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AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS – Victor Young

December 16, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

aroundtheworldin80days-youngMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Ever-ambitious producer Mike Todd sought to bring an epic adventure tale to the big screen. He hired screenwriter James Poe to adapt renowned author Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days. He gave the director reigns to Michael Anderson who brought in an amazing cast which included; David Niven as the classic Victorian English gentleman Phileas Fogg, Mexican icon Cantinflas as the resourceful ‘Jack of all Trades’ Passepartout, Shirley MacLaine as the captivating Princess Aouda, her debut acting role, and Robert Newton as the redoubtable Inspector Fix. The story takes place in England circa 1872 and centers on an epic adventure taken by Phileas Fogg and his man servant Passepartout. Fogg makes the audacious claim that he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He offers a £20,000 wager with four skeptical compatriots of the Reform Club, thus setting the stage for the adventure. Fogg sets off on the first leg of their journey to Paris by hot air balloon. Against this backdrop is a growing suspicion that Fogg has stolen £55,000 from the Bank of England, which elicits Scotland Yard to dispatch Police Inspector Fix to arrest Fogg.

Our journey takes us to Spain, where Passepartout engages in a comic bullfight, to Egypt, then India where Fogg and Passepartout rescue young widow Princess Aouda from certain death at her husband’s funeral pyre, to exotic Thailand, then to Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, and the wild American west where they battle Sioux Indians. However, with victory finally in his grasp Fogg is arrested upon his arrival at Liverpool by the relentless Inspector Fix. Yet the tables are turned when he learns to his dismay that the real criminal was already caught in Brighton! Although exonerated of the charges, Fogg believes he has missed the deadline and lost the wager until Passepartout buys a newspaper and sees that it is still Saturday. Fogg realizes that he gained a day by crossing the International Date Line and manages to reach the Club just before the clock’s chime at 8:45 pm. He wins both the wager and the hand of his love, Princess Aouda, thus bringing our adventure to a most satisfying conclusion. The film was both a commercial and critical success, being nominated for eight Academy Awards and winning five for; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Score.

Veteran studio composer Victor Young was assigned the project. He quickly realized that the three-hour film covered a huge swath across the globe and that his music needed to speak to the ethno-cultural sensibilities of the various locals. He responded by providing a multiplicity of themes and nationalistic anthems that fully captured the film’s many and diverse settings. His primary theme is the Travel Theme whose classic Golden Age sensibility animates the film. Its construct is that of a lush and eloquent waltz, which flows with a carefree old world charm. It may be the best waltz ever written within film score canon. Next is Passepartout’s Theme a whimsical carefree construct animated by violins, woodwinds and xylophone, which has a wondrous ebullience and lightness of being, emblematic of its namesake. The string laden Indian Theme 1 flows sumptuously with a classic dance-like elegance that captures the exotic splendor of the Indian countryside. The rhythmic Indian Theme 2 is more exotic, featuring hand bells, ethnic flutes, tambura and tabla, which impart a strong ethnic Indian flavor. The American Theme is a carried by warm French horns and speaks with classic Americana expression. The American Indian Theme offers tom toms and pastoral woodwinds, which perfectly capture this native culture. The string laden Sailing Theme offers a classic nautical sound for which one can actually feel the wind in your face. Maxie’s Theme is derived from source music, a popular French dance tune from the gay 1890’s, which he uses to support a French sensibility. To imbue his score with ambiance, Young also references two national anthems; Rule Britannia for the British Empire and Yankee Doodle Dandy for America. Worth noting is that Young received 22 Academy Award nominations during his career with the dubious honor of receiving the most Oscar nominations before finally winning an Academy Award: 21! What is sad is that he died on November 10th, 1956, and his win for “Around the World in Eighty Days” was awarded posthumously.

“Around The World, Part 1” is an Overture that played during the long film’s intermission. It is a score highlight, which offers testimony to Young’s mastery of his craft in that it perfectly captures the film’s spirit. We begin our journey with a grand heraldic opening, which launches the Travel Theme with all it’s sumptuous old world splendor. Bravo! In “Passepartout” Fogg’s audacious wager has been accepted yet he must recruit a manservant to accompany him, as he cannot complete the task alone. An agency has sent him Passepartout (French for “goes anywhere” – how deliciously clever!), and Fogg who is pressed for time accepts this wily fellow with reservations. Young supports the meeting with a full rendering of Passepartout’s Theme, which perfectly captures the moment. The cue concludes cleverly with a few bars of the French dance tune “Maxie”, which was popular at the time as the scene transitions to Paris. Nicely done! “Paris Arrival” is just a wonderful cue! It reveals our heroes’ arrival at the French Capital, which is supported by the Maxie’s Theme now joined in a splendid tête-à-tête with Passespartout’s Theme. The marriage of music and film imagery is superb!

In “Aloft Above France (Sky Symphony)” the score achieves its apogee. Fogg encounters his first challenge; an avalanche has blocked train travel to Marseilles. The local travel agent offers an alternative, which Fogg readily accepts – a hot air balloon! As they ascend in style sipping champagne and travel amidst the wondrous cloudscapes o’er the verdant French countryside we are treated to the score’s standout cue – a full rendering of the Travel Theme. Swirling crescendi support the harsh wind currents of the Pyrenees Mountains and we conclude atop the spirited Maxie Theme. This is glorious! In “The Descent” the wind currents have been unkind, forcing them off course over the Pyrenees Mountains and into Spain. Young supports the descent with the Travel Theme with concluding tension as they head for an inauspicious landing. Well, in “A Landing In Figueroas” they land unceremoniously in the center of the town of Figueroas. To reach Marseilles they must buy boat transport from the notorious Achmed Abdullah. Young channels the Basque region by providing a festival like ambiance full of life.

In “Passepartout Dances” Fogg and Passepartout travel to the tavern Cave of the Seven Winds in search of Abdullah. The tavern is full of life with classic dancing by the stunning Jose Greco. Not one to be a spectator, Passepartout joins in, offering his own dance. Young uses a small ensemble of consisting of guitar, castanets, tambourine, violin and bandoneon to imbue the scene with a classic Spanish flavor, offering a spirited and festive dance. Ole! “Invitation To A Bull Fight” reveals Abdullah agreeing to sell Fogg his schooner on one condition, that Passepartout fight against a bull as a matador in the arena tomorrow. A dance-like ambiance in the French tradition supports the negotiations. At 1:02 we segue atop classic Spanish horn fare into “Entrance of the Bull March” where Young provides a marcia festivamente to support Passepartout’s bravado entry into the legendary Corrida! Of course our hero triumphs and they soon depart for Egypt. On the schooner Passepartout meets Inspector Fix who unbeknownst to Passepartout is bidding his time, awaiting formal orders from London that will authorize him to arrest Fogg. In “Arrival In Suez” Young sets the local with an exotic Arabic ambiance.

“Bombay Harbor” reveals the journey to India, which Young supports with a quotation of Rue Britannia and a string-laden passage that speaks to us of the sea. “India Country Side” is a beautiful score highlight. Fogg and Passepartout are joined on a train to Calcutta by compatriot Sir Francis Cromorty. Yet the train tracks end and they are forced to rent elephants to take them to Allahabad where the tracks to Calcutta begin anew. To support the beautiful panorama of the Indian countryside, Young provides an extended rendering of his Indian Theme 1, which baths us in its exquisite sumptuous beauty. At 2:42 we shift to a percussive line, which mimics the sounds of the train, before closing with the Indian Theme 1. In “A Princess In Distress” local customs require a widow of a stately man to cast herself upon his funeral pyre as an act of devotion. Princess Aouda who was educated in England has no such intention. Fogg and Passepartout realize her predicament and rescue her. Young employs his Indian Theme 2 to support the ritual. As the time for Aouda’s self-immolation approaches the music begins to rise with a relentless crescendo, which never culminates as Passepartout’s Theme intrudes as he makes his daring rescue of Aouda!

In “Royal Barge of Siam” our party reaches Thailand where we bear witness to passing of the impressive gold gilded royal barge. Young uses nativist Buddhist chanting to impart a solemn religioso ambiance to the grand spectacle. Strings and bells join in to broaden and enrich of the melodic line. The next leg of the journey takes us to Hong Kong, where our party is split as Passepartout ends boarding the S.S. Rangoon alone, while Fogg and Aouda who are delayed are forced to hire a Chinese junk to take them and Inspector Fix to Yokohama. In “Yokohama (Temple Of Dawn)” Passepartout has no money and so joins a local circus. By chance Fogg and Aouda take in the circus, and reunite with Passepartout. Young supports Passepartout’s sad circumstances with a plaintive rendering of the Travel Theme. In “Around the World, Part 2” our party, along with Inspector Fix, board U.S.S. Grant for San Francisco. We are treated to spirited interplay of Rue Britannia and Yankee Doodle Dandy as our Brits board the American vessel. “Intermission” closes the film’s first half and offers a splendid rendering of the Travel Theme with a brief quote of Passepartout’s Theme.

In “Transcontinental Railway” we bear witness to fine interplay of the American and American Indian Themes. Our party boards a train in San Francisco and begins their trek to New York across the vast American west. Young opens by using Train Motif, upon which he overlays his warm American Theme to perfectly capture the moment. At 1:34 the American Indian Theme enters and plays as we see peaceful Indians. The cue closes energetically atop an accelerando as Young sows tension as the train approaches a failing bridge. “A Weak Bridge” opens with a warm rendering of the American Theme and Train Motif. At 1:03 Young sows tension as we see the train traversing a buckling bridge, where he uses orchestral descents to support the sight of falling beams. We conclude with Rue Britannia and an impassioned piano line as we see the bridge collapse just after the train has safely passed! Wow!

The mammoth “Sioux Attack” cue is a tour de force where Young throws in everything, including the kitchen sink! Sioux Indians attack and Passepartout is captured after he accidentally falls off the train. Fogg halts the train and shows classic English gallantry by going off against reason and odds to save his friend. Just as their fate seems sealed the U.S. Calvary comes to their rescue! We open with a now militarized American Indian Theme propelled by horns bellicoso, pounding percussion and strings furioso! Young drives his orchestral relentlessly with stunning power and kinetic potency. At 4:11 the American Theme joins the fray in contested interplay! At 5:13 Young offers a comic moment that plays to Cantiflas’ Mexican heritage with the La Cucaracha Theme, which joins in contest against the dominating American Indian Theme, but we are not done! At 7:15 the William Tell Theme informs us of their rescue by the U.S. Calvary. We conclude in amazing fashion as the William Tell Theme, American Indian Theme and Yankee Doodle Dandy Theme swirl in an astounding orchestral vortex. Folks, this cue brings the house down!

In “Prairie Sail Car” an undeterred Fogg uses his meager assets to mount a sail on a flatbed train car so the wind may propel them. Young captures the essence of the wind with swirling strings. A romantic interlude speaks to Aouda mounting the car, and a reference to Rue Britannia informs us of the triumph Fogg’s indomitable English spirit. In “Land Ho” Scotland Yard issues an arrest warrant for Fogg. In the mean time, Fogg has purchased a ship and departs for England, lacking sufficient fuel. He ends up stoking the furnaces with everything on the ship, including the lifeboats. Young introduces his Sailing Theme, which carries us onward with a classic nautical air and which time and time again is infused with a quote of Rue Britannia. Tense discordant strings inform us of dwindling fuel concerns that imperil the voyage. Fogg makes landfall in Liverpool and is arrested by Inspector Fix. Yet soon a communiqué arrives that states that the real criminal was apprehended in Brighton. Fogg is released, but realizes he has lost, as a plaintive Rue Britannia sounds. Aouda comforts him and remarkably confesses her love to romantic strings. They agree to marry and dispatch Passepartout to find a minister. On the way he sees a paper with a date of Saturday and returns to Fogg who realizes that he gained a day crossing the International Date Line. They speed on to London and arrive in time to win the bet as Rue Britannia sounds in all its glory. Bravo!

The “End Credits” is an amazing score highlight. It runs for nearly seven minutes as an animated montage that features the countless actors that had cameo roles in the film. Young responded with a suite for the ages, which offers a wondrous parade of all his themes in amazing and spirited interplay. This cue is a wonderful journey! “Exit Music” was provided by Young to play for the film’s private screening. It offers a beautiful suite where his sumptuous Travel Theme bookends a medley of his themes including Maxie’s Theme, the American Theme replete with banjo, his Spanish bull-fighting music and Rue Britannia.

Please allow me to thank Bill Buster, Didier Deutsch and Hit Parade Records for this amazing release of the expanded score. The digital remastering is excellent and the sound quality, superb. This score may be the best one ever written by Victor Young. It offers a multiplicity of eight themes, national anthems, ethnic songs and even the William Tell Overture! The writing features superb interplay and the music is perfectly attenuated to the film’s narrative and imagery. This is one of the finest Golden Age scores ever written and I highly recommend it for inclusion in your collection. It just does not get any better than this!

Buy the Around the World in 80 Days soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overture (2:59)
  • Passepartout (1:46)
  • First Stop: Paris (2:51)
  • Aloft Above France (4:56)
  • The Descent (1:07)
  • A Landing in Figueroas (1:05)
  • Passepartout Dances (1:38)
  • Invitation to a Bull Fight/Entrance of the Bull March (2:38)
  • Arrival in Suez (0:24)
  • Bombay Harbor (0:49)
  • India Countryside (3:58)
  • A Princess in Distress (5:20)
  • Royal Barge of Siam (2:40)
  • Yokohama (2:21)
  • Intermission (1:05)
  • Around The World – Part 2 (1:09)
  • Transcontinental Railway (3:57)
  • A Weak Bridge (3:00)
  • Sioux Attack (8:14)
  • Prairie Sail Car (1:51)
  • Land Ho (6:58)
  • End Credits (6:26)
  • Exit Music (5:01)

Running Time: 72 minutes 13 seconds

Hit Parade Records 13502 (1956/2007)

Music composed and conducted by Victor Young. Orchestrations by Sid Cutner and Leo Shuken. Score produced by Victor Young. Album produced by Bill Buster and Didier Deutsch.

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  1. January 12, 2015 at 2:51 am

    Terrific album showcasing a score from the time when composers had to have the ability to compose MELODIES (not shitty, clueless pop music like the likes of Hans Zimmer & RCP, Steve Craplonsky, etc).

    • June 1, 2017 at 6:44 am

      I am with you Thomas! I have seen this movie at least 8 times (the first time was in 1958 or 59, I was 9 or 10 years old then), mostly because I was so intrigued with the music. And yes: they don’t make ’em like they used to. Comparing Hans Zimmer to the greats like Victor Young, Erich Korngold, Bernhard Herrmann, John Williams, James Horner, Ennio Morricone, Rachel Portman, Carl Davis is like saying André Rieu is a great violinist. Cheers!

  1. June 5, 2017 at 10:01 am

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