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KINGS ROW – Erich Wolfgang Korngold


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1940 the publication of Henry Bellamann’s provocative novel “Kings Row” took the American public by storm, soaring to #1 on the best seller list. Producer Hal Wallis of Warner Brothers saw a powerful social narrative after reading the novel and immediately purchased the film rights for $35,000. Sam Wood was brought in to direct and Casey Robinson was given the unenviable Herculean task of adapting the massive 674-page novel to the screen. He rose to the task, and when compared to the novel, the film is tame, as the Joseph Breen, director of the Hays Code censored most of the more sordid and controversial elements of the plot, including all references to incest, nymphomania, euthanasia, sadism, homosexuality, casual sex and nude bathing. Wood brought in a stellar cast which included; Ann Sheridan as Randy Monaghan, Robert Cummings as Parris Mitchell, Ronald Reagan as Drake McHugh, Betty Field as Cassandra Tower, Charles Coburn as Dr. Henry Gordon, Claude Rains as Dr. Alexander Tower, Judith Anderson as Mrs. Harriet Gordon and Maria Ouspenskaya as Madame von Ein.

Casey Robinson navigated his adaptation of the novel by focusing on the altruism of a young idealistic physician confronted by the harsh realities of a cruel and horrifying world. The story follows hero Parris Mitchell of small-town America circa 1900. We follow him from childhood as he sees the idyllic and pristine veneer of his beloved Midwest childhood town slowly stripped bare before his eyes, revealing a grim and damning social commentary. The film was a massive commercial success earning $5.1 million or five times its production costs of $1.1 million. Kings Row did not initially receive critical acclaim, although it did earn three Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Warner Brothers contract gave him first choice of new projects and studio executives asked him to take on “Kings Row”, whose title he construed to concern another royal period piece. As such he composed a classic fanfare reale for the now iconic Main Title, which he decided to keep and develop for his film score. Kings Row continued Korngold’s late career transition from period piece and swashbuckling adventure films to adult dramas whose darker tones and complex narratives lent themselves well to his operatic writing. He had six weeks to compose and was again under time duress, but what resulted was one of the finest scores he ever composed, which was at once sumptuous, melodically rich, full of heartache and nostalgia. What is remarkable is that he wrote twelve themes, one for each character, as well as numerous secondary motifs. The manner in which he weaves his themes together, varies their expression, and joins them with exquisite contrapuntal writings offers testimony to his gift and mastery of his craft. In many ways, Kings Row is from a compositional standpoint, perhaps the most satisfying, and best score he ever composed.

Korngold composed five primary themes as well as six secondary themes. The resplendent major modal Kings Row Theme is iconic and has passed unto legend as one of the finest film openings in cinematic history. It is rendered in classic ABA form, with the A Phrase offering a rousing heraldic fanfare reale by horns nobile, while the B Phrase is sumptuous, carried by sweeping strings romantico. The theme is transpersonal, and represents the town itself, and the way Korngold varies its orchestrations, and articulation in regards to tempo and key is masterful. The theme also concludes the film, with its inspiring melody achieving a truly sublime communion with the poem “Invictus”. The Grandmother Theme offers a warm and tender beauty, which incorporates within its construct, phrasing kindred to the Kings Row Theme. Both the town and his grandmother are deeply important to Parris, and Korngold making them melodically kindred, is genius. Parris’ Theme supports our hero and offers a warm, masculine construct born of warm strings and French horns nobile, which speaks to his idealism and essential goodness. Drake’s Theme offers a cocky, and spirited construct by mid-register strings and perky woodwinds, which perfectly capture his jaunty spirit. Lastly, Randy’s Theme, provides the score’s most beautiful feminine construct born exquisitely by sumptuous violins romantico, woodwinds gentile and harp adornment.

For the six secondary themes we have; Cassie’s Theme is carried by graceful, resplendent strings and angelic harp, childlike in its sensibilities, yet its auras are minor modal, imparting a hidden sadness born from the sexual abuse by her father and withdraw remoteness of her mother. Dr. Tower’s Theme offers a misterioso of dread born by repeating, dire phrases by strings sinistre. It creates a lurking, intangible presence, which disturbs and unsettles. Dr. Gordon’s Theme serves as his identity and offers an ominous and diabolical construct. Dark timpani, foreboding woodwinds and dire strings agitato fill us with dread and elicits fear. Louise’s Theme is kindred to her father, Dr. Gordon’s Theme, and ingeniously conceived. It emotes as a non-resolving agitato, which reflects the conflict of loving Drake against her father’s wishes. Instructive is how her theme becomes twisted as she descends into madness. Tod’s Theme serves as his identity as Randy’s father and is kindred to the Main Theme in its articulation. It offers a gentle, welcoming construct born by warm French horns, which perfectly relate his paternal nature. Lastly, we have Elise’s Theme, which offers a sumptuous, graceful string born romance, infused with Viennese sensibilities. It is in reality, the Parris and Elise Love Theme, which will ultimately join the two together.

Korngold interpolated two classical pieces for his soundscape, Fantasie-Impromptu by Frederic Chopin and Piano Sonata No. 8, the Pathetique by Ludwig van Beethoven. He also infused his score with contemporaneous songs such as “Sunshine of Paradise Alley” (1890) by John Walter Bratton. The album’s cue presentation groups several for an extended play, which supports a multiplicity of scenes. Remarkable is how Korngold’s music is seamless in its narrative flow. Lastly, Korngold’s score resonated with the public and led to Warner’s Brothers reeling from thousands of requests for the sheet music. Remarkably, his outstanding score was not nominated for an Academy Award.

“Main Title” opens with trilling woodwinds and shimmering strings, which support the display of Warner Brother’s studio logo. We launch proudly into the Kings Row Theme atop a rousing heraldic fanfare reale by horns nobile, which supports the roll of the opening credits, and film title. We see a wagon rolling into town past a sign, which displays “Kings Row 1890, A good town, a clean town, a good town to live in, and a good place to raise your children” – a façade which covers a very different reality. At 1:16 we segue into “The School” as we see happy kids leaving the school house. Resplendent strings imbue a carefree and youthful joy as Korngold interpolates the nursery song “A Tisket, A Tasket” sung by children’s choir. At 1:45 we segue into “Parris and Cassie” as we see the two play, and swim as they head home. A bright, playful and carefree extended rendering of the Kings Row Theme carries their progress, achieving a perfect confluence with the film imagery. At 2:26 we segue into “Grandmother” atop racing strings animato, which carry Parris’ run to his home. As he arrives and declares himself to his grandmother, her warm theme joins with the Kings Row Theme as we are bathed with her loving, welcoming kindness. Happiness abounds as we see this loving grandmother grandson moment. We conclude the scene with one of the score’s finest passages, where we are graced with an extended rendering of the Grandmother’s Theme. The passage abounds with maternal love, and is adorned with exquisite solo violin.

As Parris plays the piano diegetically, we segue at 5:34 with disquiet into “Cassie’s Party” where we see an outdoor dining party, which is somber and lacks the usually playful energy of happy children. Korngold introduces Cassie’s Theme to support the scene. She is unhappy, crying and asks Parris and the other kids to leave. Her theme’s graceful, melody, replete with angelic harp carries Parris’ walk into the house to say his goodbyes to Mrs. Tower. As he ascends the stairs trepidation enters and the melodic flow dissolves at 7:13 as Mr. Tower stops his progress and asks him to leave. The cue “Louise’s Party and Drake” was dialed out of the film, and it is a shame because I believe Korngold’s music was spot on. On the album strings doloroso emote the A Phrase of the Main Theme as Parris heads to Louise’s house. A fragment of “A Tisket, A Tasket” introduces us to Drake’s Theme, a cocky, boisterous construct by mid-register strings and perky woodwinds, which perfectly capture his jaunty spirit as he walks with Parris, arm on shoulder. We conclude the sequence at 9:04 with “Icehouse” as the boys arrive at the train depot and invite Randy to the swings in the Elroy ice house. Korngold introduces Randy’s Theme, which provides the score’s most beautiful feminine construct born exquisitely by sumptuous violins romantico, woodwinds gentile and harp adornment. We conclude with an effusive, playful rendering of the Kings Row Theme, which support their play.

“Operation” reveals Parris and Drake coming upon their friend Willie who is a crying as they walk home. A bouncing Kings Row Theme carries their progress, yet we discern troubling undercurrents as they find Willie. Shimmering tremolo strings usher in the ominous Dr. Gordon’s Theme at 0:13 as Willie relates that his dad is undergoing surgery without anesthesia. Dark timpani, foreboding woodwinds and dire strings agitato fill us with dread as we hear the man screaming in agony. As the boys flee in terror Gordon’s Theme builds as flight music to a frightening crescendo. Wood dialed out the rest of the cue beginning at 1:14, which was unfortunate as it enhances the boy’s flight. At 1:25 we segue into “Farewell — Parris Returns” a pivotal scene. As Parris reaches home, he is met by a sobbing Cassie, who informs him that her father has pulled her out of school. Her theme surges in agony at 1:42 as she relates her plight to Parris. The pathos born of her theme truly makes this scene. After she flees, a sad Parris enters his farm at 3:10, supported by a plaintive rendering of the Kings Row Theme. At 3:24 we shift forward in time and a proud rendering of the Kings Row Theme supports the appearance of Parris as a handsome young man departing his farm. At 3:59 we segue into “Parris Goes to Dr. Tower” as we follow Parris walking to Dr. Tower’s house where he will prep for medical school in Vienna. He comes upon Drake in a carriage with two women, and after some chit chat Drake departs supported by his cocky theme. The Kings Row Theme on strings gentile carry Parris to the Tower residence. We conclude on a diminuendo of sadness as Cassie greets him and then scurries away, unable to face him.

In “Winter” Dr. Tower has agreed to mentor Parris. After setting forth his rules and expectations, the camera pans out the window for snow draped scenes of winter supported by an eerie rendering of the Kings Row Theme, which shifts to and fro with the currents of the wind. At 0:11 we segue into “Grandmother’s Last Will”, a score highlight where we are graced by an exquisite extended rendering of Grandmother’s Theme, which achieves a perfect confluence with the film. We see her formalizing her Last Will and Testament with her lawyer, supported by a heartfelt rendering of the Kings Row Theme. She confides that she will soon die, and as she departs for her bedroom we are graced by a warm rendering of her theme. The heartfelt music is sustained as she speaks with Parris in his room, providing a tender and very moving Grandmother-Grandson moment. At 3:14 we segue into “Parris, Cassie, Drake and Louise” atop a warm Kings Row Theme as Parris departs the Tower residence. Cassie is reading on the porch, and as their eyes lock her theme rises passionately, yet its articulation is fleeting, quickly mutating into a disturbing tortured pathos as she flees from him into the house. At 3:54 Drake drives by carried by his jaunty theme. Parris joins him for a ride to Louise’s house as he intends to propose to her. The meeting is tense and supported by the agitato of Louise’s theme as she relates to him her parent’s disapproval of his wild ways. The entrance of “Dr. Gordon” is unscored as he refuses to even discuss the matter with Drake. When Louise refuses his offer, he departs in “Drake’s Exit” carried by an angry rendering of his theme.

“Seduction” reveals Parris going to the Tower residence during a thunderstorm to retrieve his notes. Korngold supports his progress with a stormy orchestral torrent. Cassie lets him into the house, asks him to stay, and then relates that her father has left for St. Louis for three days. As he tries to connect with her, and unlock the mystery that surrounds her, Korngold sows tension with tortured statements of her theme with interplay of a minor modal variant of the Kings Row Theme. We see in her eyes a desperate yearning, they kiss, she pulls away, closes the door and turns off the parlor light. They kiss and embrace supported by a now liberated expression of her theme, abounding with passion, and entwined in rapturous interplay with the Kings Row Theme. This for me is one of the score’s supreme moments, and yet the album does not contain the music as the source tapes for this scene were lost. I provide you a description from the music as heard in the film itself. At 1:52 we segue into “Drake’s Home” where Parris wakes him, and asks to stay the night. Drake eventually figures it out that Parris and Cassie made love and congratulates him. Drake’s Theme supports the scene as Drake revels in Parris’ conquest. Sadly, the cue “Dreaming Voices”, which begins at 2:44, is attached to a scene deleted from the film where we see Parris and Cassie both restless and unable to sleep from the blossoming of their long-denied love for each other. The music is exquisite and offers a beautiful exposition of Cassie’s Theme by solo violin romantico supported by kindred strings and twinkling metallic percussion. In “Grandma and Anna” we are offered another magnificent score highlight. Madame Von El insists that her servant Anna not disclose he impending death to Parris. Korngold provides an extended rendering of Grandmother’s Theme that is exquisitely romantic, and graces us with a soliloquy by contrapuntal solo violin. Sadly, Wood cut down the scene, which is far shorter than the 3:08 minute cue. At 3:09 we segue into “Orchard — Dr. Tower” Parris and Drake talk together in an orchard regarding Parris’ feelings for Cassie. Drake’s arrival is carried by his theme, yet as the two discuss Cassie, a plaintive rendering of her theme supports the conversation.

In “Poco Agitato (Cancer)” Parris discovers a hypodermic syringe, which triggers a revelation by Anna that his grandmother is dying of cancer. He is devastated that she withheld this from him and Korngold speaks to this with a grieving rendering of her theme, which evolves into an elegy, so full of heart ache. At 2:07 we segue into “Love Scene” where Parris meets Cassie in the forest by their cherished secret pond. Her theme is dichotomous in expression, alternating agitation and romance as her tortured psyche reaches out for Parris’ love, only to recoil from her hidden dark secret. We build to a powerful climax so full of yearning as they embrace, yet its climax is not hopeful as we see in her eyes a futility, the hidden specter of an insurmountable impediment. We end on an agitato as she flees from him. At 6:34 we segue into “Grandmother Dies” where Parris and Anna witness her passing, which is supported by a grieving rendering of her theme. At 7:18 we segue into “Sunset” where we see Parris walking against a sunset draped sky supported by a last gorgeous reprise of Grandmother’s Theme, a testament of his love for her. At 7:36 we segue into “Parris Packing” as he thanks Drake for putting him up and storing his books while he studies in Vienna. A warm rendering of Drake’s Theme supports the scene. At 8:15 we flow into “Cassie” who comes to see Parris, begging him to take her away. She is both desperate and terrorized, which is reflected in the urgency of her ever shifting theme. When Parris defers and asks her to wait for him to return from medical school, she panics, forbids him to follow and flees, carried by the agitato variant of her theme. At 9:54 we segue into “All Is Quiet” where we see Parris and Drake trailing Cassie to her house. When they arrive, Dr. Tower is sitting calmly on his porch smoking. Cassie comes out, returns to the house, with her father following. Drake convinces Parris to let it be until tomorrow. Korngold weaves a misterioso with dire repeated statements of Dr. Tower’s Theme. We segue darkly at 10:56 into “Next Morning” where Drake informs Parris that Cassie has been found dead, with her father also dead from suicide. Korngold draws forth a bleak pall of death born of grim low register strings.

“Dr. Tower’s House” reveals Drake providing false testimony to Colonel Skeffington that he and Cassie were eloping to protect Parris from any possible involvement. He is stunned when he is informed that Dr. Tower bequeathed his entire estate to Parris. A grim Dr. Tower’s Theme supports Drake’s ‘confession’. At 0:29 we segue into “Dr. Gordon” atop other worldly strings, which usher in Dr. Gordon’s grim theme as he watches Drake depart through a window. Later Parris reads Dr. Tower’s journal, which describes Cassie as suffering from dementia. He is filled with sadness and Korngold speaks to this with a plaintive rendering of the Main Theme, which ends with a final grim reprise of Dr. Tower’s Theme. In “Farewell – Randy” Parris bids farewell to Anna, saying she may stay in the home as long as she wants. A fleeting reference to Grandmother’s Theme bonds them at this time of parting. At 0:18 Randy arrives carried by her sumptuous theme as she joins Drake to say farewell. We conclude with Parris’ Theme, which synchronizes with the train’s mechanical cadence as he departs the station. We segue into “Flirt” at 1:43 atop Drake’s Theme on violin as he flirts with Randy, who succumbs to his charm and agrees to go with him on a buggy ride. An exuberant rendering of his theme supports their playful ride in the countryside. As they bond and she accepts his offer of a kiss, her theme joins on strings romantico to celebrate the moment. At 2:56 fanfare supports a change of scenes to “Vienna — Happy New Year” where we see Parris dutifully studying. Korngold draws from his Austrian roots to provide a Strauss like waltz as Parris writes Drake a New Year’s Day letter. A change of seasons leads to a segue at 3:32 to “Randy and Drake” a wonderful score highlight, which offers extended interplay of Randy and Drakes Themes as their love deepens. We see them celebrating the new century in the snow, transitioning to a carriage ride in Spring supported by extended interplay of Randy’s Theme, and an exuberant rendering of Drake’s Theme. They are having great fun and Korngold creates a romance based on her theme to inform us that Drake has met his match and finally fallen in love. We segue at 6:54 into “Louise” as his carriage takes them past Louise’s home, where we see her distraught at the two of them together. Louise’s theme emotes as an agitato empowered by horns irato as she becomes enraged and argues with her mother.

In “Drake Is Mad” he becomes angry when Randy again does not allow him to drop her off at home and then states that she has no intention of ever marrying him as he is an uptown guy and she a downtown gal living on the other side of the tracks. Korngold supports the revelation with an angry rendering of his theme as they depart. Later as she prepares to serve dinner to her father and brother, Drake burst in and declares his feelings to them regarding Randy again carried by an angry rendering of his theme. Well he wins them over, and Randy invites him to dinner supported by a brief statement of her theme. The next day we segue at 0:49 into “Bank” atop his theme rendered once again with an exuberant joie de vivre as he and Randy ride to the bank. As the bank manager leaves to investigate his overdrawn account Drake provides Randy with some comedy supported by a playful rendering of his theme. At 1:23 we segue into “Sale – Newspaper” where Korngold sows a misterioso with eerie trilling woodwinds as the bank manager discovers Drake’s trust documents have been stolen from the secure bank vault. We close with repeating aggressive dire horns declarations of Drake’s Theme with contrapuntal strings as the newspaper reports that a bank employee has absconded to Mexica with several stolen trust funds. Drake is penniless, and we segue into “Randy’s Father” atop a plaintive oboe emoting his theme as he flutily searches for work. He approaches Randy’s father’s shop in search of employment and is greeted by the warm paternal French horns emoting Tod’s Theme. At 3:15 we are graced with a sumptuous string laden rendering of Randy’ Theme replete with solo violin solos as she joins them and we see in her eyes a blossoming love for Drake. Tod is able to get Drake a job in the railroad yard and we segue into “Railroad Station” atop dark portentous low register orchestral rumbling with muted horns of doom as we see Drake walking at night amidst the trains – an allusion to his fate. He comes upon Randy supported by a gentle rendering of her theme, who is waiting for him with a pot of hot coffee. She informs him that he will be receiving a promotion for his hard work and he shares a letter from Parris, who will soon be returning with a degree in Psychiatry. We close warmly atop the Kings Row Theme as Drake confesses his love and states that he has no regrets leaving Kings Row.

In “Randy” she say goodbye to Drake and departs carried by a romantic rendering of her theme replete with solo violin and harp adornment. At 0:44 we segue darkly into “Accident” with repeating grim renderings of Drake’s Theme as a pile of cinder blocks topple over knocking him onto the railroad tracks where a train apparently rolls over him. Korngold whips his orchestra into frantic action as an urgent call is sent to Dr. Gordon. We segue at 1:14 atop a grim rendering of Dr. Gordon’s Theme into “Poco Adagio (Amputation)” as Dr. Gordon prepares to amputate both of Drake’s mangled legs in hope of saving his life. As he prepares for surgery we are unsettled as his theme grows more intense, closing with grim finality. At 2:02 we segue at into “Dr. Gordon and Louise” one of the score’s most intense cues. Dr. Gordon is eating a late dinner and Louise confronts her him over Drake fate, having seen the surgical carnage. He will have none of it, yet she does not back down, she calls him a monster and threatens to expose the dark secrets of his surgery. He slaps her and threatens to commit her to an insane asylum if she does not go to her room and be silent. An unsettled variant of her theme carries her to him, yet his theme rises like a fierce storm, dominating the scene with a powerful and menacing exposition, which overwhelms Louise. As she succumbs to his threats the orchestral storm dissipates and she departs supported by a diminuendo of his theme that dissipates on a dark bass sustain. We segue at 4:00 into “Drake Awakes” as Tod counsels an exhausted Randy to rest and eat. A warm rendering of his theme joins in tender interplay with her theme to support the scene. The moment is shattered by news that Drake is waking up, followed by his desperate screams for her. As she races up the stairs his theme resounds on trumpets orribile, which joins with Parris’ Theme as he cries out in shock “Where is the rest of me!” As he passes out, we close at 5:34 with “Vienna University” with a bright and confident rendering of Parris’ Theme as he receives a letter from Randy and gladly accepts a teaching post in the Psychiatry department.

In “Vienna” Parris departs the professor’s office carried by a joyous rendering of his theme, whose articulation changes dramatically to exude sympathy and compassion as he opens and reads the letter. Interplay with a beleaguered variant of Drake’s Theme underscores his circumstance, yet also the bond between the two men. At 1:08 we segue into “Letters Across the Ocean”, which offers another stirring score highlight. Drake is despondent, but Randy will have none of it and reaffirms both her love and determination for them to marry and start a new life together. Korngold graces us with a gorgeous extended romantic exposition of her theme, which is achingly beautiful, and achieves a sublime confluence with her declaration of love. At 3:15 Korngold bathes us in ever shifting otherworldly textural auras and harmonics, which support the exchange of letters between Parris and Randy.

“Parris Comes Back” reveals Parris’s return to Kings Row carried by his theme. Wood dialed out 0:00 – 0:27 of the cue, preferring to open with the happiness of Randy’s Theme as she rushes to greet and embrace him. A stirring impassioned ascent on Parris’s Theme carries them upwards as the run up the stairs to greet Drake. The reunion is very moving and as Parris hugs Drake we are bathed with the warm and comforting auras of Parris’s Theme, which elevates this scene to the sublime, a perfect synergy of music and acting. We close with religioso auras as Randy closes the door and thanks the Virgin Mary as the two men are again united. At 1:40 we segue into “Poco Solemne (Kings Row I)” atop the Kings Row Theme rendered by French horns nobile as Colonel Skeffington and town leaders recruit Parris to assume the role of town physician as Dr. Gordon had recently died. We segue at 2:15 into “Mrs. Gordon” as Parris is handed a letter from her. A fleeting reference to Dr. Gordon’s Theme carries the moment. Parris visits Mrs. Gordon who is very distraught. She relates that after her husband died, she found Louise defaming his good name. Later after she received news that Drake and Randy married, she confined herself to her room and refuses to see anyone. Unsettling woodwind figures support their conversation. Parris agrees to see her and at 2:46 we segue into “Louise’s Bedroom” carried by a woodwind ascent that commences with a bass clarinet and culminates with flute as Parris ascends to her upstairs bedroom. Inside she confides to him that her father willfully punished people he felt were sinners, and asserts he needlessly amputated Drake’s legs. Parris is taken aback by this revelation, gains her confidence and calms her and promises her that he will investigate. Their interaction is supported by a twisted rendering of her theme, which reflects her worsening mental instability. The joining of her odd personal affect and Korngold’s music made this scene truly disturbing. We close at 4:12 eerily atop two chords with “Dissolve”, which takes us to Colonel Skeffington’s office where Parris informs him of Louise’s allegations.

In “Kings Row II” the Colonel counsels Parris to give it up and to take his post in Vienna. As he looks out the window the King Rown Theme is provided a heartfelt exposition as Parris relates that he is rooted in the town and could never leave it. He departs to visit his home and we segue into “Elise” at 1:39, which offers a beautiful score highlight. Parris arrives at the gate carried by his confident theme with interplay of the Kings Row Theme. He is startled to see a beautiful woman in a white dress by the pond, calls out Cassie, and runs to her, only to discover Elise, daughter of his caretaker. As they converse, we discern a nascent attraction, which Korngold supports with an extended romantic rendering of the Kings Row Theme. They depart, return to his house, where she introduces him to her father. They invite him to stay and he is drawn to his old piano, where he plays Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata for Elise (not included on the album). At 3:23 we segue into “Beethoven’s Pathetique” following the sonata where we see she is smitten with Parris and introduced to Elise’s Theme, a sumptuous, graceful string born romance, infused with Viennese sensibilities. The cue “Randy’s Sacrifice” has been lost and is not found on the album. In the film Randy opens up to Parris about her love for Drake, and the challenges of dealing with his self-imposed isolation from people. Korngold supports her story with a touching, yet plaintive rendering of her theme, which is shattered by the crazed entry of Louise who threatens to expose her father’s sadism. She is clearly insane and any consonance in her theme has vanished, leaving a twisted mutated construct. After she leaves Randy’s brother confirms Parris’ suspicions that Drakes leg bones were intact and that the amputation was not necessary. We segue at 4:46 into “Randy Weeps” where she weeps uncontrollably, only to be assuaged by Parris that he will commit Louise to an insane asylum to bury the terrible secret. We segue at 5:17 into “Parris’s Letter” where we see him writing the letter supported by aggrieved rendering of his theme as he struggles with his decision. We flow into “Parris – Elise” at 5:31 atop horns doloroso emoting a minor modal variant of the Kings Row Theme. Parris is conflicted about committing Louise and seeks the counsel of Elisa. He wants to leave this sordid mess behind and asks if she would go with him to Vienna, only to hear her disappointment. As she

confesses her love for him her sumptuous theme swells and Parris understands that there is but one solution, and rushes off to see Drake carried by his theme. He bursts into Drake’s room and over Randy’s objections prepares him for a devastating but necessary revelation by reciting part of the “Invictus” poem by William Ernest Henly;

“Out of the night that covers me Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbow’d.”

He tells Drake that Gordon needlessly cut of his legs as punishment, hoping to cripple his body and spirit, and that he needed to decide if he succeeded or not. We segue into “Invictus” at 7:46 atop rising chords where we see after a moment of thought, Drake begin laughing, declaring to Randy that he does not live in his legs and that they were going to go out and build a life together. As Parris departs for home Korngold begins an impassioned crescendo upon a refulgent Kings Row Theme, which swells with stirring emotive power, concluding with a grand flourish as Parris and Elise run through the fields to each other and embrace in love. Regretfully the over dubbed choral tracks of a chorus singing the last two lines of “Invictus” were lost;

“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

So only the orchestra portion of the cue is found on the album, and it is a shame because as good as the album version is, the film version with choir is truly sublime. We conclude at 8:35 with “End Cast” that features a rousing rendering of the Main Theme, which concludes grandly with a flourish!

I would like to thank Lukas Kendall and Film Score Monthly for the long-sought release of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s masterpiece, “Kings Row”. The remastering challenge was daunting as all Doug Schwartz had to work with was the original ¼ inch tape of the monaural nitrate optical film. I commend the effort made, and the album does provide a nice listening experience, yet I advise the reader that today’s qualitative recording standards were not achieved. The score is also not complete as a few cues were lost as well as the choir work of the “Invictus” cue. Folks, this score epitomizes the heights that film score art can achieve. With our current state of affairs, we are thankful if we even get a main theme. Korngold provided an astonishing eleven themes, each with beautiful melodies, that often-had extended expositions. Their interplay, variation and juxtaposition are masterful and illustrative of his compositional brilliance. In scene after scene Korngold fleshed out the character’s emotional drivers, often achieving a breath-taking confluence with the film’s narrative. Woods vision was in large part realized because of Korngold’s mastery of his craft. I consider this one of the finest in Korngold’s canon, a gem of the Golden Age and essential to collectors of film score art. I highly recommend you purchase this masterpiece of film music.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to the rousing and now iconic Main Title, which is included in a suite performed under the baton of Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJwa9mX0bxA

Buy the Kings Row soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title/The School/Parris and Cassie/Grandmother/Cassie’s Party/Louise’s Party and Drake/Icehouse (10:19)
  • Operation/Farewell – Parris Returns/Parris Goes to Dr. Tower (4:57)
  • Winter/Grandmother’s Last Will/Parris, Cassie, Drake and Louise/Dr. Gordon/Drake’s Exit (6:02)
  • Seduction/Drake’s Home/Dreaming Voices (3:52)
  • Grandma and Anna/Orchard – Dr. Tower (5:09)
  • Poco Agitato (Cancer)/Love Scene/Grandmother Dies/Sunset/Parris Packing/Cassie/All Is Quiet/Next Morning (11:39)
  • Dr. Tower’s House/Dr. Gordon (2:25)
  • Farewell – Randy/Flirt/Vienna – Happy New Year/Randy and Drake/Louise (7:45)
  • Drake Is Mad/Bank/Sale – Newspaper/Randy’s Father/Railroad Station (6:54)
  • Randy/Accident/Poco Adagio (Amputation)/Dr. Gordon and Louise/Drake Awakes/Vienna University (6:09)
  • Vienna/Letters Across The Ocean (4:59)
  • Parris Comes Back/Poco Solemne (Kings Row I)/Mrs. Gordon/Louise’s Bedroom/Dissolve (4:21)
  • Kings Row II/Elise/Beethoven’s Pathetique/Randy Weeps/Parris’s Letter/Parris – Elise/Invictus/End Cast (9:38)

Running Time: 84 minutes 33 seconds

Film Score Monthly FSMCD-10-15 (1942/2007)

Music composed and conducted by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer, Ray Heindorf, Bernhaud Kaun and Milan Roder. Score produced by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Leo F. Forbstein. Album produced by Lukas Kendall.

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  1. August 6, 2016 at 9:59 am

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