Home > 100 Greatest Scores, Reviews > GONE WITH THE WIND – Max Steiner


November 30, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

gonewiththewind100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone With The Wind” caught legendary producer David O. Selznick’s eye and he saw destiny in the making. MGM purchased the film rights for and unprecedented $50,000 and set about to do the impossible – translate the massive 1,037 page story to the big screen. No film to this date provided such an epic sweep and six hours of film were shot, which featured thousands of actors. Set in the Ante-bellum era of the South circa 1860, its tells a story of love, envy, betrayal and the clash of cultures, which results in the loss of a way of life, swept away in the destructive torrents of war. Max Steiner had already firmly established himself as first among his peers and was tasked by Selznick to bring his passion project to fruition. He insisted on a score that was authentic and provided the epic sweep necessary to support the film’s narrative. Steiner responded and provided a masterwork, which many believe is his Magnum Opus. Consistent with the methods of the European Romantic traditions, which he championed, he provided eleven leitmotifs, one for each of the primary actors.

The film’s romantic undercurrents required two love themes; the first for Melanie and Ashley was both tender and spiritual. This was juxtaposed by the second more passionate love theme, which informs us of Scarlet’s unrequited lust for Ashley. It is however with the Tara Theme, that the film achieves greatness. In a masterstroke Steiner created one of the most iconic themes in the history of film score art, one that has now passed unto legend. It symbolized the idyllic O’Hara plantation in the microcosm, and the Ante-bellum culture of the South in the macrocosm. Bearing exquisite long lined A and B Phrases, its gloriously romantic and sweeping florid lyricism stirs the deepest sinews of the heart, evoking a quiver and a tear. This theme in my judgment earned Steiner immortality.

To provide fidelity to Selznick’s insistence on cultural authenticity and congruency, Steiner interpolated a number of military anthems and Southern source songs including “Dixie”, “Bonnie Blue Flag” and “Maryland My Maryland”. During the second half of the film when the tide of war has changed, Steiner used “Marching Through Georgia” to support General Sherman’s devastating march to the sea. Lastly, a number of Stephen Foster songs were also infused to provide the requisite cultural ambience including “Katie Belle”, “Under the Willow”, “Louisiana Belle”, “My Old Kentucky Home, “Swanee River”, and “Massa’s in de Cold”. Folks, this score is glorious, and demonstrated the extent that film music can empower a film’s narrative. I believe it to be Steiner’s greatest score, one of the prized gems of the Golden Age, and an essential score for collectors of film score art.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a Youtube link for a wondrous 16 minute suite, which brings you Steiner’s masterpiece.

Buy the Gone With the Wind soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (4:06)
  • Tara (2:15)
  • The O’Hara Family (6:18)
  • Scarlett Prepares For The Barbecue (2:21)
  • Twelve Oaks (1:17)
  • The Barbecue (Extended Version) (5:24)
  • Afternoon Nap (2:00)
  • Charles Hamilton Challenges Rhett (1:07)
  • In The Library (2:32)
  • War Is Declared/The Death Of Charles (4:05)
  • At The Bazaar (1:05)
  • Maryland, My Maryland (1:44)
  • Dances (1:53)
  • Gettysburg (0:56)
  • Outside the Examiner Newspaper Office (2:14)
  • At The Depot (1:08)
  • Christmas At Aunt Pitty’s (4:58)
  • Melanie And Scarlett Tend The Wounded (1:23)
  • Scarlett’s Promise (Extended Version) (3:40)
  • Train Depot (Extended Version) (2:09)
  • Melanie In Labor (0:37)
  • Rhett Returns (3:00)
  • Escape From Atlanta (2:46)
  • Soldiers In Retreat (1:23)
  • Rhett And Scarlett On McDonough Road (3:14)
  • Twelve Oaks In Ruin/Scarlett Comes Home (4:42)
  • I’ll Never Be Hungry Again! (6:07)
  • Alternate Entr’acte (1:49)
  • Battle Montage (2:55)
  • The Deserter (1:33)
  • Melanie And Scarlett (3:15)
  • It’s Over! (Extended Version) (3:04)
  • Frank Kennedy Asks For Suellen’s Hand (Extended Version) (3:08)
  • Paddock Scene (5:26)
  • Gerald’s Death (Extended Version) (2:28)
  • Old Folks At Home (Swanee River) (0:19)
  • The New Store (0:53)
  • Scarlett In Shantytown (2:32)
  • Ashley And Dr. Meade/Frank’s Death (1:59)
  • Belle Watling And Melanie (2:43)
  • Scarlett Gets Tipsy (0:46)
  • New Orleans Honeymoon (0:31)
  • Can-Can (0:34)
  • Scarlett’s New Wardrobe (0:47)
  • Scarlett’s Nightmare (2:24)
  • Bonnie’s Birth (1:22)
  • Twenty Inches! (4:45)
  • The Lumber Mill (2:12)
  • After The Party (2:54)
  • London (2:37)
  • Rhett And Scarlett’s Fight (3:31)
  • The Death Of Bonnie (2:27)
  • Melanie And Mammy (3:49)
  • The Death Of Melanie (5:19)
  • Scarlett In The Mist/Rhett Leaves (5:55)
  • Flashback/Finale (1:21)

Running Time: 147 minutes 15 seconds

Rhino RS-72269 (1939/1996)

Music composed and conducted by Max Steiner. Orchestrations by Leo Arnaud, R. H. Bassett, George Bassman, Cecil Copping, Maurice De Packh, Adolph Deutsch, Hugo Friedhofer, Bernhard Kaun, Arthur Kay, Albert Hay Malotte, Joseph Nussbaum, Darol Rice and Heinz Roemheld. Recorded and mixed by Earl B. Mounce. Edited by Stuart Frye. Score produced by Louis Forbes and Max Steiner. Album produced by George Feltenstein and Bradley Flanagan.

  1. December 2, 2015 at 3:29 am

    Quite a coincidence! Recently found this gem in a bargain bin: re-recorded by the NPO. Whilst the offering is a short 50 minutes, the quality was superb. Having the score on full blast when this post appeared. Quite a magnificent venture.

  2. Captain Future
    December 3, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    The above indicated re-recording by Charles Gerhardt is brilliant, as is all of the Classic Film Scores series. Great review, Craig, of one of the defining scores in film history.

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