Home > Reviews > THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES – Ron Goodwin

THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES – Ron Goodwin

thosemagnificentmenintheirflyingmachinesMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

It is 1910 and Lord Rawnsley, an English press magnate of the Daily Post, conceives a great contest designed to affirm to the world, English supremacy of the air. He offers an enormous £10,000 to the winner of an air race from London to Paris. This rich offer serves to bring flyers of all makes from across the world to enlist. What follows is a truly wild, zany and comedic adventure tale with many twists and sub-plots as the various flyers jockey not only for position but also for the affections of countless women. The film was conceived by writer director Ken Annakin who said “I wanted lots of gags, but also wanted to pay tribute to the inventiveness of the early aviators.” The film was a commercial and critical success securing BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. Ron Goodwin, the stalwart of British film scoring, was hired and took up the challenge with his usual determination. Embracing the film at face value, Goodwin deliberately wrote unabashedly to the various cultural and actor stereotypes, and so you will hear national anthems, marches, waltzes and folk songs that are woven into a wonderful and outrageous comedic tapestry. And so my friends, buckle up, and let’s fly off on our zany adventure!

“Prologue/Titles” opens with a comedic montage on the history of flight with comedian Red Skelton depicting a recurring character who suffers one futile attempt to fly after another with a remarkable array of wings and contraptions. The cue opens in less than sterling fashion with an orchestra warm-up and spoof effort at Alfred Newman’s 20TH Century fanfare. Next follows an energetic drum line that propels us into an outrageous opening statement replete with silly horns and drum rolls. We then segue into a campy Folies Bergère number filled with comedic twists, saxophone, banjo, stick percussion and corny sound effects. After a brief march we are thrown off balance once again with a return to the Folies Bergère on saxophone, drums and banjo. Next, Goodwin introduces with grandeur his Aerial Theme, which gives way to a passage that features rattles, string chords, tuba, zany tinny horns and a piccolo line with a car bulb horn thrown in to boot! This zany theme then segues into the title song “Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines”. This is an amazing comedic song written for male chorus in the classic turn of the century style but accented with an amazing array of corny sound effects.

“Follow Me/Patricia with Cycle” is a bright, major key romance theme introduced with woodwinds and flowing harp glissandi. At the 0:38 mark strings take up the theme with a gorgeous lush statement. After fanfare, the theme assumes a regal bearing, replete with references to “Rue Britannia” as the scene shifts to the study where Patricia Rawnsley and her beau Richard Mays try to convince a skeptical Lord Rawnsley to finance the race. “Beach In France” opens with the classic French song “La Marseillaise” as we shift to the French coast where we find Pierre Dubois painting a beachscape with his mistress posing nude. But the idyllic moment is short-lived as we quickly segue, led by a piccolo line into a zany and campy Folies Bergère orchestral parody as a distracted pilot crashes his plane into a tree. The cue ends with an idyllic Love Theme as the now clothed paramour joins the men at the crash site.

“Von Holstein Exits” opens with the German national anthem “Das Lied der Deutschen” as German officers observe their latest creation crash into a tree. From here we segue into a Polka, which serves as the German’s Theme as they resolve to enter and win the race. A transition passage of flute and harp glissandi brings us to the American west where we see Orvil Newton and his brother towing his airplane. Goodwin now introduces Orvil’s Theme, which is classic Americana, emoted on harmonica, strumming guitar and later a lush string line with flute accents. Tinny sounding fanfare introduce Emilio’s Theme, a joyous Italian folk dance as we shift to sunny Italy where we see Emilio Ponticelli, you guessed it, in his plane stuck in a tree! Lastly with “Japan Theme” we see Yamamoto flying in a mechanical kite. When he lands and receives news of the race he resolves to represent his country. His tranquil theme is emoted beautifully on a traditional Japanese koto over shifting violin chords.

“Patricia and Orvil with Cycle” opens with a repeating opening line of the Main Theme rising in crescendo as we arrive at the local racetrack and airfield. We are then treated to an energetic full presentation of the theme that is just wonderful. We then segue into Orvil’s Theme as the Americans arrive. Godwin references his Love Theme as Orvil flirts with Patricia before glissandi harp return us to his theme, now expressed with lush violin accompaniment.

“Rawnsley Drives Off” opens with a very rich and florid expression of Emilio’s Theme as he arrives at the track and in a patrician bearing, surveys the countryside. After a short bridge by the Main Theme we then segue into the German Polka Theme, which ends comically when their pilot falls unceremoniously through the skin of their plane. A return of a now presto paced version of the Folies Bergère Theme carried by piccolo carries us into the French Love Theme as the amorous Pierre seduces a Swedish lady. At the 3:18 mark we segue into “Ornithopter” which displays repeating ascending and descending woodwind glissandi with tremolo strings as the Italian pilot attempts to fly his ridiculous ornithopter only to crash. In the final part of this extended cue, “Telescope”, we hear bouncy woodwinds emote the Main Theme as the Sir Percy boards his tri-wing plan the Arvo. As Orvil and others assist him to the runway, Orvil’s shirt gets caught and goes up with Sir Percy and we are treated to the outrageous rendering of the Main Theme replete with marvelous horn play and wild woodwind glissandi as a hapless fire truck pursues the wobbling plane to it’s crash in a sewage pond!

“Richard’s Hangar” features a nice interplay of the Love Theme and Orvil’s Theme as Patricia visits Richard’s hanger and is joined by Orvil who comes to borrow a wrench. In “Patricia In Restaurant” the harmonica carried Orvil’s Theme plays as Orvil continues his flirtation with Patricia at a local restaurant and offers her a chance to fly with him. We hear a fleeting reference to the Love Theme as she is enticed by his offer. “Runaway Plane” is a score highlight and one of my favorite cues. The energy and intricacy of Godwin’s writing is just superb. We hear an amazing presto paced frenetic piece one would expect from the Folies Bergère that features competing violin and woodwind play with percussion and horn accents as the German plane takes off, loses its tail and careens to and fro as once again the mad cap fire truck crew joins in a mad cap wild pursuit. Goodwin throws in the German Theme and a reference to “Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries” to conclude this amazing cue.

“Cliffs of Dover” offers a panoramic view of the cliffs of Dover and features the Main Theme, Orvil’s Theme and the German Theme. When Pierre sees women in beach attire below the scene shifts to the beach where in “Strauss Waltz” Goodwin employs the “Blue Danube Waltz” in a carnivalesque rendering to capture the ambiance. He then continues thematically in “Von Holstein into Sea” with another Strauss waltz, the “Voices Of Spring Waltz” as a backdrop to the epic and comedic dive of Von Holstein. The cue finishes with a lively carnivalesque march.

In “Patricia Walks To Orvil” swooning strings mix with harmonica as Patricia entreats Orvil to take her up in his plane. Then the tuba accentuated German Theme interplays with the lively French Theme as the scene shifts to a duel challenge between Dubois and Von Holstein. At the 1:10 mark we segue into “I Absolutely Forbid It” with chase music that intertwines with the Love Theme as Lord Rawnsley strives to prevent his daughter from flying with the Orvil. Repeated ascending woodwind glissandi play and are punctuated with horn statements as Orvil leaves Patricia at the plane’s helm while he fixes a broken wing strut. The return of the Chase Theme accompanies the planes safe landing.

“Orvil Romances” opens with the deconstructed Orvil’s Theme now carried by solo harmonica, which plays against the Love Theme as he says his goodbye to Patricia having been kicked out of the race. While in “The Marseillaise” Le Marseillaise plays as the press attends flag raising ceremonies. This then segues into a glorious rendering of the Italian Theme as Emilio lifts off with yet another Italian plane. As he ascends we segue into “Balloon Sequence” where we see two balloons rising as Von Holstein prepares to fight a duel against Dubois with blunderbuss! Woodwinds and a steady drum roll are heard as the combatants load their weapons. As one would expect, Emilio flies between them and is shot down. But Dubois’ balloon also falls followed by the Von Holstein’s and so all three end up in the sewage pond as Goodwin emotes a musical farce!

“Intermission Music” opens with a brief spoof on the Main Theme complete with zany sound effects. After this we are treated to a truly wonderful suite, which features almost all the score’s main themes, ultimately concluding with the first stanza of the Title Song. “The Competitors” is a wonderful piece that plays a classic march as the competitors mount their planes. “Yamamoto Crash” opens with horns and full orchestral playing Yamamoto’s Theme as he takes off in his sabotaged plane and crashes. This leads into the zany Chase Theme as the hapless fire brigade comes to the rescue. Next the Folies Bergère French Theme plays as “Demoiselle Takes Off” and segues into “Das Lied der Deutschen” as the German Commander lifts off. Then comes the Italian Theme as Emilio lifts off followed by the Main Theme as Brits Richard and Sir Percy lift off. A grandiose statement of the Main Theme with resplendent horn play continues as we see the competitors soaring in the skies. We conclude the cue with a segue into “Ponticelli at Convent” with the wondrous Italian Theme that is shattered by a drum blast as Emilio makes a forced landing at a convent.

In “Mother Superior” Emilio elicits assistance to prevent a Protestant from winning the race and regains the skies to his theme. In “Richard To Dover” the Main Theme is joined by a march as Richard continues his trek. While in “On To Scotland”, Goodwin introduces his Scottish Loch Lomond Theme for the Scottish pilot before shifting to a quirky rendering of the German Polka Theme. The music becomes tense with descending woodwind glissandi as Richard loses power and makes an emergency landing. Upon regaining the skies we are treated to a lush and lyrical rendering of The French Theme as the flyers reach the coast. The cue concludes with the frenetic Folies Bergère Theme and quirky German Theme as Dubois and Von Holstein land.

“All Ashore” treats to the sweeping Aerial Theme as the men begin their crossing of the English Channel. In “Von Holstein and Seagull” we get the Chase Theme playing against the German Theme after a seagull knocks away Von Holstein’s operator’s manual and he foolishly tries to retrieve it resulting in a crash. From here we return to with “Sir Percy Away” to the glorious Aerial Flight Theme and then a lyrical orchestral rendering of Orvil’s Theme as he flies across the French countryside. We then segue into “Boxkite” where we hear and interplay between first the French and then Italian Themes as we see Pierre and Emilio flying scenes. A comedic and woodwind carried Main Theme is featured in “Avro With Train” as fate catches up with Sir Percy, our cheater and saboteur, who lands atop a train and sees his craft destroyed by a narrow tunnel entrance. This long and rich cue concludes with “Pierre Through Haystack” as Pierre lands and seduces a local maiden while her boyfriend fetches him fuel. We hear a quirky play of his theme that with a scene change segues again into a duet between the Aerial Theme and French Theme as we see the planes entering Paris airspace. Next comes a return of the March Theme as the three remaining planes make the final approach. At the 7:32 mark, lush tremolo strings usher in the lush Love Theme replete with flowing harp glissandi from the cut love scene between Pierre and Evette. We then switch scenes and conclude with the March.

“French Band” opens energetically with the Chase Music Theme played as an extended passage in carnivalesque fashion as Patricia arrives at the landing site. “Lonchamps” and “Three Planes Flying” features the March Theme with repeating descending woodwind glissandi as Emilio’s plane catches fire and Orvil comes to his rescue. A reprise of Emilio’s Theme closes the cue as he sits in the wheelbase of Orvil’s plane. As Richard lands first to win the race in “Rule Britannia” we hear the national song played victoriously. In “Ponticelli Rolls Plane” we are treated to an Italian folk dance as Emilio is once again reunited and embraced by his relieved family.

In “Band: The Marseillaise” Pierre, delayed by his love tryst finally lands to the sound of “Le Marseillaise” as the French honor their hero. “Pierre Sees Betty” brings forth the sumptuous Love Theme as Pierre and Betty, Emilio and Sophia, and Richard and Patricia are reunited. In “Finish Of Race” Orvil’s Theme returns in full western mode as Patricia comes to him and they embrace. The score concludes in fine fashion in “End of Picture” which opens with ascending fanfare that leads into an ethereal passage that serves as a bridge to a full reprise of the Main Title Song.

I must thank Intrada, Douglass Fake and Nick Redman for this amazing restoration, which is presented in splendid stereo from actual session elements. Folks, this score has it all, a Title Song that also provides the adventurous Main Theme, soaring flight music, a wonderful Love Theme, marches, a campy Folies Bergère Theme, a hilarious Chase Theme and nationalist anthems and themes for the German, French, British, Italian, American, Japanese and Scottish teams. Goodwin found the balance between the comedic and the dramatic and was able to expertly integrate numerous outrageous sound effects into the score. I cannot understate the creativity, genius and complexity of this score where many of its cues feature a wondrous interplay between the themes. Regretfully, Rod Goodwin is terra incognita for too many of us and I cannot recommend a finer introduction to his canon than this classic score.

Rating: *****

Buy the Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • DISC ONE
  • Prologue/Titles (6:43)
  • Follow Me/Patricia With Cycle (2:58)
  • Beach in France/Von Holstein Exits (6:16)
  • Japan Theme (1:16)
  • Patricia and Orvil With Cycle (3:09)
  • Rawnsley Drives Off/Ornithopter/Telescope (7:26)
  • Frere Jacques (0:34)
  • Richard’s Hangar (2:54)
  • Dolly Gray (0:42)
  • Patricia in Restaurant (3:26)
  • Demoiselle Take-Off (1:00)
  • Runaway Plane (4:20)
  • Orvil’s Hangar (0:51)
  • Cliffs of Dover/Strauss Waltz (2:45)
  • Von Holstein Into Sea (3:32)
  • It’s Yamamoto (0:30)
  • Patricia Walks to Orvil/I Absolutely Forbid It (4:44)
  • Orvil Romances (2:56)
  • The Marseillaise/Balloon Sequence (7:01)
  • End Act I (0:40)
  • DISC TWO
  • Intermission Music (5:47)
  • Crowds Arrive (1:54)
  • The Competitors (2:08)
  • Yamamoto Crash/Demoiselle Takes Off/Ponticelli at Convent (4:48)
  • Mother Superior/Richard to Dover (5:21)
  • On to Scotland/Marine Hotel (1:24)
  • Rawnsley’s Boat (0:38)
  • Unloading Boat/All Ashore (2:11)
  • Von Holstein and Seagull/Sir Percy Away/Boxkite/Avro With Train/Pierre Through Haystack (9:51)
  • French Band (2:38)
  • Lonchamps/Three Planes Flying (1:50)
  • Rule Britannia/Ponticelli Rolls Plane/Band: The Marseillaise (3:01)
  • Pierre Sees Betty/Finish of Race/End of Picture (5:56)

Running Time: 111 minutes 10 seconds

Intrada Special Collection Volume 161 (1965/2011)

Music composed and conducted by Ron Goodwin. Album produced by Nick Redman and Douglass Fake.

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