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.
So begins Andre Previn’s masterful score for TWO FOR THE SEESAW (1962) which was released last week on Kritzerland Records on Previn’s 80th birthday. The recording contains the original LP tracks beautifully remastered from the original three-track masters. The sound is crisp and clear, an engineering marvel nearly 50 years later.
Previn’s score is tinged with a yearning need for connection and love. The heart of the score is that poignant main theme, with the first seven notes forming their own motif that weaves its way throughout the score. The vocal version of the theme, “Second Chance,” with lyrics by Previn’s then-wife Dory Langdon, sums up the relationship between Mitchum’s mid-divorce lawyer and Shirley MacLaine’s flighty dancer.
Previn taps into his prodigious jazz background and provides some finger-snapping, head-bouncing jazz source cues. Scored for smaller ensembles, these cues capture the sound of early 1960’s transistor radios and crowded parties in smoke-filled, cramped New York East Village apartments.
The song was nominated for an Oscar, though it lost to Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Days of Wine and Roses.” Previn was shortlisted for Original Score, but 1962 was a particularly strong year and the score didn’t make the final five.
I’m always thankful for new Previn releases and for this one in particular. It’s a pleasure to take my CD-R burned from my scratchy MCA LP and turn it into a coaster. At 1,000 units, it was no surprise that the batch at Kritzerland sold out within days. You may still be able to purchase a copy over at Screen Archives.
Give this Previn classic a chance—first, second, or otherwise.