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SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS – Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline, and Paul J. Smith

November 2, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Walt Disney Productions had been very successful in producing animated short subject films such as Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies. In 1934 CEO Walt Disney believed it was time to move his studio into the realm of producing feature films. To that end he resolved to inaugurate a new era by producing a feature animated film based on the fairytale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by the Brothers Grimm. Disney would produce the film and he tasked screenwriter Richard Creedon and a team of seven writers to come up with the screenplay. David Hand was hired as supervising Director for a team of five directors. For the cast Adriana Caselotti would voice for the titular role. Joining her would be Lucille La Verne as Queen Grimhilde (the witch), Henry Stockwell as the Prince, Stuart Buchanan as the Huntsman, and Moroni Olsen as The Magic Mirror. For the seven dwarfs we have Roy Atwell as Doc, Pinto Colvig as both Grumpy and Sleepy, Otis Harlan as Happy, Scotty Mattraw as Bashful, Billy Gilbert as Sneezy, and Eddie Collins as Dopey.

The fairytale is legend, having been first published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. Snow White, a beautiful young princess has lost her father the King and lives an isolated existence with her vain and cruel stepmother. When the Queen’s magic mirror reveals that Snow White was now the “Fairest” in the realm, her vanity could not bear it and so she ordered her huntsman to murder her. The Huntsman conscience forestalled the murder, and he released her, ordering her to flee into the woods and never return. She finds refuge with the seven dwarfs who befriend her. But the magic mirror exposes the huntsman’s deception and the Queen transforms herself into an old hag and gifts Snow White a poison apple, which puts her into a deep sleep. All ends well when a dashing young prince awakes her with a kiss and then takes her to his castle to be wed and live happily ever after. Disney maintained fidelity to the story, but sought to put the Disney Studio stamp in the telling. He wanted humor to ensure the audience had its share of laughs and had fun.

Disney’s vision was achieved and the film was a massive commercial success earning $7.8 million or five times its production cost of $1.49 million. There was universal critical acclaim and the film secured one Academy Award nomination for Best Music Score. The next year it received an honorary Award from the Academy for “its significant screen innovation”. Within two years Disney followed up with the heart-warming Pinocchio (1940), which earned an Academy Award! Then the parade of success continued with the resplendent Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942).

As such, Snow White’s legacy was transformative in that it propelled Disney Studios into the mainstream, as a stalwart of animated and family films as well as helping to eventually fund its theme parks. We honor Walt Disney as a visionary, and this film was a seminal event in the history of Hollywood filmmaking. Indeed, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is rightfully considered to be Disney’s most significant and enduring achievement – the first animated feature film made in the United States. Notable was the fact that it was the most successful film release of 1938, and that it broke ground by being the world’s first soundtrack album.

Walt Disney hired a very talented team to realize his vision, with Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith sharing composer duties in writing the film’s score, while Frank Churchill and Larry Morey shared song writing duties. A total of twenty-five songs were written for the film, but in the end only five were ultimately used in the final picture. It should be noted that Leigh Harline took over the song writing from Frank Churchill and Larry Morey and composed in their style, but only Churchill and Morey are credited in copyright and biographical sources as songwriters.

Disney was insistent that the quality of the musical score match the visual splendor of his animation and that the songs be singable, have memorable lyrics, and bear melodies that would resonate with the public for years to come. It suffices to say that this composer team succeeded on all counts and created a superb masterwork of film score art. The melodies are beautiful and the five songs, timeless; “I’m Wishing/One Song”, “Whistle While You Work”. “Heigh Ho”, “The Yodeling Song”, and lastly, the iconic and supremely romantic “Some Day My Prince Will Come”, which has passed unto legend. Lastly, it is of great historical significance that “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” was the first soundtrack album ever released.

The film opens with “Overture”, a score highlight, which supports the roll of the opening credits. It showcases two of the score’s iconic songs rendered orchestrally. A grand choral supported opening ushers in a prelude of anticipation, from which is born at 0:32 the exquisitely romantic “One Song” carried sumptuously by strings with contrapuntal horns. A violin bridge ushers in the yearning and aspirational “Some Day My Prince Will Come” at 1:26, which supports a book bearing the film’s title opening to reveal the fairytale’s opening line – “Once Upon A Time.” The melody is rendered as a valzer romantico, which sweeps us away. We conclude tenderly as the book reveals the daily habit of the Queen consulting her magic mirror. In “Magic Mirror” we see the castle from afar and are carried into the Queen’s sanctum, which houses the magic mirror. She summons its spirit of the mirror, seeking assurances that she remains “The Fairest of them all”. Harline creates a misterioso with tremolo violins, and woodwinds of uncertainty which crescendo at 0:37 as the mirror comes to life. The misterioso returns embellished by woodwinds doloroso as she receives the bad news that Snow White is fairer than thee. We end darkly as the Queen contemplates a diabolical remedy.

“I’m Wishing” reveals Snow White cleaning the palace stairs, attended by a retinue of cooing white pigeons. Violins tenero and harp adornment support Snow White speaking to the birds of the wishing well. At 0:39 we flow into the song “I’m Wishing” and we hear longing in her voice as she sings its words, which are echoed by the well;

“I’m wishing for the one I love
To find me today
I’m hoping
And I’m dreaming of
The nice things he’ll say”

As she gazes into the well Prince Charming rides in and startles her, causing her to flee into the palace, supported by a flight motif at 1:36. We segue into one of the score’s most evocative songs “One Song” where we are graced by Stockwell’s sterling vocals, which offer a testament of his love that brings a quiver and a tear. The melody is declarative and forthright carried by violins romantico with harp adornment, and we see in Snow White’s eyes love’s awakening as she sends a pigeon to him from the balcony. The confluence of lyrics, melody and imagery is sublime;

“One Song
I have but one song
One song
Only for you
One heart
Tenderly beating
Ever entreating
Constant and true
One love
That has possessed me
One love
Thrilling me through
One song
My heart keeps singing
Of one love
Only for you”

“Queen Theme” reveals the Queen in her throne room commanding her huntsman to take Snow White into the woods and then murdering her, bring back her heart in a jewel box as proof. Churchill supports her menace and her diabolical purpose carried by her malignant theme of ascending declarations of horns sinistre, tremolo strings, dire woodwinds and rolling drums of doom. We end grimly, and with finality as the huntsman leaves, his conflicted mind beset by fear of refusal or failure.

“Far Into The Forest” offers one of the score’s most impressive action cues, where the pairing of music and imagery is superb. We open with a classic pastorale with woodwinds as Snow White picks flowers and cares for a little blue bird. The music darkens and a crescendo of doom builds as the Huntsman draws his dagger and moves in to strike. We crest at 0:46 as he drops his dagger and begs Snow White for forgiveness, the music now plaintive. At 0:56 he orders her to flee into the woods and never return. The composer team unleash their orchestra propelled by strings furioso, which carry Snow White’s flight. As she is beset with ghastly imagery, bats, and other denizens of the forest we are buffeted by repeating crescendos of horror, which reveal her desperation and rising panic. Her fear deepens, as the orchestral torrent of terror swells and unleashes a crescendo of doom, which resounds with deafening power, yet dissipates as Snow White is overcome and faints.

In “Animal Friends” bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels, deer and blue birds approach Snow White carried by pastoral tenderness. At 0:44 a bunny awakens and startles her and the animals all scurry away carried by xylophone, chirping woodwinds and metallic twinkling. When she beckons, they return woodwinds tenero carry them back to her. They encourage her to sing to overcome her woes and at 1:47 we segue into “With A Smile And A Song”, which offers a testament of happiness abounding with hope. As she sings all the animals are drawn to her as we see her burdens lifted and her spirits, renewed.

“With a smile and a song
Life is just a bright sunny day
Your cares fade away
And your heart is young
With a smile and a song
All the world seems to waken anew
Rejoicing with you
As the song is sung
There’s no use in grumbling
When the raindrops come tumbling
Remember, you’re the one
Who can fill the world with sunshine
When you smile and you sing
Everything is in tune and it’s spring
And life flows along
With a smile and a song”

Following dialogue, the animals lead Snow White to a place to stay supported by a danza gentile, which carries them gracefully full of happiness. Harp glissandi twinkle as Snow White sees the dwarf’s cottage in “Just Like A Doll’s House”. The danza gentile returns and carries her to the door with her two knocks supported by string figures. As she enters followed by the animals, she finds the home dirty and in disarray. A misterioso supports her tentative explorative steps. When she finds a little chair she screams, which sends the animals scurrying carried by strings animato. As she surveys the dirty home strings gentile and woodwinds animato carry the moment. At 2:24 harp glissandi usher in a prelude of happiness as Snow White assigns cleaning duties to the animals, hoping that after cleaning the house she will be allowed to stay. As they begin cleaning, we segue into another iconic song “Whistle While You Work”, a delightful cue which emotes as a happy go lucky dance as she sings;

“Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace
And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom Is someone that you love
And soon you’ll find you’re dancing to the tune
When hearts are high the time will fly
So whistle while you work
So whistle while you work”

As we see all the cleaning activities the orchestra carries the song’s melody, which provides energy and lyrical flow, making the requisite comedic acknowledgments as the playful animals have fun and enjoy each other’s company.

In “Heigh-Ho” we are introduced to the dwarfs who are happily digging for jewels in their mine. The song’s first two stanzas are prancing, playful and filled with happiness as we see the dwarfs digging up and cataloguing their jewels. A metallic cadence underpins their voices, achieving a perfect synergy.

“We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in our mine the whole day through
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we really like to do
It ain’t no trick to get rich quick
If you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick
In a mine! In a mine! In a mine! In a mine!
Where a million diamonds shine!
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig from early morn till night
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up everything in sight
We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more
But we don’t know what we dig ’em for
We dig dig dig a-dig dig.”

A clock sounds with repeated metallic strikes at 1:17, signaling the end of their work shift and we shift into another of the score’s iconic songs as they march home as we gaze upon the beautiful countryside bathed in warm, sunset glow;

“Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
It’s home from work we go (whistle)
Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho (whistle)
Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
Heigh-ho hum”

The song’s cadence of happiness is infectious with a melody that once embraced, is difficult to release. In “Let’s See What’s Upstairs” Snow White leads her little animal friends upstairs supported by strings animato and playful woodwinds. At 0:17 a comic bassoon supports the turtle’s ingenious efforts to climb the stairs. We are bathed in tenderness as she reads the names engraved on their beds. At 0:50 harp glissandi usher in strings assonnati and trilling woodwinds as Snow White yawns and lays down to sleep exhausted. We close tenderly on a diminuendo as birds drape her with a sheet. “There’s Trouble A-Brewin’” offers a well-conceived and executed cue as the composer team supports a scene full of silliness, suspense and comedy. A spirited reprise of the Heigh-Ho song carries the dwarf’s arrival home. At 0:56 a string tremolo sounds the alarm as they see their cabin lighted with smoke coming from the chimney. They are afraid and a comic bassoon supports their efforts to come up with a plan. As they tip toe up to the window and then search the cabin comic woodwinds support their footfalls, silly antics and buffoonery. On the album it is difficult to understand the music, but in film context its genius is revealed as it speaks perfectly to the antics of these hapless dwarfs. “It’s A Girl” sustains the comedy of the prior cue with playful woodwinds again supporting Dopey’s footfalls as he sneaks upstairs and into the bedroom. What follows is orchestral slapstick and comedy, some would refer to it as “Mickey-Mousing” which perfectly syncs with the onscreen antics. The album listen is disjointed and suggests this, but it only really makes sense when heard in scene context as each comedic moment is precisely supported.

In “Hooray! She Stays” strings animato swirl rapidly to support their comic efforts to hide from Snow White. When she wakes and sees them, she endears herself to them by guessing their names. The music’s narrative flow seems disjointed, but once again it precisely supports the silliness, comedy and onscreen antics of the dwarfs. I must say that in this and the previous two cues that it is the music, which brings life to the scene and creates the comedy. Snow White is cooking dinner and asks the dwarfs to wash up before dinner in “Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Dum”. To support the comedy of each of them washing we are amused with the “Dwarf’s Washing Song”, which emotes as a danza giocosa whose prancing rhythms perfectly support the scene;

“Step up to the tub
It ain’t no disgrace
Just pull up your sleeves
And get up in place
Then scoop up the water
And rub it on your face
An’ go blud-dle-ud-dle-ud-dle
Pick up the soap
Now don’t try to to bluff
Work up a lather
An’ when ya got enough
Get your hands full of water
Ya snort an ya snuff
An’ go blud-dle-ud-dle-ud-dle
Ya douse an souse
Ya rub and scrub
Ya sputter and splash all over the tub
You may be cold and wet when your done
But ya gotta admit it’s goot clean fun
So splash all ya like
It ain’t any trick
As soon as your through
You’ll feel mighty slick
Bunch of old nanny goats
Ya make me sick, goin’
An’ go blud-dle-ud-dle-ud-dle
Now scrub good an’ hard
It can’t be denied
That he’ll look mighty cute
As soon as he’s dried
Well it’s good for the soul
And it’s good for the hide
To go blud-dle-ud-dle-ud-dle

Once again, the composer team is meticulous in musically supporting each of the slapstick moments. “I’ve Been Tricked” reveals the Queen in her sanctum holding the jewel case that supposedly contains Snow White’s heart. The mirror misterioso reprises as the Queen poses her question. When the mirror again states that Snow White remains the fairest in the land the Queen is enraged and at 1:00 descends to her potion lab in the bowels of the castle carried ever downwards by a deepening descent motif. At 1:24 tremolo strings usher in foreboding statement of her theme as she prepares a potion, which will transform her into a hag. At 2:23 she drinks the potion and a swirling vortex of strings with horns agitato support her pain. At 2:35 grotesque strings and woodwinds support her transformation, eventually launching an eerie descending vortex of strings with dire horns, which achieve a grim crescendo as we see her mutate into a hag. We close with malice atop repeated dire statements of the Queen’s Theme as she prepares a poison apple, which when tasted will send Snow White into an eternal sleeping death. In “The Dwarfs’ Yodel Song” the dwarfs have finished dinner and it is time for merriment. The scene highlights “The Silly Song”, another film classic. The dwarfs support the scene diegetically with their instruments carrying the melody. Sung in yodeling style the song’s melody supports their dancing and merriment;


I’d like to dance and tap my feet
But they won’t keep in rhythm
You see, I washed them both today
And I can’t do nothing with ’em
Ho hum the tune is dumb
The words don’t mean a thing
Isn’t this a silly song
For anyone to sing?
I chased a polecat up a tree
Way out on upon a limb
And when he got the best of me
I got the worst of him

In “Some Day My Prince Will Come” the dwarfs say it is Snow White’s turn to entertain them and they request a Love story. After a prelude of dialogue Snow White graces us with the yearning romanticism of perhaps the score’s most defining song;

“Someday my prince will come
Someday we’ll meet again
And away to his castle we’ll go
To be happy forever I know
Some day when spring is here
We’ll find our love anew
And the birds will sing
And wedding bells will ring
Some day when my dreams come true”

“Pleasant Dreams” reveals everyone turning in for the night, an ending of a perfect day. The dwarfs give up their bedroom for Snow White and agree to sleep downstairs. A tender variant of the “Some Day My Prince Will Come” melody supports her bedtime prayers and thankfulness. In “A Special Sort Of Death” the hag has coated an apple with a lethal poison. Her sinister theme supports her diabolical plan. Restive strings at 0:33 speak to her crow recoiling when she offers it a bite. Her malignant theme carries her departure and travels as she sets off to find and poison Snow White. “Why Grumpy, You Do Care” reveals the dwarfs heading off to work in their mine. A danza gentile supports their departure, with each one getting a kiss on the head. We close with the Heigh-Ho melody, which carries the dwarfs off to work. We see the hag walking on the forest path supported by her theme with strings sinistre and dire horns portending her evil purpose. At 0:32 we change scenes to the kitchen in “Makin’ Pies”, which reveals Snow White making pies for the dwarfs. In this labor of love, we are graced with another performance of the “Some Day My Prince Will Come” melody. The moment is shattered at 1:05 by strings sinistre and dire woodwinds, which support the arrival of the hag in the window. Her malignant theme sounds at 1:49 as she entices Snow White to take a bite of her red apple. At 2:05 fluttering woodwinds support birds swarming the hag to prevent her evil act. After Snow White swishes them away the hag manipulates Snow White into letting her come inside for a glass of water. Her sinister arrival music supports her entry into the house.

“In Have A Bite” the hag states the she has a wishing apple, which grants a wish come true to those that eat of it. She succeeds in convincing Snow White to take the apple. A sad rendering of the “One Song” melody supports the fateful choice. At 0:42 we cut away to all the animals racing to warn the dwarfs. What follows is the score’s most dynamic action set piece, which is regrettably not included on the album. A martial rendering of the Heigh-Ho melody propels the dwarfs as they race to save Snow White. We return to the cabin with the “One Song” melody now rendered tragically, replete with a drum roll, which crescendos darkly, cresting at 1:08 as we see Snow White collapse and the bitten apple roll from her hand. Dark horns resound with the Queen’s Theme to announce her triumph as she declares that she again is “The Fairest in the Land”. The album cue ends here, but in the film the martial Heigh-Ho music brings the dwarfs home, where they discover the hag and pursue her in earnest. Harline unleashes an orchestral torrent, which swells to a monstrous climax as a lightning bolt shatters a ledge and sends the hag plummeting to her doom. “Chorale For Snow White” reveals the dwarfs praying at bedside as Snow White lays in deep repose. Their agony is palpable as they weep, and their loss supported by organ funebre. On screen script follows, which informs us that the dwarfs could not find it in their hearts to bury Snow White, and so encased her in a coffin made of glass and gold, so they could always view her beauty.

In “Love’s First Kiss (Finale)” we end with a supreme score highlight, which feature its two defining songs. The Prince has heard tales of a beautiful maiden who sleeps in a glass coffin. As he comes to her, we are graced once again by Stockwell’s sterling vocals singing “One Song” now full of yearning and joined by ethereal women’s chorus. Tremulous violins and shimmering metallic twinkling carry him to her and he bends down and kisses her on the lips, which brings forth at 1:53 a tentative choral rendering of “Someday My Prince Will Come”. Yet as she awakens and they embrace, its expression becomes joyous and celebratory as we see all the animals and dwarfs dancing. We close tenderly with Snow White bestowing a kiss on the head of each dwarf. As the Prince and she depart we see them pausing to gaze at the Prince’s refulgent castle, aglow in the distance supported by a last heartfelt refrain of “Someday My Prince Will Come”, which ends in a resplendent flourish as the book displays “and they lived happily ever after” and closes. The two remaining cues “Music In Your Soup” and “You’re Never Too Old To Be Young” are bonus inclusions of songs excised from the film.

I would like to thank Walt Disney Records and Randy Thorton for this wonderful restoration of the “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” score. The restoration and digital mastering are outstanding and the album provides an excellent listening experience. Although the album is not complete given that some tracks were not available, I must say that it never the less provides collectors with one of our Holy Grails. Disney was insistent that the quality of the musical score match the visual splendor of his animation and that the songs be singable, have memorable lyrics, and bear melodies that would resonate with the public for years to come. It suffices to say that the composers and lyricists succeeded on all counts and helped Disney achieve his vision. Many of its songs have become iconic, passing on from one generation to the next, a testament to their timeless melodies. The confluence of animation, story-telling, songs and instrumental musical score elevated Disney’s film to the sublime and from my perspective was integral in establishing that animated films could provide both quality and profits. After the popular debut of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, animation film art gained public acceptance. It was clear, that there would be no going back; feature film Animation was here to stay. Folks, this score is a masterpiece of conception and execution, which achieved a significant milestone in the history of film score art. I consider this album to be a precious gem of the Golden Age and highly recommend you purchase it for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the music, I have included a Youtube link for you to experience the wondrous Overture. Enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQhe_RVNayY

Buy the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overture (2:12)
  • Magic Mirror (1:25)
  • I’m Wishing/One Song (performed by Adriana Casselotti and Harry Stockwell) (3:07)
  • Queen Theme (0:45)
  • Far Into the Forest (2:27)
  • Animal Friends/With A Smile and A Song (performed by Adriana Caselotti) (4:24)
  • Just Like A Doll’s House (2:46)
  • Whistle While You Work (performed by Adriana Caselotti) (3:24)
  • Heigh-Ho (performed by The Dwarf Chorus) (2:47)
  • Let’s See What’s Upstairs (1:17)
  • There’s Trouble A-Brewin’ (4:21)
  • It’s A Girl (4:27)
  • Hooray! She Stays (2:49)
  • Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Dum (The Dwarfs’ Washing Song) (performed by The Dwarf Chorus) (4:26)
  • I’ve Been Tricked (4:05)
  • The Dwarfs’ Yodel Song (The Silly Song) (performed by The Dwarf Chorus) (4:35)
  • Some Day My Prince Will Come (performed by Adriana Caselotti) (1:54)
  • Pleasant Dreams (2:29)
  • A Special Sort of Death (2:02)
  • Why Grumpy, You Do Care (2:08)
  • Makin’ Pies (3:04)
  • Have A Bite (1:28)
  • Chorale for Snow White (1:06)
  • Love’s First Kiss (Finale) (4:12)
  • Music In Your Soup (performed by The Dwarf Chorus) (2:35)
  • You’re Never Too Old To Be Young (performed by The Dwarf Chorus) (3:20)

Running Time: 73 minutes 57 seconds

Walt Disney Records (1937/2006)

Music composed by Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith. Conducted by Frank Churchill. Lyrics by Larry Morey. Orchestrations by Freeman High. Album produced by Randy Thornton.

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