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.
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.