You’d think there be a month that went by that I didn’t think about the Oscars. Alas, I’m just that shallow. Even though an Academy Award is no indication of quality, the Oscars are how I taught myself about the history of film music and I don’t like holes in my Oscar collection. Yet after 35+ years of burdening myself with such a foolish obsession, my collection is still minus too many excellent Oscar scores. I doubt the collection will ever be complete when it comes to nominated scores. There are too many B- and C-films from the early years in which either A) the tracks no longer exist or B) the scores simply don’t deserve any notice whatsoever so why bother obtaining the music. Even more criminal (in my view), there are still unreleased Oscar-WINNING film scores.
I still hold out hope that I can at least those Oscar-winning scores that are still missing will eventually be plugged up. There are some major names in the list below and some major scores that are deserving of a release, either in their original form (if they even exist) or in a rerecording. I count a total of 13 scores still in need of a release. So rather than break my “9 on the 9th” rule, I eliminated four for various reasons.
Michel Legrand’s SUMMER OF ’42 (1971) is basically a monothematic score of that famous tune and probably doesn’t justify a full release, though I’d gladly take it. [UPDATE: Now released on Intrada.]
The ballet from Brian Easdale’s THE RED SHOES (1948) has been recorded numerous times, but the only release of the full score is an awful pressing on the Soundtrack Factory label that basically pulls the cues off the video, complete with dialogue and sound effects. Considering that most of the score outside of the ballet concerns source cues and snippets of the ballet music, I doubt we’ll ever see a commercial release of this. Still, it would be nice to have Sir Adrian Boult’s recording of the ballet, the main title, the Heart of Fire sequence and a couple of others unencumbered properly remastered.
I recently discussed Miklos Rozsa’s excellent score for A DOUBLE LIFE (1947), so I won’t repeat myself so soon after that post.
And given the ire on the message boards, I doubt many film music fans want a full copy of Gustavo Santaolalla’s BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005). For most fans, the instrumental tracks on the compilation soundtrack are enough. Still, I’d like to see the complete score that was supplied to Academy members released.
BYU’s recent release of Max Steiner’s SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) checked another winning score off the list. As for the rest of the nine (listed in chronological order), all are worthy scores that are deserving of a future release, for history’s sake…if not for my collection.
ANTHONY ADVERSE (1936)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s first Oscar actually was awarded to Warner Bros. music director Louis Silvers, due to some funky Academy ruling at the time. (Because, you know, the composer has nothing to do with the music.) The film was a big hit in 1936 but has yet to be released on any format beyond VHS. Korngold’s score was rerecorded on Varese Sarabande years ago in a lackluster performance with John Scott and the Berlin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and a couple of tracks were incorporated in the Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Warner Bros. Years anthology. As to be expected, Korngold’s music is glorious and needs to be heard either in Korngold’s sparkling original performance or hopefully William Stromberg and John Morgan will tackle it on a future Tribute Film Classics rerecording.
ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY (1941)
Bernard Herrmann’s only Oscar came from this adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benet’s THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER, the title by which the film is more commonly known today. While perhaps not quite as groundbreaking as CITIZEN KANE (which Herrmann was also nominated for that same year), Herrmann’s ironic twist on Americana is arguably more enjoyable. Herrmann’s suite has been recorded numerous times. (Seek out Herrmann’s performance for the liveliest recording of the suite.) While some of the unique audio techniques from the original score would be difficult (if not impossible or pointless) to replicate on a rerecording, the score deserves to be better known. The folks at Tribute were working on recording the score, but for reasons I can’t remember the project had to be scrapped. Here’s hoping it gets revived in the future.
NOW, VOYAGER (1942)
Max Steiner’s second of three Oscars (which included 1935’s THE INFORMER and 1944’s SINCE YOU WENT AWAY) is the epitome of his melodic, melodramatic style. Bette Davis’s spinster gains self-esteem and exchanges cigarettes with Paul Heinreid thanks in no small part to Steiner’s famous love theme. The DVD contains four cues from the scoring sessions, which whets my whistle to hear the entire score. If it’s ever released, it will be on the BYU label, who now have exclusive access to Steiner’s archive. But the acetates are in rough shape and I’m not even sure an engineering whiz like Ray Faiola could clean them up enough. Perhaps this is another chance for the folks at Tribute to shine.
Unlike his scores for OF MICE AND MEN and OUR TOWN, Aaron Copland never pulled any music from his Oscar-winner to incorporate in a concert work. He felt the score couldn’t stand on its own. Or perhaps director William Wyler’s tinkering with his main title music had something to do with it. Copland was so incensed by Wyler’s treatment of his music that he tried to get his name removed from the credits. He never even picked up his Oscar statuette. In 1994, Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony recorded a new suite from the film arranged by Arnold Freed, but the suite and the performance leave much to be desired. The original acetates (which includes the original main title) are housed at the University of Texas in Austin. If you can get past the scratches and groove noise, Copland’s distinctive voice shine through. Copland was wrong. The score stands on its own and is ripe for rerecording. [UPDATE: Now released on Intrada along with Copland’s THE RED PONY.]
A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)
The original tracks for Franz Waxman’s second Oscar (following his earlier win the year before with SUNSET BOULEVARD) are reputedly lost, though a bootleg of them has floated around for years. Waxman’s lush, romantic music completely envelopes the love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift and numerous excellent performances of various suites from the score exist. Director George Stevens mangled Waxman’s efforts, calling in other composers such as Victor Young to supplement and rewrite certain cues. Like Copland, Waxman wanted his name taken off the credits. The dirt and the dynamics behind the score are fascinating and deserve to be preserved in their entirety. [UPDATE: Later released on Kritzerland.]
Love him or hate him, Dimitri Tiomkin knows how to crank out a tune, note his soaring, majestic main theme for this John Wayne disaster-in-the-sky flick. The score is a cornucopia of the Tiomkin’s highs and lows—from thickly orchestrated, nail-biting action cues to ridiculous Mickey Mousing—which, if not to everyone’s taste, is oddly endearing. A bootleg of this exists as well, but I’m sure clearances with Wayne’s production company (who I assume own the rights) would be a nightmare. Still, Screen Archives seems to have a good relationship with the Tiomkin estate. (I’m particularly looking forward to the upcoming release of THE FOURPOSTER.) So if anyone gets their hands on it, I bet it’s them.
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (1967)
Most film music fans see Elmer Bernstein’s Oscar as a consolation prize for not having won for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD or HAWAII, all of them richly deserving but beat out by far more popular “tunes” (Ernest Gold’s EXODUS, Maurice Jarre’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and John Barry’s BORN FREE, respectively). But Bernstein’s work on MILLIE is far more than just silent movie pastiche surrounding the musical numbers. Bernstein brings real wit and musical invention to the score. Putting the score on CD would probably require some creative combining of the cues, many of which are short, and I’m sure clearing the rights to the original MCA album would be a bitch. Still, I keep hoping an expanded version with the score and songs comes our way in the future.
Charlie Chaplin’s tale of a washed-up music hall comedian is arguably his most personal. In 1952, the film only played in New York and was eventually pulled from theaters because of Chaplin’s political problems during the McCarthy era. When the government denied to renew his visa, Chaplin was locked out of the country when he went abroad and the star never returned to the U.S. except to pick up an honorary Oscar in 1972. That year, LIMELIGHT finally opened in Los Angeles, thereby qualifying it for the Oscar. With Nino Rota’s score for THE GODFATHER disqualified due to pre-existing music, voters had no problem awarding the Little Tramp his third and only competitive Oscar. The score is anchored by one of Chaplin’s most famous tunes, “Eternally.” And while the score is fragmented and unabashedly sentimental, it deserves to be preserved for posterity. The DVD of the film contains an isolated score extra that plays the entire score on its own without syncing to the film. A new way to experience the score. As with many of these titles on this list, I’m sure releasing the score would be a rights nightmare. For now, the DVD as close to a CD release as we’re bound to get. [UPDATE: Now available digitally on iTunes thanks to Association Chaplin.]
THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR (1988)
Dave Grusin was my choice for the Oscar in 1988 but I didn’t think he stood a chance in hell for Robert Redford’s sophomore directing effort. The haunting, Mexican-flavored score is one of Grusin’s best and only exists commercially in a truncated 5-movement suite on the composer’s 1989 Migration album. While that performance is fine, it misses the delicacy of the film’s original tracks. The score is quite short and would probably need to be paired with something else. Bob Townson at Varese Sarabande seems to have a good relationship with Grusin, so I’d look for it on that label if it ever happens.