Captain From Castile

Captain from Castile

Alfred Newman conquered film music yet again with 1947’s CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE. The colorful score combines the robust energy of its Spanish and Mexican locales for the tale of Pedro De Vargas (Tyrone Power), a young Castillian aristocrat who runs afoul of the Inquisition and joins Cortez’s (Cesar Romero) adventures in the New World discovering Aztec treasures.

The score has echoes of Albeniz, de Falla, Lalo and Bizet, and Newman thoroughly researched Spanish music, reaching back “to the advent of the Moors in the year 711,” according to a Fox publicist. There is a yearning love theme for Pedro and the peasant girl Catana (Jean Peters), while the English horn voices ethereal dreams of the New World and legendary guitarist Vicente Gomez lends his talents to various source cues.

“I’ve often thought that Alfred chose to do this score,” said Newman’s orchestrator, Edward Powell, “because of the opportunities it gave him as a conductor. Conducting was his real love and we scored Castile for seventy-four pieces. It was a picture that allowed him full range as a composer. It had everything—love, death, pomp, circumstance, action, scenery and the Church. The grandeur of the whole thing inspired the use of the complete orchestral palette in the grand manner.”

By far the most famous theme from the score is the twelve-bar Conquistador theme. The theme, officially titled “Conquest,” was given to the USC Trojan Band in 1950 by Newman and has become their battle cry during football games. The piece has also become a staple in pops concerts over the years.

The music has been available in many forms. In addition to the numerous recordings of “Conquest,” Newman conducted a 42-minute symphonic suite. My first exposure to the score came from a suite on Charles Gerhardt’s tribute to Newman. Then Screen Archives unearthed the incomparable original tracks a few years ago.

Captain From Castile soundtrack
“Main Title”

Oscar competition was particularly worthy in 1947. Hugo Friedhofer (THE BISHOP’S WIFE), David Raksin (FOREVER AMBER), and Max Steiner (LIFE WITH FATHER) all contributed excellent scores. I have a particular fondness for Miklos Rozsa’s Oscar-winning score for A DOUBLE LIFE, but it’s also hard to deny the grand scope of Newman’s work. Though he didn’t win for his dramatic work, Newman took home his fourth Oscar statuette that year for his adaptation of vaudeville tunes in the popular Betty Grable vehicle, MOTHER WORE TIGHTS.

CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE is a bounty of film music riches.

  1. Oh yes – it’s a revelation to have the original duophonic tracks of that double cd! There’s something about music with a Spanish flair that really gets to me, too! This and EL CID can stand as two of the greatest arguments for listening to orchestral music ever. I’m sure Newman saw himself as captain of the conducting podium when he was composing CONQUEST.
    The film lacks in many departments, but I’d still like to have it’s Technicolor glory on a high-definition blu-ray disc, with DTS stereo remastering of the music stems. Dreaming is free, but I hope someone from Fox might be reading this.

    1. Fox seems to be pretty good about releasing their old product, so there’s hope. Whether it will be in the specs you want, well, that’s another story. LOL

  2. great newman score and thanks for the exerpt of the terrific love music inasmuch as conquest is always played

  3. I heard “Conquest” in the film in 1947, and that theme remained in my mind and I would hum it over the years. In 1988, visiting with my dad in the Los Angeles area on a Saturday, I happened to tune in to the tail end of a USC football broadcast where they were playing the song. The announcer identified it by name. Several years later, it crossed my mind again, so I hustled to the local CD store and I was able to find it by the Slovakian Symphony. About two yeaqrs ago, at my church thrift store, I found it on a vinyl LP by the composer, and that is one of my most prized possesions.

    1. It’s one of those pieces you can’t get out of your head once you hear it. If you don’t have the 2-CD complete soundtrack on SAE, I highly recommend it.

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