissioned original score. Directors use temp tracks to give the composer an idea of the direction…

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You Have Been Warned…

So said the poster for 1976’s THE OMEN. But no amount of Hollywood marketing jargon could have prepared me for the musical shock I received during the first minute and 11 seconds of the film. An unsettling piano line hovers over sustained lower strings. Enter a lowkey chorus chanting in Latin,”Sanguis Bibimus/Corpus Edimus,” which roughly translates to “The blood we drink/The flesh we eat” (which, thankfully, I didn’t know at the time). Then a blood red light illuminates the silhouette of what can only be called a bad seed, and the shadow of…

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I’m Gonna Live Forever

Baby, remember my name… It was 1980. I had just graduated from high school and was all set to start my first year of college majoring in music. I was thrilled that I wouldn’t have to march another step or play one more rendition of “Shake Your Groove Thing” from Bill Moffit’s Sound Power Series. And that summer following graduation, FAME struck a chord with me as I was set to embark on this new chapter in my life. The kids in FAME were living their dreams…AND they were doing it in…

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CD Review: Two for the Seesaw

A dejected-looking Robert Mitchum wanders the improbably bare New York City streets, feeding pigeons, visiting museums. Uptown, downtown, on the Brooklyn Bridge and in its shadow, in a city of five million people, he is alone. French horns echo on the empty streets, a plaintive trumpet cries out for companionship, strings answer, but the bluesy trumpet takes over with a memorable main theme, evocative of loneliness as few other pieces of music are. [audio:twofortheseesaw.mp3] So begins Andre Previn’s masterful score for TWO FOR THE SEESAW (1962) which was released last week on Kritzerland…

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I Know I’m Not Ordinary

It’s one of the most famous examples of film editing in movie history. Peter O’Toole blows out a match and the scene cuts to a desolate, empty landscape and a hazy orange sky. We hear the faint, exotic sound of a zither, as if music begins to wake along with the dawn. One by one, the instruments of the orchestra join in. As the morning sun peaks above the horizon, the music crescendos until Freddie Young’s amazing cinematography fades into the pristine, windblown dunes of the desert. on the big…

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Golden Opportunity

According to the online dictionary, die.net, the GOLDEN AGE is “the first and best age of the world, a time of ideal happiness, prosperity, and innocence; by extension, any flourishing and outstanding period.” When discussing Golden Age film music, we’re talking about a specific period of time in Hollywood, a time when the studio system flourished, cranking out a number of films each year. But with the advent of television in the 1950s, the studio system began to break down allowing the rise of independent filmmakers in the 1960s. Though excellent film music was…

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Dance of the Dead

With its bleak vision of an alcoholic British diplomat in Mexico, Malcolm Lowry’s 1947 semi-autobiographical novel, UNDER THE VOLCANO, was considered unfilmmable for nearly forty years. Director John Huston returned to his beloved Mexico to film the picture in 1982. When the film was released in June 1984, audiences preferred escapist fare like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. While most film score fans preferred John Williams’ excellent sequel score, by bypassing Huston’s more cerebral picture, they missed Alex North’s moving Oscar-nominated work. Under the Volcano contains a striking,…

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You’re Gonna Hear From Me

Just in time for Andre Previn’s 80th birthday celebration this week, Film Score Monthly has just announced the release of Previn’s score for INSIDE DAISY CLOVER. The film stars Natalie Wood as Daisy Clover, an overnight singing sensation in 1930s Hollywood who struggles against the dark forces of showbiz. Like Wood’s title character, Previn also got his start in Hollywood as a teenager. Clover was one of his last scores, and he also contributed three songs with then-wife Dory Langdon, including a song that was cut from the film and is debuting…

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