Home > Reviews > JOHN WILLIAMS REVIEWS – 1960-1969


September 10, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

In this latest installment of the new irregular series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we switch to Hollywood to look at the work of John Williams.

Williams attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and studied privately with the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, before being drafted into the U.S. Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for Air Force bands as part of his assignments. After his service, Williams moved back to New York, and studied both at the Juilliard School, and at the Eastman School of Music, while moonlighting as a jazz pianist.

After completing his studies, Williams worked in Hollywood, orchestrating and performing piano on film scores for composers such as Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith. Williams made his film music composing debut in 1959 on the film Daddy-O at the age of 27 – credited as Johnny Williams – and these first reviews look at sixteen subsequent film scores Williams that wrote between 1960 and 1969.

Not included here are the multitude of episodic TV scores he wrote during the period for shows and anthology series like Alcoa Premier, Playhouse 90, M-Squad, Wagon Train, Impact, The Virginian, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants, and others. Nor am I including the two scores where Williams adapted music by other people: Valley of the Dolls (1967), where Williams worked with music by André Previn and Dory Previn and for which he received his first Oscar nomination for Best Adaptation Score of a Musical Picture, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), where Williams adapted music by Leslie Bricusse, and for which he earned his second nomination in the same category.



Checkmate was a detective television series starring Anthony George, Sebastian Cabot, and Doug McClure. The show aired on CBS Television from 1960 to 1962 for a total of 70 episodes, and followed the activities of a San Francisco detective agency called Checkmate, Inc., which specializes in preventing crimes before they happen. The show was young Johnny Williams’s first series as primary theme and episode composer, and his first album as a featured artist for Columbia Records. It was incredibly popular at the time, earning Williams his first Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack Album or Recording or Score from Motion Picture or Television in 1962.

Williams wrote a superb main title theme for the show, with a thrilling electric guitar ostinato and aggressive big band-style brass. The rest of the score has been described as ‘smoky, melodic and cool,’ and these adjectives are perfect. Standout tracks include “Cyanide Touch,” the darkly moody “En Passant” with its bass flutes and xylophones, the charming “The Bishop’s Retreat,” the indolent “Queen’s Sacrifice,” and the vivacious “The King Swings,” and anyone who is a fan 1960s jazz from TV crime shows like Peter Gunn, Mannix, or Johnny Staccato will absolutely find Checkmate to their liking.

As a bonus, the CD also features an album curio called Rhythm in Motion, which does not feature any Williams compositions, but is instead comprised of 12 popular showtunes by artists like George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers, arranged by Williams into upbeat instrumentals for an enhanced big band. These two vintage Columbia LPs were re-mastered from the original stereo master tapes for enhanced sound, and the booklet features a lengthy essay by Williams expert Jeff Eldridge, plus additional noted from original LP producer Jim Harbert.

Track Listing: 1. Theme from Checkmate (2:14), 2. The Isolated Pawn (3:25), 3. Cyanide Touch (2:37), 4. Far Out Place (3:29), 5. Hassle in the Castle (2:30), 6. En Passant (2:36), 7. The Black Knight (2:22), 8. Fireside Eyes (3:12), 9. The Bishop’s Retreat (3:13), 10. Queen’s Sacrifice (3:17), 11. Shy Youth (2:40), 12. The King Swings (2:42), 13. Rhythm in Motion: Fascinatin’ Rhythm (written by George Gershwin) (2:47), 14. Rhythm in Motion: The Varsity Drag (written by Ray Henderson) (2:44), 15. Rhythm in Motion: The Surrey With The Fringe On Top (written by Richard Rodgers) (3:09), 16. Rhythm in Motion: Let’s Do It (written by Cole Porter) (2:49), 17. Rhythm in Motion: Put On A Happy Face (written by Charles Strouse) (2:12), 18. Rhythm in Motion: Whatever Lola Wants (written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross) (3:42), 19. Rhythm in Motion: Johnny One Note (written by Richard Rodgers) (2:14), 20. Rhythm in Motion: An Occasional Man (written by Hugh Martin) (3:22), 21. Rhythm in Motion: My Heart Belongs To Daddy (written by Cole Porter) (3:15), 22. Rhythm in Motion: Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries (written by Ray Henderson) (2:54), 23. Rhythm in Motion: Sunny Disposish (written by Philip Charig) (2:24), 24. Rhythm in Motion: Buckle Down Winsocki (written by Hugh Martin) (2:58). Film Score Monthly FSMCD-9/8, 68 minutes 47 seconds.



Bachelor Flat was a farcical relationship comedy directed by Frank Tashlin, starring that great British screen lothario Terry-Thomas. Here he plays Reginald Patterson, an anthropology professor who moves from England to Malibu to move in with his new fiancée, Helen (Celeste Holm). When Helen is unexpectedly called away on business, Reggie is left alone in the new flat, and before long has to deal with various issues, including the unwanted attentions of several of Helen’s sex-starved neighbors, a misbehaving dachshund, and a cynical law student who develops a crush on Helen’s 17-year-old daughter Libby.

Much of the score is lightly jazzy, with lounge riffs and 1960s pop-styled orchestrations, but there are several cues which stand out and being unexpectedly sophisticated for a composer as young as Williams was at the time; there are quite a few sequences of energetic scherzo-style writing that pre-dates the similar work he did on Irwin Allen TV shows, with special emphasis on lively woodwind and string performances. It’s all rather scatterbrained and filled with an energetic tomfoolery, but it’s a great deal of fun.

The album opens with a wry fife-and-drum pastiche of civil war Americana which becomes a dainty woodwind comedy scherzo in “Reggie in the Colonies,” while the subsequent “Main Title,” is a blustery orchestral march for dancing woodwind lines and pizzicato strings. “Mama in Paris” has a warm string sound, with a hint of longing to it, and a Gallic flavor to the orchestrations. The unexpectedly-named “Bra and Panties” has a touch of embarrassed horror in its dissonance, while “Galloping Gladys” infuses a bit of Ravel’s Bolero into the mix through its use of flamboyant castanets.

The score for Bachelor Flat was never released in any form prior to 2008, making it one of the rarest and least-known scores of Williams’s early career. It finally made its way to CD courtesy Intrada Records, who released is as part of a double-CD along with the score for the 1966 film How to Steal a Million. The sound quality is a little lacking, but it’s a fun and lively entry from the earliest years of the maestro’s career.

Track Listing: 1. Reggie in the Colonies (1:13), 2. Main Title (1:58), 3. Professor’s Pad/Libby Comes Home (2:32), 4. Mama in Paris (2:09), 5. Transistor Radio (2:19), 6. Home Cookin’ (1:05), 7. Libby Da Lip/Bra and Panties (1:18), 8. Poor Mike/Short Trip (2:49), 9. Artificial Respiration (3:08), 10. Mambone (3:07), 11. Effects of Alcohol (1:37), 12. Galloping Gladys (2:12), 13. End Cast (0:31), 14. Trailer (2:47). Intrada ISC-83, 28 minutes 46 seconds.



One of the first Williams-scored films to achieve any kind of commercial success was Diamond Head, a multi-generational epic drama-romance set in Hawaii, directed by Guy Green amd starring Charlton Heston. Heston plays Richard Howland, a rich pineapple grower and prospective US Senatorial candidate, who tries to use his wealth and influence to buy power, love, and happiness for himself and his family, irrespective of who or what stands in his way. The film co-stars Yvette Mimieux, George Chakiris from West Side Story, and Polynesian actress France Nguyen from South Pacific.

Williams’s score is a combination of sweeping melodrama, light jazz, and Hawaiian influences, the latter to characterize the film’s setting on the Big Island. The “Main Title” is a sweeping, grand affair full of resounding horn chords, which gradually give way into the lilting, undulating main theme, performed by an enormous bank of Hollywood strings. The latter half of the cue is punctuated with punchy, dramatic trumpets and nimble woodwinds; even at this age, Williams knew his way around an orchestra.

The main theme returns, more intimately, in “Sloan Strolls,” the lively and tropical “Diamond Head Theme,” and the more intense “Sloan’s Dream,” one of the few chances Williams gets to show off his talent for dramatic scoring. Meanwhile, cues like “Luau Dance,” “Honolulu Drive,” “Catamaran,” are laid back lounge jazz pieces, full of tinkling pianos, sultry saxophones, and lush strings, while “Hawaiian Welcome” and “Manoalani” have the air of a flowing island breeze through the combination of Hollywood and traditional ukeleles.

The score for Diamond Head was one of the first LPs released featuring John Williams music, although at that point the selling point was the eponymous song, written by Williams with Mac David and Hugo Winterthaler, and crooned by actor James Darren. In 2006 the score was released on CD for the first time as part of the Film Score Monthly Silver Age Classic series, paired with Lalo Schifrin’s score for the 1964 film Gone With the Wave.

Track Listing: 1. Diamond Head (written by John Williams, Hugo Winterhalter, and Mack David, performed by James Darren) (2:46), 2. Main Title (3:11), 3. Luau Dance (1:52), 4. Sloan Strolls (2:19), 5. Honolulu Dive (2:43), 6. Catamaran (2:52), 7. Diamond Head Theme (2:29), 8. Hawaiian Welcome (2:34), 9. Sloan’s Dream (2:59), 10. Mei Chen (2:46), 11. Manoalani (2:28), 12. End Title (1:53). Film Score Monthly FSMCD-9/9, 31 minutes 35 seconds.



The Killers was a hard-boiled action thriller based on a novel by Ernest Hemingway, starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, and Ronald Reagan, and directed by Don Siegel, many years before he would team up with Clint Eastwood. It’s a pulp gangster story about two morally ambiguous hitmen who find themselves having to solve the mystery of why they were hired to kill their most recent victim, a former race car driver turned criminal. It’s a remake of the 1946 film of the same name, which starred Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner and was scored by Miklós Rózsa, and was quite popular, winning Marvin a BAFTA for Best Foreign Actor in 1966, when the film opened in Britain.

The film’s exciting, dynamic, darkly jazzy main title is actually from the score for the 1958 film Touch of Evil by Henry Mancini; and there is also one original song, “Too Little Time,” written by Mancini based on his own score for The Glenn Miller Story, and performed by Nancy Wilson. Williams’s contributions are less bold and immediate as Mancini’s brutal brass main theme, but there is still plenty to appreciate: there are numerous moments of bass-heavy staccato action and suspense writing, including “The Hit,” “The Detour,” “Questioning Sheila,” “The Ambush,” and others. In fact, much of the music has a similar feel to that which Jerry Fielding would write for later Siegel films, a sort of gritty, moody jazz enriched by moments of quite dark and aggressive orchestral mayhem.

Elsewhere, there’s a pretty love theme for Angie Dickinson’s character, a bittersweet piece for strings and wandering jazzy flutes that captures her essence as a femme fatale, and can be heard in “Sheila,” “Sheila’s Place,” and the extended “At the Hospital (The Truth About Sheila)”. “Go Cart Scherzo” is a neat piece for flamboyant dancing strings and pizzicato effects.

Unfortunately the score for The Killers has never been released commercially on CD; the only available recording is a bootleg ripped from the isolated score track on the DVD, which is peppered with faint sound effects and dialogue snippets that hamper the listening experience. Still, as this is all we have, it’s worth finding for Williams fans, as an excellent example fo one his earliest straight drama scores.

Track Listing: 1. Main Title (written by Henry Mancini) (1:30), 2. The Hit (1:38), 3. Sheila (0:48), 4. Go Cart Scherzo (1:47), 5. Too Little Time (written by Henry Mancini, performed by Nancy Wilson) (2:10), 6. Sheila’s Pad (2:26), 7. The Crash (0:35), 8. At the Hospital (The Truth About Sheila) (4:22), 9. The Restaurant (1:51), 10. New Orleans (0:14), 11. The Preposition (2:59), 12. The Detour (1:39), 13. The Heist (0:18), 14. Questioning Jack (0:40), 15. Questioning Sheila (1:09), 16. Out The Window (1:06), 17. The Double Cross (4:15), 18. The Ambush (2:15), 19. The End (1:34), 20.End Cast (0:36), 21. Too Little Time – Instrumental (written by Henry Mancini) (3:00). Bootleg, 37 minutes 03 seconds.



None But the Brave was one of the first serious dramatic films scored by John Williams. It’s war drama, the first Japanese-American co-production following the end of WWII – between Warner Bros. and Toho – and is the only film ever directed by Frank Sinatra. It’s a somewhat bleak film, an anti-war parable, about a group of American soldiers in World War II (Sinatra, Clint Walker, Tommy Sands), and a similar group of Japanese soldiers (led by Tatsuya Mihashi), who find themselves having to co-operate and live side-by-side after both groups are stranded on the same remote Pacific island. It was not well-reviewed at the time, but has been looked on more favorably by history, which now considers it a pioneer of the ‘pacificist war movie’ genre.

To match the tone of the film, Williams’s music is necessarily subdued and respectful of the situation. The main title opens with a flurry of horns, but from there on in much of the score is performed by soft strings, light woodwinds, and terse militaristic percussion, all with a general tone of somber introspection and seriousness. There is very little in the way of recurring thematic material, with Williams instead content simply to score the drama in the moment. To capture the Japanese element Williams uses a vaguely Oriental-sounding chord progression and accompanying woodwind textures, which are first heard in “Kuroki’s Introduction” and continues through cues like “Okuda Whistles,” “Kuroki’s Challenge,” “Water Logged,” the most friendly-sounding and playful “Okuda and Craddock,” and others, but to his credit he avoids entirely the ching-chong clichés that were so stereotypical of the period.

The music crescendos in cues like “Night Adventure,” “When Enemies Meet,” “The Water Hole,” and the intense “The Dream of Hope is Ashes,” which are the best of a series of tight, nervous action sequences for stabbing brasses and abstract, frenzied percussion hits. Elsewhere, in cues like “Kuroki’s Reflection” and “Mahoney’s Reflection,” the sadness and hopelessness of war is touchingly captured through a return to the warm, bittersweet horns from the opening title. Interestingly, there are also several moments which foreshadow some of the compositional tics that Williams would use to greater effect later in his career – I noted brief hints of things like Jaws, The Towering Inferno, even Star Wars in the prominent use of timpani. It’s fascinating how, even at this early point in his career, he was developing his signature sound.

No soundtrack for None But the Brave was released at the time the film was released – unusually, considering Sinatra’s heavy involvement in the production – and so collectors were forced to wait until 2009 to hear the score, when it was released as part of the Film Score Monthly Silver Age Classics series. The album contains Williams’s full score, plus several alternates and bonus tracks, including two original songs – “None But the Brave” by Williams and Donald Wolf, and “Sylvia” by David Raksin and Paul Francis Webster – both performed by the Jack Halloran Singers.

Track Listing: 1. Main Title/Kuroki’s Introduction (3:41), 2. The Boat Detail (1:47), 3. Busy Hands/Kuroki Prepares for War/Fishing Spear (2:03), 4. Night Adventure (3:26), 5. The Enemies Repair (1:42), 6. Ship in Sight/When Enemies Meet/Okuda Whistles/Kuroki’s Challenge/Connection (7:28), 7. Brothers in Command/The Water Hole (2:59), 8. Water Logged (2:05), 9. Waiting for Battle (1:45), 10. The Dream of Hope Is Ashes/Hirano’s Problem (4:40), 11. The Bargain/Mahoney Gets the News (1:32), 12. Uneasy Peace/Okuda and Craddock (3:49), 13. Kuroki’s Reflection (2:10), 14. Mahoney’s Reflection/Mahoney’s Analysis (3:26), 15. Okuda and the Shark (1:31), 16. Good Friends Part/Radio Contact (2:09), 17. The Separation (1:45), 18. The Final Flight/The Spirit Lives/End Cast (5:59), 19. Piano Theme – Bonus (1:40), 20. Word from Waikiki – Bonus (1:15), 21. Kuroki’s Introduction – Alternate #1) (1:05), 22. Kuroki’s Introduction – Alternate #2) (1:05), 23. Trailer – Bonus (0:48), 24. None But the Brave (written by John Williams and Donald Wolf, performed by The Jack Halloran Singers) (2:22), 25. Sylvia (written by David Raksin and Paul Francis Webster, performed by The Jack Halloran Singers) (2:46). Film Score Monthly FSMCD-12/12, 64 minutes 58 seconds.



The Ghostbreaker was a made-for-TV movie directed by Don Medford, starring Kerwin Matthews as Dr. Barnaby Cross, a parapsychology professor who, along with his beautiful assistant (Diana Van der Vlis) investigate a murder which occurs in a supposedly haunted office building. The movie was intended to be the pilot episode of a TV series for NBC, in which Matthews and Van der Vlis would investigate a new mystery each week, X-Files style, but the show was not picked up and the pilot was aired as a standalone show in 1967, two years after it was made.

Williams’s score for The Ghostbreaker is anchored around a dynamite “Main Title” theme full of whooping brasses, punchy undulating strings writing, and a relentless jazz beat. The underscore is suitably creepy, and includes extended passages for harpsichord and organ, , adding a touch of the macabre and the supernatural to the proceedings, especially in cues such as “The Spooked Skyscraper Strikes Again,” “Accent the Supernatural,” “Don’t Trip Over Diablo,” and “To Outspook and Spook”.

Some of the orchestral textures are actually quite dissonant, abstract and challenging, especially in the latter of the two main cues, some of which reminds me of the music would write for Images in 1972. Unfortunately, some the ‘creepy organ’ music does occasionally lend the score a rather regrettable air of Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, sounding rather dates and obvious to contemporary ears. There’s also a sultry, jazz-inflected romance theme, “Men of Unitran,” which is incongruous in context, but lovely nevertheless, and a solo soprano rendition of the old English folk song “Greensleeves”.

The score for The Ghostbreaker was rescued from obscurity in 2005 when it was released on CD by Film Score Monthly as part of their Silver Age Classics series, paired with Jerry Goldsmith’s score from the equally short-lived CBS adventure show Jericho from 1966. The CD was mastered from the original 1/4″ monaural tapes, and has liner notes are by television authority Jon Burlingame and Williams expert Jeff Eldridge.

Track Listing: 1. Main Title (1:01), 2. Teaser (3:39), 3. The Spooked Skyscraper Strikes Again (2:08), 4. Men of Unitran (1:44), 5. Accent the Supernatural (3:00), 6. Greensleeves (1:24), 7. Don’t Trip Over Diablo (3:57), 8. Organ Piece (2:31), 9. To Outspook a Spook (6:25), 10. End Credits (0:49). Film Score Monthly FSMCD-8/6, 26 minutes 47 seconds.



An unusual spy caper comedy directed by J. Lee Thompson and adapted from a short story by The Exorcist’s William Peter Blatty, John Goldfarb Please Come Home is loosely based on the true story of CIA agent Gary Powers, and stars Richard Crenna as the titular agent, a former college football star, who crashes his spy plane in the Middle East and is taken prisoner by that country’s ruler, King Fawz (Peter Ustinov). To escape from his captors Goldfarb teams up with undercover reporter Jenny Ericson (Shirley MacLaine), who has been posing as a member of the King’s harem, and together they try to find a way home before the ruse is rumbled and they are handed over to the Russians.

The score is one of the strangest in the Williams canon; it’s fully orchestral, but it rooted completed in the sound of 1960s pop and jazz, and contains a healthy dose of stereotypical Middle eastern exotica (woodwinds, muezzin-style vocals), bouncy pop melodies, and crazy sound effects, and even a swingin’ song, “John Goldfarb Please Come Home,” performed in character by Shirley Maclaine in a style that couldn’t be more 1960s if it was wearing a Mary Quant mini skirt. It jumps from style to style with reckless abandon but, yet, even amongst this craziness, there is still some Williams gems to be found.

The militaristic suspense writing, like that at the beginning of “Nothing Ever Works,” is surprisingly intense. The sexy harem music in “The Ladies Enter” combines Middle Eastern clarinets with the seductiveness of a New York bordello. There’s an Arab dance version of the Notre Dame University fight song in fabulously entertaining “King Fawz Feast,” a theme for the U-2 plane that is clearly a dry run for the military theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, some old-timey ragtime in “Wrong Way Lawrence,” and a genuinely lovely romance theme in the first part of the otherwise quite raucous “Iceberg Melts.”

After languishing in obscurity for more than 35 years the score received its first ever release of any kind in 2001 when it was released as a limited edition of 3,000 copies as part of Film Score Monthly’s Silver Age Classics series.

Track Listing: 1. Main Title (3:40), 2. The Plot Begins (5:50), 3. Fawz TV (1:18), 4. Our Hero’s Flight (0:34), 5. The Red Sea (2:01), 6. Nothing Ever Works (1:16), 7. Goldfarb Focuses (2:12), 8. Wrong Way Lawrence (2:49), 9. Mandy Tells (2:39), 10. The Ladies Enter (2:55), 11. The Music Train (2:26), 12. Iceberg Melts (4:19), 13. Mongoose Blues (1:45), 14. Samir’s Fate (0:52), 15. Sleeping With Asps (3:29), 16. Jenny and Goldfarb (1:51), 17. King Fawz Feast (6:42), 18. The Football Game (2:22), 19. Jenny’s Big Play/Snake Dance/End Title (4:34), 20. Alternate Main Title #1 (2:27), 21. Alternate Main Title #2 (2:26), 22. Original Main Title (Unused) (2:18), 23. Fawz Cha-Cha #1(Mono) (1:50), 24. Pom-Poms (Mono) (1:55), 25. Fawz Cha-Cha #2 (Mono) (1:55), 26. The King Primps (Bonus Cues) (3:06), 27. Original End Title (Unused) (1:15). Film Score Monthly FSMCD-4/17, 70 minutes 46 seconds.



Nightwatch is an incredibly obscure early entry in John Williams’s filmography. Directed by the legendary Robert Altman – with whom Williams would later collaborate on Images in 1972 and The Long Goodbye in 1973 – the film was a feature-length TV pilot for a proposed show about detectives in Chicago. Subtitled “The Suitcase,” the show would have starred Carroll O’Connor in the lead role, but CBS passed on it. The series was never made, and the pilot was not aired until 1968, when the network finally broadcast as part of their ‘Premier’ series, an anthology of failed pilots, although by that time it has been re-titled “A Walk in the Night.”

The score is built around a sizzling, dynamic main theme full of hammering brass and percussion and gripping violin runs, first heard in the “Main Title,” and which re-appear with pleasing frequency in subsequent cues like “Lund’s Problem,” through to the “End Title”. There’s a jazz element to the score too, as was usually the case in 1960s episodic television, but to Williams’s credit he manages to create a rich, suspenseful, mostly orchestral sound for the underscore, some of which is similar to the his work for Irwin Allen on shows like Lost in Space.

Other standout cues include the bold and dramatic “Bertil’s Bomb,” the equally thrilling but too-short “The Cradle Might Rock,” the oddly disorienting “Granstrom’s Headache,” “The Run,” the bitterly emotional “The Waiting Room,” and others. Throughout many of these cues there is a recurring 3-note motif for brass which feels like Williams’s dry run for the Rebel Fanfare from Star Wars!

The score for Nightwatch was released in 2011 as a 3,000-copy limited edition as part of their Silver Age Classics series, coupled with Quincy Jones’s score for the 1972 film Killer By Night. The release has decent sound, considering the age of the masters, and the liner notes by Jeff Eldridge allow the listener to fully grasp the historical context of it all .

Track Listing: 1. Nightwatch Main Title (1:01), 2. Bertil’s Bomb (0:49), 3. Lund’s Problem (2:14), 4. Lund’s Leap (1:59), 5. The Cradle Might Rock (0:46), 6. Granstrom’s Headache (1:01), 7. A Child’s Fear (1:57), 8. Kathryn Flees (0:36), 9. The Run (0:50), 10. By the Fence (1:29), 11. Stumbling Around (1:01), 12. Entering the Hospital (0:32), 13. Inside the Hospital/The Final Dash (0:37), 14. The Waiting Room (1:04), 15. End Title (1:20), 16. Nightwatch End Title (0:51), 17. Chicago Group (Source) (3:12), 18. Bumper #1/Bumper #2 (Bonus) (0:19), 19. Promo (Bonus) (0:40). Film Score Monthly FSMCD-14/16, 25 minutes 37 seconds.



A comedy crime caper directed by William Wyler – who directed Ben-Hur just six years previously! – How to Steal a Million stars Audrey Hepburn as Nicole Bonnet, the daughter of a wealthy French artist who speciaolizes in forging and counterfeiting. When she that learns her father is in danger of being exposed as a crook she decides to steal the family’s forged Cellini sculpture from a museum before experts can examine it, and enlists a gentleman cat burglar Simon Dermott (Peter O’Toole) to help her.

Williams’s score is fun and lively, with a vivacious “Main Title” theme for syncopated pianos, sprightly string runs, and bold, effervescent horns. The “Two Lovers Theme” is a lovely, dream-like variation on the main theme for more romantic strings, commenting on the relationship between Hepburn and O’Toole’s characters, and this is later worked into an original song with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. My personal favorite piece “Fanfare and March to the Museum,” which begins with a piece of British pomp and circumstance for brass, before diving headlong into a wonderfully haughty but light-hearted march for brass, trilling flutes, and militaristic snares.

The score is augmented by a number of frothy period jazz and lounge pieces (“Simon Says,” “Nicole,” “The Key,” the latter of which is a reworking of the main theme), a rambunctious piece of Parisian pastiche masquerading as an action sequence (“The Can Can”), and even some spooky-sounding sneaking around music for slithering strings, bass flutes, and abstract piano clusters (“The Prowler”) – listen out for some of the orchestral effects Williams would later use in the Death Star sequences in Star Wars!

The score for How to Steal a Million was a popular release on vinyl LP when the film came out, but was not released on CD until 2004 when the German label Tsunami re-issued the original LP program. A more comprehensive version of the score was released by Intrada in 2008, which included the original LP track listing, an expanded version of the actual film tracks, and the score for the 1961 film Bachelor Flat.

Track Listing: 1. Main Title (1:51), 2. Two Lovers Theme (2:46), 3. Simon Says (2:24), 4. Fanfare and March to the Museum (2:05), 5. Nicole (2:45), 6. The Can Can (2:20), 7. Two Lovers (2:53), 8. The Key (2:22), 9. The Cellini Venus (2:09), 10. At Maxim’s (2:30), 11. The Prowler (2:27), 12. End Title (1:27). Intrada ISC-83, 28 minutes 01 seconds.



A critically acclaimed comedy directed by Norman Panama, and written by Larry Gelbart and Melvin Frank (who wrote the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby road movies), Not With My Wife You Don’t! stars Tony Curtis and George C. Scott, two young American air force pilots. After meeting during the Korean War, the pair pulls a increasingly elaborate series of pranks and tricks on each other over the course of many years, in order to woo Julietta (Virna Lisi), a beautiful Italian nurse who is the object of their mutual affection. Unexpectedly, the film was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Comedy in 1966, and was a moderate box office success.

The main theme, subtitled “Big Beautiful Ball,” is a light and jazzy piece for muted brass, alto saxophone, and marimbas and chimes, with a cool, pop-rock undercurrent. A secondary theme, “My Inamorata,” is more smooth and romantic, and performed with a golden-voiced lounge feeling in a vocal version in the second track, and with cascading, shmmering strings in the eighth. Much of the rest of the score is equally jazzy, some of which are adorned with doo-doos and la-las (“Hey Julietta”), but some of the pieces have an almost dirty feel (“Hungarian Jungle Music”) that is very captivating.

The score for Not With My Wife You Don’t! was a popular LPs at the time the film was released, and was notable for its inclusion of the vocal version of the songs “Big Beautiful Ball” and the groovy “Not With My Wife You Don’t!” which were written by Williams with lyricist Johnny Mercer. In 2006 the score was released on CD for the first time as part of the Film Score Monthly Silver Age Classic series, paired with George Duning’s score for the 1966 film Any Wednesday. FSM re-released the score, expanded with additional score cues and bonus tracks, on a standalone disc in 2011.

Track Listing: 1. Main Title (Big Beautiful Ball) (2:56), 2. My Inamorata (Vocal Version) (2:50), 3. Hey Julietta (2:00), 4. Trumpet Discotheque (2:58), 5. Two of Everything (2:26), 6. Not With My Wife, You Don’t (2:30), 7. Big Beautiful Ball (Vocal Version) (1:51), 8. My Inamorata (Instrumental) (3:10), 9. Foney Poochini (Labrador-Opera Montage) (2:02), 10. Arrivederci Mondo (Italian Movie) (2:16), 11. Hungarian Jungle Music (3:03), 12. Defending the Flag (1:49). Film Score Monthly FSMCD-9/3, 30 minutes 16 seconds.



Penelope is a comedy directed by Arthur Hiller, starring Natalie Wood, Ian Bannen, Peter Falk, and Jonathan Winters. Wood plays the titular character, a compulsive kleptomanic who steals things in order to attract attention from her distant and disinterested husband. Driven to a final, desperate act by her husband’s neglect, Penelope decides to rob her husband’s bank disguised as an old woman, but the scheme backfires spectacularly, and before long she is desperately trying to return all the items she stole over the years.

Williams’s score is, as typical for the decade, a light jazz and pop score, built around a recurring main theme with a four-note hook that corresponds to the syllables in the name ‘pen-e-lop-e’. It first appears in the second cue “To Bergdorf’s/Shoe Fly,” an upbeat piece enlivened by electric guitars and a fast rock beat, but is prevalent throughout much of the score, appearing with different stylistics in cues such as the groovy “Penny’s Acrade,” the more moody “Lenses and Contacts,” and the circus-like “Penny’s Hobbies,” the more dance-like “Poolside,” and the magically dreamy “Penny’s Party,” and the whimsical and romantic “End Title,” which has charming stylistics that would later be used in his score for E.T. The Extra-Terrestial!

In addition, there’s a wonderful, almost tribal, action sequence for horns and jungle drums in “Anthropology,” some laid-back finger-snapping jazz in “Wedding Reception,” a couple of brief sequences of orchestral suspense music in “Mannix Follows Penny/Mannix Complicity” and “Penny Runs Away,” and a great deal of decadent-sounding period lounge music. Truthfully, however, this is one of the few Williams albums from the period which starts to wear thin rather quickly, mainly because the theme is re-stated so often, and there is very little non-jazzy score music to counterbalance the endless procession of pop instrumentals.

The original LP release of the music from Penelope featured a generous selection of Williams’s score, plus the groovy title song, “Penelope,” performed by The Pennypipers, and an additional song, “The Sun is Gray,” performed by lead actress Natalie Wood, both of which were written by Williams and lyricist Leslie Bricusse. The original LP program was first released on CD in 2000 by the now-defunct Chapter III label, coupled with Vic Mizzy’s score for the 1967 film Don’t Make Waves. An extended version, based on the original film recordings, was released in 2005 as part of the Film Score Monthly Silver Age Classic series, paired with Henry Mancini’s score for the 1961 film Bachelor in Paradise.

Track Listing: 1. Penelope/Building Pan (performed by The Pennypipers) (2:25), 2. To Bergdorf’s/Shoe Fly (2:17), 3. Anthropology (2:06), 4. Wedding Reception/Don’t Be Jealous/Stolen Earrings (2:44), 5. Sabada and Ducky/Forgotten Shoes (3:06), 6. Penny’s Arcade (1:30), 7. Lenses and Contacts (1:54), 8. Shopping Around/The Thrift Shop/Vintage Pastrami/Sabada’s Salon (3:50), 9. Muzak (3:00), 10. At the Art Museum (3:02), 11. Penny’s Hobbies/Poolside/La Bostella/Penny’s Loot (2:27), 12. Mannix Follows Penny/Mannix Complicity (1:47), 13. Anonymous Friends (2:28), 14. Mildred’s Mission (2:59), 15. Penny’s Party (1:11), 16. Penny Runs Away/Penny’s Substitute (1:37), 17. James’s Vision/Patient Cured (5:41), 18. End Title (1:57), 19. Penelope – Original LP re-recording (2:00), 20. Poolside – Original LP re-recording (3:11), 21. Penny’s Arcade – Original LP re-recording (2:28), 22. La Bostella – Original LP re-recording (2:12), 23. The Girl in the Yellow Dress – Original LP re-recording (2:39), 24. Penelope (Instrumental) – Original LP re-recording (3:23), 25. Penelope (Love Theme) – Original LP re-recording (3:16), 26. Girl Chase – Original LP re-recording (3:25), 27. The Sun Is Grey (performed by Natalie Wood) (2:20), 28. Sadaba – Original LP re-recording (2:27), 29. At the Art Museum – Original LP re-recording (3:14), 30. The Mad Professor – Original LP re-recording (1:53). Film Score Monthly FSMCD-7/18, 79 minutes 56 seconds.



An unusual drama directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, The Rare Breed stars James Stewart as Sam Burnett, a wrangler and cow-puncher in Texas, who becomes unwittingly involved with a genteel English woman (Maureen O’Hara) and her more spunky and vivacious daughter (Juliet Mills), who have traveled to America to fulfill her late husband’s dying wish: to introduce rare Hereford cattle to the American west.

The Rare Breed is noteworthy because it was the first significant score Williams wrote where he was able to move away from his jazz man roots and embrace a more symphonic sound. The score is large, broad canvas, and lyrical, with hints of both Aaron Copland’s traditional sound, as well as clear influences from the Hollywood ‘western’ genre as made popular by Moross, Bernstein, Tiomkin, and others. The main theme is a 6-note run for strings and homespun brass, often accompanied by dancing woodwind lines and, in the opening cue, metallic percussion.

It moves through several variations, including a slightly anguished one in “Double Crossed,” a lushly romantic version with a hint of the Highlands in “Scottish Romeo,” and a wonderful, gaily whimsical conclusive statement in “The Cross-Breed/End credits.” There is also a rambunctious and action sequence in “The Hunt” that features some spectacular whooping brasses, and a more subdued piece of intimate drama in “On His Own” which highlights some especially notable writing for sensitive, emotional strings.

The score for The Rare Breed has never been released in any format in its original state; however, there is an absolutely superb re-recording of 18 minutes of score by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Nic Raine included on the 1999 album Close Encounters: The Essential John Williams Film Music Collection, released by Silva Screen. An abridged version of the same suite can also be found on the 2003 album The Music of John Williams: 40 Years of Film Music.

Track Listing: 1. Universal Emblem/Hilary’s Plight/Double Crossed/Tallow Ho (5:30), 2. Scottish Romeo/The Hunt (2:41), 3. On His Own (5:59), 4. The Cross-Breed/End Credits (4:23). Silva Screen FILMXCD-314, 18 minutes 33 seconds.



Fitzwilly is a fun, clever comedy directed by Delbert Mann, starring Dick Van Dyke in the title. He plays a butler, dedicated to his eccentric employer, Miss Victoria Woodhouse, who lives in a sprawling mansion. Miss Woodhouse has been essentially bankrupt since her father died, but Fitzwilly and the other staff keep this from her, and instead fund her frivolous philanthropy through a series of wily schemes, swindles, and cons. However, when Miss Woodhouse hires a beautiful new secretary named Juliet (Barbara Feldon), Fitzwilly’s life gets even more complicated.

Wlliams’s music is upbeat, dainty, whimsical, and amusing, featuring a mock-regal “Main Title/Overture” for dancing harpsichords, fluttering brasses, and huge amounts of intentional classical pastiche. The love theme for Fitzwilly and Juliet, “Make Me Rainbow,” is a piece of saxophone-led light jazz that actually has a touch of Henry Mancini to it, and is quite lovely in an old Hollywood sort of way, while the more serious-sounding conclusive “End Title” is probably the score’s best cue.

There are a couple of fun action variations on the main theme (“The Gimbel’s Robbery,” “The Xerox Crisis,” “More Theft”), a couple of pieces of fairly inconsequential orchestral light drama scoring (“Lefty Lovies Love Life”), and a couple of standalone lounge jazz instrumentals (“Fitzwilly’s Date,” “Samson and Delilah”), all of which are perfectly acceptable considering the sound of the era, but some of it does seem a little on the insubstantial side. Alongside Penelope, I would probably consider Fitzwilly to be one of the least engaging Williams scores from the period.

The original LP release of the music from Fitzwilly featured a generous selection of Williams’s score, plus a vocal version of the original song “Make Me Rainbows,” with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and performed by the studio choir. It has subsequently been released on CD three times: the original LP program was first released in 1995 by German label Tsunami; then, Varese Sarabande released it in 2004 coupled with Williams’s score for the 1973 film The Long Goodbye as part of their limited edition CD Club. An extended version, which features both the original film recordings and the LP re-recordings, was released in 2013 by the French label Music Box.

Track Listing: 1. Main Title/Overture (3:55), 2. Make Me Rainbows (Instrumental) (3:17), 3. Fitzwilly’s Date (3:39), 4. Lefty Lovies Love Life (2:47), 5. The Gimbel’s Robbery (3:52), 6. Make Me Rainbows (Vocal) (3:03), 7. The Xerox Crisis (1:24), 8. Sampson and Delilah (2:19), 9. More Theft (2:27), 10. Juliet’s Discovery (2:14), 11. End Title (2:06). Varese Sarabande VCL-0804-1030-2, 31 minutes 25 seconds.



A Guide for the Married Man is a farcical sex comedy directed, somewhat unexpectedly, by Gene Kelly. It stars Walter Matthau as Paul, a happily married man who, by accident, discovers that his friend and neighbor Ed (Robert Morse) is having an affair. Intrigued, he asks Ed about it, and in return is given a detailed history of the tactics men have used when successfully committed adultery. Each new story is told through ‘flashback skits’ featuring dozens of Hollywood stars in cameos – ranging from Lucille Ball and Jayne Mansfield to Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Joey Bishop, Phil Silvers, and Terry-Thomas – and as Paul grows in confidence he starts to develop a fixation on an attractive blonde, Irma Johnson, who lives nearby. The film is incredibly misogynistic and sexist, but was a hit in 1967, grossing almost double its budget at the box office.

As is the case with much of Williams’s 60s work the score is predominantly rooted in jazz – “Search for the Hideaway” and “Bantu Cuisine are a blast – but, interestingly, there are several pieces that adopt an orchestral tone and are surprisingly bold and dramatic. The opening “Prologue/Off to Work” has an almost Alex North vibe, with trumpet fanfares and oddly–structured string writing, filtered through a baroque pastiche. Pieces like “Why Do They Do it?” build off this style, sounding like a university fight song crossed with a gladiatorial flag parade, while “The Race Home” is a whirligig brass scherzo based on the main theme, with swirling strings, and orchestral flourishes.

“The Globetrotters” is absolutely fantastic, a relentlessly groovy thematic beat underpinned with electric guitars and Hammond organs, which picks up a vibrant undercurrent for strings, brass and rapped snares (listen to those horn cascades at the 2:20!) – but then the ending unexpectedly introduces what would eventually become the Death Star music from the original Star Wars, including a chord that is clearly from the Rebel Fanfare at 4:40! Unfortunately, there’s also quite a bit of rather disjointed mickey mousing and comedy hi-jinks music, which often feature snippets of the main theme, but do tend bring the album down a little and make it seem little obvious.

For more than thirty years the score for A Guide for the Married Man was not available in any format – the only thing that had ever been released was a 45RPM vinyl of the swinging title single written by Williams and Leslie Bricusse and performed by The Turtles. Producer Lukas Kendall and Film Score Monthly rectified this oversight in 2000 when the complete score, including the title song plus alternate and bonus cues, was released as a 3,000-copy limited edition as part of their Silver Age Classics series.

Track Listing: 1. A Guide for the Married Man (performed by The Turtles) (2:46), 2. Prologue/Off to Work (2:23), 3. Main Title – A Guide for the Married Man (3:09), 4. Why Do They Do It? (2:27), 5. Backyard Barbecue (1:07), 6. The Bust-Up Scene (3:06), 7. The Perfume Problem (2:39), 8. The Globetrotters (5:10), 9. Smelly Concoction (3:12), 10. The Party (2:14), 11. What Was I Wearing? (1:55), 12. Piano Bar (2:45), 13. Search for the Hideaway (2:32), 14. The Considerate Husband (1:38), 15. Misdirection/Emergency Kit (2:42), 16. Bantu Cuisine (2:13), 17. Trial Run (4:39), 18. The Divorcee (3:07), 19. Making the Move (3:59), 20. Second Thoughts (2:22), 21. The Race Home (Alternate) (1:56), 22. Finale – No Place Like Home (1:42), 23. Off to Work (Alternate) (0:39), 24. The Movie Star (Bonus Track) (0:51), 25. TV Music (Bonus Track) (2:17), 26. Who Was the Most Attractive? (Bonus Track) (0:43), 27. Romanoff’s (Bonus Track) (1:27), 28. The Real Thing (Bonus Track) (1:22), 29. The Race Home (Film Version) (1:57), 30. Finale – No Place Like Home (Alternate) (1:40), 31. End Title – A Guide for the Married Man (0:58). Film Score Monthly FSMCD-3/5, 71 minutes 37 seconds.


HEIDI (1967)

This version of Heidi, based on the classic novel by Johanna Spyri, was a prestige TV movie for NBC, directed by Delbert Mann. It starred young Jennifer Edwards in the title role, a young Swiss girl who is sent to live with her cantankerous grandfather (Michael Redgrave) in his cabin high in the Alps, who has many adventures there, making friends with the villagers who live on the mountain. The movie won several Emmy Awards, including one for Williams for his score, but it is probably now best remembered for its place in American football culture – football fans were left seething when NBC cut away from a vital playoff game deep into overtime to broadcast the movie on time, resulting in them missing two critical touchdown by the Raiders! That game is now known as the “Heidi Game”.

Williams’s score is fully orchestral, with a charming and wholesome heartfelt core. There’s nothing particularly stereotypically Swiss about it – no Alpenhorns, or anything like that – but Williams capture the innocence of the central character and the beauty of the landscape well through his music. The “Main Title” introduces the main theme, a lush and sweeping piece for strings with a waltz-time central secondary melody. Much of the score adopts this light, gentle, tender orchestral tone, and the theme is present in one form or another in virtually every cue; some may find it to be a little too much on the sentimental side, but there are still several moments of excellent drama and emotion to be found.

Cues like “The Alm” and “Reflections” feature lively scherzos, full of agile movement and playful energy. “The Sleeping Child” is intimate and tender, with gorgeous orchestral coloring, especially from the woodwinds. “The Miracle” is simply beautiful, and is likely the track that proved to directors that Johnny Williams the light pop and jazz composer was capable of writing the more sophisticated orchestral music for which John Williams became renowned – it pre-dates but clearly informs things like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and even E.T.

The original LP release of the Heidi soundtrack featured nearly 40 minutes of Williams’s score, but was unfortunately overdubbed with narration throughout. The first CD release, from the Australian label Label X in 1995, was the first time Williams’ score was heard in its unadorned state, and remains my preferred version of the score to this day. An expanded release from Spanish label Quartet came out in 2013, featuring both a slightly expanded and re-sequenced presentation of William’s score, and a re-mastered version of the original 1968 album, complete with narration.

Track Listing: 1. Main Title (2:18), 2. Arrival (2:28), 3. The Alm (3:35), 4. The Old Man and the Child (3:24), 5. Dancers in the Night (Love Theme) (2:19), 6. The Sleeping Child (3:25), 7. Meditation (2:18), 8. Shadows (3:49), 9. Reflections (3:56), 10. Alone in Zurich (1:57), 11. Love Theme (2:51), 12. The Miracle (3:45), 13. Finale (3:08), 14. A Place of My Own (performed by Carri Chase ) (2:37). Label X LXE-707, 41 minutes 50 seconds.



The Reivers is a light-hearted drama directed by Mary Rydell, based on the semi-autobiographical novel by acclaimed American author William Faulkner. The film stars Steve McQueen as Boon Hoggenbeck, a likeable rogue in Mississippi circa 1905, who gets into all sorts of scrapes and misadventures with his gang of friends, most of which revolve around his repeated attempts to steal a classic 1905 Winton Flyer car that is the property of Boss McCaslin (Will Geer), the patriarch of a rich and powerful local family. The film also stars Sharon Farrell as Boon’s girl Corrie, and Rupert Crosse as Boon’s best friend Ned, who received a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role.

The Reivers is an important landmark in John Williams’s career, and not just because it earned him his first Oscar Nomination for Best Original Score. Following the success of this film and its score, it altered the trajectory of his career away from light jazz and comedy scores to more substantial dramas and, eventually, films in the action, sc-fi, thriller, and horror genres. He wrote Jaws just six years after this score, and Star Wars two years after that. Interestingly, Williams was a fairly late replacement for the film’s original composer Lalo Schifrin, whose first score was rejected not long before the film’s scheduled release, but the music belies its hasty inception.

The Reivers is a landmark as is the first in a series of rich-veined Americana scores, which would go on to encompass things like The Cowboys, Cinderella Liberty, The Long Goodbye, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, The Sugarland Express, and The Missouri Breaks, among others; it’s a broad, lively combination of stereotypical orchestral Hollywood ‘western’ music crossed with a more eclectic collections of influences ranging from folk to country, honky-tonk, and Dixieland jazz (as opposed to the more sophisticated New York jazz he usually wrote).

The orchestra often rises to lush heights, as in the “Main Title,” “Winton Flyer,” and the “Finale”, and there is a pretty and elegant love theme for strings that first appears in “Corrie’s Entrance,” but it is also regularly overlaid with acoustic guitars, harmonicas, banjos, pianos, and other regional colors. Cues like “Lucius’s First Drive,” “The Road to Memphis,” “Ned’s Secret,” and ‘The People Protest” are energetic and full of speed and intricacy, but may drive people who don’t appreciate the bold country orchestrations to distraction. Similarly, “Memphis” and “Ned’s Trade” are authentic pieces of languid regional jazz, which will likely annoy as many people as they charm.

The Reivers is still widely available for purchase; the best edition is the 1995 release from Legacy/Columbia Records, which presented the original LP program digitally for the first time, with re-mastered sound, and with one bonus track, “Reflections”.

Trak Listing: 1. Main Title/First Instruction/The Winton Flyer (5:14), 2. Family Funeral/Lucius’s First Drive (2:32), 3. The Road to Memphis (1:43), 4. Corrie’s Entrance/The Picture (2:12), 5. Reflections (1:38), 6. The Sherriff Departs/The Bad News/Ned’s Secret (4:12), 7. Memphis (1:23), 8. Ned’s Trade (2:04), 9. The People Protest (1:07), 10. Prayers at Bedtime (2:43), 11. Lucius Runs to Corrie/Back Home (3:35), 12. Finale (4:16). Legacy/Colombia CK-66130, 32 minutes 46 seconds.

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