All posts under Vintage

Hail Satan!—THE OMEN and Jerry’s Goldsmith’s Trilogy of Terror

The Omen

Growing up to the accompaniment of my father’s Roger Williams and Mantovani records, the harshest musical sounds in our house came from Beethoven’s Eroica. In the summer of 1976, that all changed. * * * “You have been warned…” That four-word tagline on the movie poster for THE OMEN served as a lightning rod. And one sweltering Texas June day, I was scared out of my pubescent senses by, among other things, one creepy little boy and one memorable beheading. I forked over my allowance money to buy the soundtrack (my…

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Give My Daughter the Shot!


TERMS OF ENDEARMENT supplied a much needed shot in the arm for 1983’s lackluster holiday box office season. The film opened to ecstatic reviews, five Oscars for Actress (Shirley MacLaine), Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson), two for James L. Brooks’ direction and script, and Best Picture. MacLaine and Debra Winger’s powerhouse performances as a controlling mother and her daughter dying of cancer anchor the film.  But kudos are also due to the rest of the magnificent leads (including Nicholson, John Lithgow, and Jeff Daniels) and Brooks’ sensitive direction and literate, funny script, which…

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Cut to the Chase


Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. Tom and Jerry. Carl Hanratty and Frank Abagnale, Jr. It’s all about the chase. Steven Spielberg’s confection, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, was based on Abagnale’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) true story as he cons his way across the globe, cashing more than $2.5 million in fraudulent checks, impersonating an airline pilot, a doctor, and an assistant district attorney (all before the age of nineteen), all the while pursued by FBI agent Hanratty (Tom Hanks). Spielberg’s film was one of the most anticipated of the 2002 holiday season but…

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Welcome to Sherwood, My Lady!

The Adventures of Robin Hood

I first encountered Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Oscar-winning music for THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD in a 3-LP box set dedicated to 50 years of Warner Bros. films. The set included such various treasures as musicals numbers from YANKEE DOODLE DANDY and CAMELOT, and scenes from CASABLANCA and NOW, VOYAGER. But it was Korngold’s music that made the biggest impression on me. ROBIN HOOD is the quintessential Errol Flynn swashbuckler.  Pitch-perfect casting begins with Flynn as the lord who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, Olivia de Havilland as the…

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Petroleum, Politics and Prizes: Inside Virgil Thomson’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning Score for LOUISIANA STORY

Louisiana Story

Today marks the announcement of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes, the highest honor in American journalism, arts and letters, and music. At 3:00 PM EST, all eyes will focus on Columbia University’s School of Journalism to see who the lucky recipients will be. Since a rule change in 2004, film scores have been eligible for consideration, yet only one has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music. My 2006 article for Film Score Monthly Online discusses that award-winning score… * * * After a long winter, April showers recognition on journalists,…

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Big Fish In a Little Pond

On Golden Pond

When Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn signed on to star in ON GOLDEN POND, Ernest Thompson’s minor Broadway play caught a couple of prize fish. The heartwarming comedy/drama racked up nearly $120 million in ticket sales and came in number two for the year, though a distant second behind RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. What for some is a sickly sweet film is for me a joy thanks to Hank and Kate’s Oscar-winning performances, the lush cinematography of the lake, and the simple, unaffected score by composer Dave Grusin. The…

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He Rammed the Fear of God Into Me

Elmer Gantry

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

The Heiress

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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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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