Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM – Alfred Newman



Original Review by Craig Lysy

After the critical success of translating two novels to the screen with Gone with the Wind in 1939 and Rebecca in 1940, producer David O. Selznick decided to roll the dice again with A. J. Cronin’s latest novel, The Keys of the Kingdom. He purchased the film rights for $100,000, with Cronin assisting with writing the screenplay. However, he could not secure the cast he desired and so sold the film rights to Darryl F. Zanuck of 20th Century Fox. Zanuck tasked director Joseph Mankiewicz with the project, providing a budget of $3 million. A new screenplay was provided by Nunnally Johnson and Mankiewicz, and a fine cast was assembled including Gregory Peck as Father Francis Chisholm, Thomas Mitchell as Dr. Willie Tulloch, Vincent Price as Angus Mealey, Rose Stradner as Reverend Mother Maria-Veronica, Edmund Gwenn as Reverend Hamish MacNabb, Benson Fong as Joseph, Roddy McDowell as Francis Chisholm as a boy, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Monsignor Sleeth.

The story is set in Scotland circa 1878, and follows the sad life of Francis Chisholm, who as a boy loses his parents in anti-Catholic violence. He is taken in by his aunt and eventually enters the seminary only to leave after falling in love with Nora. All is for naught as she becomes pregnant with another man and dies in childbirth. Francis returns to the seminary, completes his studies and is assigned a local ministry. He is however in time disenchanted and accepts the Bishop’s offer to do missionary work in China. During his ministry there he suffers many tribulations and is ultimately undone by the convulsions and violence of the Chinese Civil War. He returns home defeated by circumstances beyond his control and resumes a ministry in his homeland. One day a monsignor visits and asks that he retire as his preaching has caused controversy in the community, yet after reading his diary he reconsiders, recognizing his devotion and suffering for his faith. The film was not a commercial success, losing $600,000 as it did not resonate with audiences with a story for which there was no happiness or joy to be found. Critics however praised Gregory Pek’s performance, which established him as a rising star, as well as the ensemble cast. The film earned four Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Film Score.

Alfred Newman used his prerogative as Director of Music for 20th Century Fox to assign himself to the project. Upon viewing the film, he understood that at its core, the film was a story of a humble and decent man’s struggle to realize the lofty ideals of his faith, and that he would have to speak to the struggle musically. He also understood that with much of its story set in China, and that he would have to join occidental and oriental musical sensibilities in creating his soundscape. To that end he took out on $87,000 loan from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, many Asian instruments that had been bequeathed by renown collector Henry Eichheim, including; Javanese gongs and cymbals, Japanese bells and gamelan, Chinese gongs and a Ling Tzu peddler, Burmese gongs bells and cymbals, Siamese gongs, bells and cymbals, and an assortment of Indian drums.

In fashioning his soundscape Newman chose to once again use leitmotifs, providing ten themes including; Father Francis’ Theme, which offers an eight-note horn declared identity with an ascending contour. It speaks to his spiritual resolve and strength, but also to his compassion and humility. The Journal of Story-telling Theme, offers repeating string borne six-note phrases with woodwind and horn harmonies, which emote with dignity and solemnity. It is used to support narration, which tells the story of Francis’ life. The Tynecastle Theme bathes us is the Scottish auras of Francis’ homeland. It offers repeating six-note phrases, which emote with a dance-like melodic flow. The Misfortune Theme supports the trials and tribulations suffered by Francis throughout his life. It emotes atop distressed violins, muted horns and plaintive woodwinds, with a descending melodic contour. Nora’s Theme serves as a Love Theme for both personal and transpersonal love. It offers an elegant melodic line expressed with strings romantico with woodwind adornment. Early in the film it speaks to Francis’ love for Nora, yet with her passing, the theme is transformed, expressing his love for those around him to whom he ministers.

Sister Maria-Veronica Theme offers a cold and austere minor modal identity, which supports her unpleasantness, and challenges to Father Francis. Notable is how her theme evolves and gains a warmer expression late in the film as she realizes her own imperfections, and his noble qualities. The Faith Theme emotes draped with religioso auras, with an ascending contour, which imbues it with hope. It supports moments where Father Francis is challenged and calls upon his faith in God to guide and strengthen him. For the Chinese Theme Newman composes using the pentatonic scale to create the prototypical Oriental sound. The theme’s active rhythms, east Asian auras and exotic, nativist instruments provide the perfect juxtaposition to Francis’ Scottish heritage and perfectly capture the setting. The War Theme emotes powerfully as a barbaric and horrific construct empowered by repeating orchestral blasts led by horns of doom, joined by wailing strings. Lastly, Newman understood that he would have to infuse liturgical and religious auras given the film’s narrative. To that end he interpolated a Vesper Psalm by Giovanni Maria Nanino, and hymn by Louis Lambillotte.

“Main Title” offers a score highlight where Newman masterfully establishes the tone of the film. It reveals the 20th Century Fox Logo without the customary Newman fanfare. Instead, a solemn Father Francis’ Theme resounds and upon conclusion, initiates the roll of the opening credits at 0:21 where we are graced with an exposition of the yearning Love Theme in all its sumptuous beauty. Horns solenne end the credits at 1:15 as we enter the film proper where we see an aged father Chisholm returning to his church after an afternoon of fishing with a boy from the village. Newman introduces his Tynecastle Theme, which bathes us is the Scottish auras of Francis’ homeland. The Monsignor is waiting and after father Chisholm enters, he follows, shaking his head, supported by a reverential Faith Theme.

In “Francis Chisholm’s Journal” Newman demonstrates mastery of his craft by proving well-conceived and executed musical support for a complex multi-scenic cue of great pathos. The Monsignor is here on official Church business to investigate complaints from the community regarding of Chisholm’s deviation from doctrinal orthodoxy. The Monsignor retires for the evening, finds Chisholm’s journal and begins reading it, which initiates a flashback to Francis as a young boy. We open with a tender rendering of the Storytelling Theme adorned with horns reverenziali. At 0:40 the music carries us to the dining table as we see young Francis eating breakfast with his father. At 1:08 his mother advises that Polly is coming up to join them for dinner, and she is bringing Nora. A pastorale by oboe and kindred woodwinds supports the revelation. We are graced by a passage of the Tynecastle Theme, which flows with valzer gentile softness. Dark portentous chords sound at 2:06 as his father departs to attend to business in town. Francis sees the concern in his mum’s eyes and asks why she seems afraid, to which she answers, supported by dire horns, that some people hate Catholics. A diminuendo of uncertainty closes the scene. At 2:25 the music darkens as Chisholm departs for home in a rainstorm, and we see Protestant men stalking him. Grim horns begin resounding at 2:59 as they close in and Chisholm turns to face them. They yell dirty “Papist” and the music explodes in orchestral savagery at 3:14 as four men brutally beat him with clubs. We flow into a diminuendo of concern by a plaintive oboe and strings as we see the family, Polly and Nora concerned that the elder Chisholm has not come home. A grim chord at 3:54 carries Mrs. Chisholm out into the storm to search for her husband. Francis disobeys her command and follows shortly after. At 4:20 a tender passage of Nora’s Theme joins as Polly and her watch Francis depart. At 4:34 distressed violins emote the Misfortune Theme as we see Francis’ parents trying to cross a raging river over a precarious bridge. His gravely injured father falls, takes his mother down with him and violins writhing in agony screech at 5:14 as they are swept away to the death in the raging torrent, cresting at 5:54 on a crescendo of unbearable pain as Francis watches in horror. We close on a dirge as the towns folk bring home the bodies and Francis weeps inconsolable alone outside after Polly and Nora had gone in.

In “Francis and Nora” Polly, a distant cousin takes Francis in and we see him and Nora years later as young adults, very much in love. Newman supports the scene of them on a carriage ride with a wonderful exposition of Nora’s Theme by oboe delicato, which passes the melody to solo flute, and sumptuous strings romantico. In “Francis bids Nora Goodbye” we are offered another score highlight where Newman graces us with a sumptuous exposition of the Love Theme as Francis bids goodbye to a sad Nora who hates the separation when he leaves for college, and fears that he will forsake her to become a priest, an assertion he denies as they embrace and kiss. “Departing for Holywell College” reveals Francis and Angus departing on a train. Willie tosses Francis a bottle of whiskey to keep him warm, only to have him toss it back. Newman supports with a warm and comforting exposition of the Tynecastle Theme. At 0:52 shimmering strings religioso support views of Hollywell College where Francis relates in narration how difficult his studies were, and how he had to remain during Christmas holiday to study.

In “Off to catch the big Fish” Father MacNabb is fond of his young student and asks Francis to join him in fishing. Newman supports their good times with a happy waltz-like rendering of the Tynecastle Theme. At 0:24 bubbling woods of delight enliven the theme, which supports Father MacNabb catching an enormous fish. Later they celebrate together having it for supper. We segue into “The Truth about Nora”, which offers a wondrous score highlight where Newman’s exquisite romanticism is on full display, composing one of the most sublime compositions in his canon. A train whistle elicits longing in Francis to return home to Nora. A plaintive flute ushers in a yearning rendering of his theme, joined at 0:50 by three solemn horns religioso chords as Father McNabb sits Francis down for some sad news. That Nora became bitter, distant to her family, gave birth to a baby girl out of wed lock and refuses to disclose the name of the father. He adds that she is gravely ill and does not want to him. Newman supports the pathos of the scene with an aching rendering of Nora’s Theme, now full of painful regrets. The theme swells at 2:31 as we see him take the train back to her, later carrying him by coach into town. Grim horns at 3:16 support Willie informing Francis that Nora is dead. He convinces him not to go up and see the body, and the two friends walk the streets. At 3:42 bell tolls and liturgical singing Vesper Psalm by Giovanni Maria Nanino elicits Francis to depart and find solace in church, carried by a sad lament.

“Benisa” was attached to a deleted scene of Francis attending a seminary in Spain. We open with the Storytelling Theme, which no doubt supported narration. The music unfolds with sadness, ending on a dark chord as he takes refuge at an inn from a storm. In a continuation of the deleted scenes in Spain with “The Fallen Woman” we open darkly with plaintive woodwinds, which ushers in at 0:30 a brightened rendering of the Tynecastle Theme, concluding on a solemn Love Theme. “Francis becomes a Priest” opens with solemn chords and the Storytelling Theme emotes with reverence as narration informs us Francis’ disclosure that his first two curacies were failures, and wonders if he will ever be successful as a priest. A warm Tynecastle Theme replete with horns solenne carries him in for an audience with dear friend, and now Bishop Angus MacNabb. We end on solemn religioso chords as the Bishop greets him.

In “A Gift From Bishop MacNabb” they have a drink and Francis bears his heart of how much he believes that he is a failure. MacNabb expresses his faith and belief in Francis and offers him the opportunity to perform missionary work in China. Francis accepts, and as the Bishop gifts him an umbrella, a warm rendering of the Tynecastle Theme carries his departure crowned at 0:35 religioso horns solenne as the Bishop contemplates Francis’ destiny. At 0:44 the Storytelling Theme, draped in oriental auras supports narration relating Francis’ journey to China, a country far different today than it was then. We see a junk sailing 1,000 miles upriver to the city of Pai Tan in Chekhow province. “Arrival in Pai Tan” reveals the introduction of the exotic rhythms of the Chinese Theme enriched by colorful oriental auras and ethnic instrument sounds, which perfectly capture the settings. Crowds are cheering and Francis mistakenly believes the adulation is for him, however he is pushed aside at 0:47 as a grand processione maestoso supports the disembarkation of a distinguished Chinese dignitary. At 1:01 the theme resumes its active rhythms and swirling energy as the passengers all swarm off the junk. Francis, is the last to depart carried by a diminuendo of the theme, and is warmly greeted by locals Hosannah and Philomena his wife.

In “Unwanted Missionary” a gentle promenade draped with oriental auras carry the walk along dirt roads to the mission. At 0:33 a solo cello gentile supports their arrival at the mission, whose walls and roof have been swept away by a terrible storm. Horns solenne join at 0:44 with the Faith Theme as Francis surveys the ruins. When they inform him that they need money to rebuild, he says he has none, adding he has no use for ‘Christian’ who only attend for the rice. We see shock and disappointment in his eyes supported by a plaintive passage by woodwinds. Hosannah issues veiled threats that without money or rice, harm could come to him. A contemplative passage carries him away, where Father Francis withdraws supported by a hopeful Faith Theme at 1:44, to the only building somewhat standing, the stables so he may pray. At 2:13 the cello borne Storytelling Theme supports narration of him using some of his meager funds to setup anew Mission of St. Andrew in town. At 2:28 forlorn woodwinds support Hosannah and locals throwing eggs, and rocks at the Mission sign, and later during a rain storm, mud. At 1:55 French horns nobile carry the Faith Theme, which buttresses his resolve to persevere. The Misfortune Theme returns at 4:19 atop grieving strings full of distress sound on a crescendo of pain as he places a new sign up, only to suffer Hosannah and his gang pummeling him with eggs and rock, one wounding him on the cheek. At 4:53 a dispirited Faith Theme returns with dire statements and Chinese auras as he contemplates his ministry. We close on an aching Storytelling Theme as he writes a letter to the Bishop disclosing that he will not fail again in his ministry.

“Francis and Joseph” reveals him meeting a true Christian who pledges for faith, and not money to assist Francis rebuild and manage the mission he brings food and tea, for which Francis is thankful. Music enters the next day supported by a warm and comforting rendering of the Tynecastle Theme as they receive a gift of medical supplies from Willie. Happiness returns to Francis’ life, for the first time in many weeks. “A Child to be Cared For” reveals an old woman who is near death, asking Father Francis to take care of her granddaughter, as she has no family, and that the child will end up on the streets. Francis agrees and the woman is deeply thankful for his kindness. Newman supports with a tender rendering of Love Theme, which abounds with love. At 0:48 dire horns support the arrival of an Mr. Pao, an emissary from Mr. Chia. We close with a diminuendo of uncertainty as he explains that the master’s son is dying and requests that Father minister to him, to which Francis cautiously agrees, relating that he is not a trained physician and that he will do his best.

“The Son of Mr. Chia” reveals Francis making the journey to Mr. Chia’s estate carried by a solemn interplay of the string borne Storytelling Theme and the horn carried Faith Theme. The mood darkens, becoming grim as he enters the house and proceeds to the boy’s bedroom where he finds Chinese physicians sitting and a Taoist monk praying at an altar. At 2:21 dire horns usher in tense dissonance as he unwraps the arm and finds a putrid gangrenous boil and prepares to lance and drain it. Newman sow unease and a grave tension as the people in attendance look on. At 3:02 declaration of the Faith Theme by French horns nobile support his final preparations, joined with interplay with Chinese instrumental accents. At 4:02 tension enters as he uses ether to place the boy under anesthesia and makes final preparations by sterilizing his scalpel. At 4:44 he pauses with scalpel in hand to pray to St. Andrew supported by the Faith Theme. At 5:00 dire horns usher in tense swirling dissonance as he slices open the boil with a scalpel, drains it, and cleans and dresses the wound. A diminuendo of calmness enters at 5:37 as he finishes and covers the boy with a blanket. A declaration of his theme on French horns of thankfulness supports his relief as he opens the French doors to let in a fresh breeze. String borne Chinese auras interplay with the Faith Theme on woodwinds and his theme on strings tenero as Father Francis issues orders for caring for the boy prepares to depart. The mood darkens and discordant horns sound at 6:56 as Mr. Pao expresses displeasure that Francis cut into the boy. When he explains why it was necessary, Pao relates that he hopes what he said is true. We close at 7:27 upon his aggrieved theme as Francis struggles to overcome his anger at their ingratitude.

“Ungrateful Children” was dialed out of the film. It reveals Francis returning the next day to checkup on the boy. The Chinese Theme carried by woodwinds supports his arrival, yet grim horns are also heard, which unsettles. At 0:20 refulgent strings support his entry into the boy’s room and a crescendo of joy climaxes at 0:28 as he finds him smiling and looking fine. As he changes the dressing the Faith Theme supports his efforts. Upon departing at 1:32 a disquieting diminuendo enters as Mr. Pao advises that his services are no longer required and that he need not return. Francis departs and, in the courtyard, beseeches the lord to contain his anger over their ungratefulness.

“The Hill of the Brilliant Green Jade” offers a splendid score highlight. Mr. Chia visits, thanks Francis for saving his son, and offers to become a Christian in repayment. Francis declines as faith requires a desire to accept Jesus, not as a token of payment. Mr. Chia departs but music renters as a pastorale by the Chinese Theme as he turns his liter about and returns. The music warms and at 0:50 commences a crescendo of joy with inspired interplay of the Faith and Love Themes as he offers the nearby “Hill of the Brilliant Green Jade”, its surrounding land, water rights, and twenty of his men with construction materials to rebuild the mission. Francis is overwhelmed and thankful as Newman drapes them with solemn religioso auras. He departs and at 1:50 strings energico abounding with joy propel Francis, Joseph and Anna on a run to the hill’s crest. As he picks Anna up into his arms at 2:20 horns maestoso resound with Francis’ Theme, and as he gives praise to the Lord, the Faith Theme borne by strings religioso join for a stirring exposition and one of the score’s finest moments. At 2:46 the Storytelling Theme joins as narration informs us that the mission is thriving and they eagerly await the arrival of the sisters. At 2:58 the Love Theme joins on strings tenero as we see the sisters arriving at the mission. Tension enters at 3:22 as Mother Superior finds Francis toiling making bricks and demands that they be taken to see Father Francis. The music sours as they are displeased that no one was at the port to greet them. Francis apologizes, but advises they arrived a day early. He shows them to their quarters, but Reverend Mother is cool and declines his hospitality for a welcoming dinner tonight.

In “The Reverend Mother” strings gave and a plaintive oboe introduce the Reverend Mother’s austere theme as Francis’ makes a genuine but futile effort to establish a collegial relationship with her. She is cold, formal and insistent that she, not he run the convent. After his sad departure we hear her thoughts in the letter she is composing admitting to sin for being critical of the lowly Chinese whom she must accept as equals, her dreadful future of being stuck in a backwards foreign land, and her dismissive criticism of this “peasant priest” with whom she is stuck. Dramatic horns solenne resound at 1:33 as she declares; “I wanted it so, I have it so”. We close on the Storytelling Theme as narration relates that Francis accepts that they can never be friends, but is thankful to the efficiency she brings to the mission. In “The Devil’s Number One Boy” Willie makes an unexpected visit to the mission, much to the delight of Francis. They spend time together and reminisce and Newman supports the sweet moment with an extended rendering of the Tynecastle Theme.

“Attack of the Imperial Army” reveals Mr. Chia offering Francis and his flock sanctuary in the mountains for safety as Imperial Troops under General Wai intend to retake control of Pai Tan from soldiers of the new Chinese Republic. Francis is thankful, but declines. Tension strings support his departure with the repeating bursts of sharp horns of alarm by the War Theme, which enters at 0:12 as the bombardment of the city commences. Newman sow anxiety with string figures as Francis steadies the shaken nuns. At 0:52 French horns nobile declare Francis’ Theme, which joins with religioso strings and dire horn bursts as we see him provide calm, steady leadership in organizing the mission’s response. At 1:51 swirling strings lead an orchestral eruption of alarm joined by wailing woodwinds and horrific cacophony of the War Theme as Joseph advises that the bombardment has cause many fires in the town. At 2:06 as Francis and Willie climbs the church steeple to gain a better view they are carried by a monstrous crescendo of terror, cresting with horror at 2:30 as they behold the city engulfed in flames. At 2:41 French horns nobile emote Francis’ Theme as he departs to rescue as many people in town as he can. As he exits the Mission gate at 2:58 strings affanato carry a sea of people towards the mission. Francis appeals to the commander to allow him to setup a hospital to treat the wounded. He agrees and commandeers the Imperial judge’s manor. As we see the devastated town at 3:03, Newman unleashes the horror of his War Theme empowered by repeating orchestral blasts led by horns of doom and wailing strings. A grim diminuendo enters at 3:37 as Willie convinces Father Francis and Chinese Commander to burn the dead bodies to prevent the spread of pestilence. As they make preparations, the sad Misfortune Theme enters at 4:23 atop muted horns and plaintive woodwinds, offering a descending melodic contour with a grim drum cadence. A tension ascent motif at 4:48 supports preparations for the fire, building to a shattering climax at 5:09 as they light the straw huts, which contain the bodies, which causes a conflagration. Newman unleashes an orchestral maelstrom. As the waterfront is consumed in a sea of fire, diminuendo at 5:29 supports Willie asking Francis, “Can Hell be any worse than this?” Music in the film ends at 5:38, so the remainder of the cue must have been attached to edits that shortened the scene.

“The Church Afire” offers a poignant score highlight, full of pathos. It reveals Joseph alerting Father Francis that the church had been struck by artillery, is on fire, and people have been injured. The War Theme’s horns of alarm and churning strings support the revelation and their run back to the mission. At 0:19 a string borne crescendo supports Willie attempting to rescue a wounded soldier, only to be shot and mortally wounded. Strings affanato surge in pain with the Love Theme at 0:33 as Father Francis comes to his dear friend. As he prays at his bedside in the mission an oboe lamentoso carries Francis’ grief. Willie shares his final words and at 1:33 angry, distressed horns of The Reverend Mother’s Theme sound and support her angry departure when Willie says he still cannot accept God. As the two friends share their last moment together a tender and aching rendering of the Tynecastle Theme supports as Father Francis lovingly comforts him. As he asks for Francis’ hand, Francis holds him full of love as Willie passes unto death at 2:40, draped in orchestral auras of grief. Yet at 2:56 refulgent violins of hope give voice to the Faith Theme as Francis prays to God for the soul of his dear friend. At 3:25 a change of scene reveals Father Francis walking through the burnt ruins of his church supported by his theme, so full of sadness. At 3:37 the Reverend Mother’s Theme carries her as she joins Father Francis in the ruins. She feels sad, admitting that her decision to treat injured rebel soldiers cause the shelling of the church. The music warms and ascends with hope as with Father Francis declaring that nothing can destroy his church, and that he will rebuild it. We see in her eyes recognition that Father Francis is indeed a good priest to be respected. We close darkly with a dire statement of the War Theme as Joseph informs them that the Imperial Captain who shelled the church has arrived and demands to speak to him.

In “General Hua’s Demands” the Captain orders Father Francis to desist in treating enemy soldiers. He then makes three demands; for 800 pounds of rice, all their American tin goods and the release of all male Chinese citizens who he will draft into service of the Imperial Army. He closes with the threat that the failure to comply will result in the annihilation of the mission and all its inhabitants. Furthermore, he demands a personal offering be brought to him tonight personally by midnight at his post. Newman supports the aftermath with a dire rendering of the War Theme propelling the departure of the Captain. Father Francis tells Joseph that he is going into the city and departs, carried by a solemn rendering of his theme, which crescendos on aggrieved strings.

In town Father Francis and Major Shen agree to collaborate in destroying the gun when he delivers the payoff to the Captain tonight. “Destroying the Attack Gun” reveals Father Francis and Major Shen in disguise with a sack carrying an improvised Cordite and gasoline bomb. Music enters as they enter the Imperial camp, with Newman sowing escalating tension, with subtle references to Francis’ Theme. At 1:03 a triumphant Francis’ Theme resounds on horns maestoso as Major Shen fires into the sack to detonate it. It fails, a gunfight ensues and Father Francis throws a torch onto the sack, which causes a shattering explosion, which destroys the gun, kills the enemy troops, and sends him reeling, knocked unconscious by the blast. At 1:29 we return to the Mission, where we see Major Shen and Joseph standing by Francis at bedside. Major Shon congratulates him for taking out the gun and killing 32 soldiers, suggesting that he may have to consider becoming a Christian. When Father Francis asks how long Christianity will have to endure these killings, his solemn and questioning enters, crowned by a exulted statement of the Faith Theme at 2:14. We close at 2:19 carried by Chinese auras as we see Monsignor Angus Mealy brought by liter to the mission on an official visit. As the two boyhood friends meet, they are greeted by a nativist choir singing a welcoming song a Capella.

“News of Bishop MacNabb’s Death” reveals a petty Angus voicing complaints of the church’s destruction preventing him from celebrating mass. He then callously discloses that Bishop MacNabb had died, which causes much sadness with Francis. Newman supports the terrible news with Francis’ Theme full of heartache. As he contemplates the loss by the umbrella MacNabb gifted him, a wistful Tynecastle Theme enters at 0:40, supporting MacNabbs words in his thoughts, of his faith in Francis to be a great priest. We close with disquiet as Angus informs him that he has invited Reverend Mother to dine with them tonight to celebrate his visit. In “Monsignor Angus Departs” Francis bids him farewell and invites him back to celebrate mass in his rebuilt church. A sentimental rendering of the Tynecastle Theme draped in Chinese auras supports his departure, swelling with emotion as Francis waves goodbye. Later that evening at 0:55 we segue into “Mother Maria’s Apology a sublime score highlight in which Newman offers one of the most achingly beautiful compositions in his canon. As Reverend Mother comes to Father Francis in the church ruins carried by an aching Storytelling Theme. At 1:27 she asks that he listen to what she has to say, supported by a supplicated rendering of her theme. We bear witness to a heartfelt and genuine apology for her behavior, offering praise to him for his faith, humility, love and compassion. Slowly, an inexorable swelling by impassioned strings supports her confession, joined at 2:34 by the Love Theme as he thanks her for no longer disliking him. I believe this to be one of the most exquisite musical passages in the score, achieving perfect confluence and cinematic moment. At 3:36 narration supported by the Storytelling Theme reveals Father Francis ten years later with a thriving mission with a rebuilt church, countless school children and hundreds of converts. He is content for the first time in his life, having at last found happiness and fulfillment. At 3:36 The Storytelling Theme joins with the Faith Theme for an inspired statement. We close with spritely happiness as the boys come out of class and Father Francis offers theme honey.

“Calling upon the Protestants” reveals Reverend Mother informing Father Francis that American Protestants had opened a huge, well-funded mission that included as school and hospital. He decides to make a collegial visit to welcome them. As he walks through the streets a Pai Tan the Chinese Theme carries his progress. The music stops at his arrival and we see a warm and friendly meeting with the Reverend Wilbur Fiske and his charming wife Agnes, who have been missionaries for over 20 years in China. They agree to work together in harmony. “Encountering Mr. Chia” offers a score highlight that graces us with a gorgeous extended rendering of the Storytelling Theme. The Chinese Theme carries his return until he meets Mr. Chia at 0:33 who asks how he can be so friendly with the other missionaries who worship a false God? When he explains they worship the same God, but in different ways, Mr. Chia is fascinated and asks to walk back to the mission with him. Newman supports their walk with a beautiful pastorale for strings and woodwinds for one of the most serene and beautiful passages of the score. At 2:27 narration supported by a gorgeous extended rendering of the Storytelling Theme informs us that another 20 years have passed. We see Joseph with three sons, new priests that have come to assist him, as well as new nuns. The theme is provided its longest and most moving exposition of the score as we realize that Francis’ ministry in Pai Tan is nearing its end.

“Called Back To England” offers another score highlight where Newman’s music once again achieves a stirring confluence with the film’s narrative. Father Francis has been recalled to Scotland and is saddened, yet reconciled to the news as he will finally get to meet Judy’s orphaned son Andrew whom he has been supporting. Newman supports the scene with exquisite emotional interplay of the Reverend Mother’s, Storytelling and Love Themes. At 2:46 French Horns nobile emote Francis’ Theme as she speaks of how he differs from his friend Angus. At 3:12 Reverend Mother’s Theme emotes of solo flute as she asserts that she believes that you are closer to God than Angus. As he begins the write the saddest entry in his journal at 3:27 a Storytelling Theme full of nostalgia joins with the religioso Faith Theme as he struggles to find the words to say goodbye to people with whom he has spent a lifetime. A noble Storytelling Theme resumes at 4:12 as he asks God to watch over Reverend Mother Maria-Veronica, and bless her, and keep her, always. She is visibly moved, walks to him carried at 4:43 by a warm and achingly beautiful rendering of her theme, and responds that she is sad to see him go, adding, “I shall never forget you”. As he sits alone, his thankful theme sounds, ending with both contentment and thankfulness.

In “Reception” the priests of the mission and town officials have assembled the townsfolk to thank him for his invaluable dedication, love and service. A children’s choir sings his favorite hymn “Come Holy Ghost Creator Blest” to honor him. We close atop the hymn as Father Francis says goodbye to Mr. Chia, and his son whom he saves Shi-yu.“Father Chisholm’s Farewell” offers an emotional score highlight where Newman demonstrates mastery of his craft. A solo oboe delicato with strings tenero offer a heartfelt soliloquy of parting, as he says goodbye to Anna and Anna #4. A loving and tender Love Theme joins at 0:52 as he offers a deeply personal and very moving testament to Francis. Father Francis is moved, places his arm around Joseph, and thanks his oldest and most loyal comrade. At 1:57 Father Francis’ Theme resounds on horns solenne as everyone kneels and he performs a benediction. At 2:18 we return to the present atop the Storytelling Theme as we see the Monsignor finishing his read of the journal, closing on reverential fanfare religioso. In “Finale” the Monsignor confesses to Father Francis that he read his journal and that it was an honor to had known him, assuring him that he will ensure he retains his ministry. After he departs music enters atop a happy Tynecastle Theme as he decides to go fishing with Judy’s orphaned son Andrew. As they set off down the road at 0:20 a final majestic quote of Father Francis’ Theme resounds joining with a hymn by Louis Lambillotte to bring the score to conclusion with a grand flourish as script displays Jesus’ words to Peter – “And I will give to thee the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”.

I wish to thank Ray Faiola, Craig Spaulding and the late Nick Redman for this long-sought reissue of the complete score to Alfred Newman’s masterpiece, “The Keys of the Kingdom”. The remastering of the original single channel score was largely successful, however occasional imperfections are heard and the audio quality does not achieve 21st century standards. Nevertheless, the brilliance of Newman’s compositions shines through and offers a wonderful listening experience. Folks, Newman was a non-practicing member of the Jewish faith who throughout his long career demonstrated mastery of his craft in tapping into the Divine when composing music for films with religious narratives such as his masterworks; The Song of Bernadette (1943), The Robe (1953), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). “The Keys of the Kingdom” joins these other brilliant religious scores as one of the most beautiful and inspiring in the genre. Upon viewing the film, Newman understood that at its core, the film was a story of a humble and decent man’s struggle to realize the lofty ideals of his faith, and that he would have to speak to the struggle musically. He also understood that with much of its story set in China that he would have to join occidental and oriental musical sensibilities. What he succeeded in doing is what I believe may be one of his most moving, inspiring and elegant scores. He composed a multiplicity of character themes, while grounding the film’s two cultural identities with the Scottish Tynecastle Theme and richly ethnic Chinese Theme. His inspiring Father Francis and Faith Themes brought the religious power needed to drive the film’s story. In scene after scene the emotive power and eloquence of his music achieved stirring confluences with the film’s narrative, with many attaining perfect cinematic moments. Whether you are a person of faith or not, there can be no doubt that the music of this film is transcendent. It will move and inspire you, offering a testament for the ages of the power of music to elevate a film. I consider this a masterpiece of the Golden Age and one of the five greatest scores in Alfred Newman’s canon. I highly recommend this 2 CD album for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to the film’s Prologue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOXMLhdxDdQ

Buy the Keys of the Kingdom soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (2:04)
  • Francis Chisholm’s Journal (7:36)
  • Francis and Nora (0:48)
  • Francis Bids Nora Goodbye (2:03)
  • Departing for Holywell College (1:15)
  • Off to Catch the Big Fish (1:07)
  • The Truth About Nora (4:19)
  • Benisa (1:28)
  • The Fallen Woman (1:18)
  • Francis Becomes A Priest (0:54)
  • A Gift From Bishop Macnabb (1:11)
  • Arrival in Pai Tan (1:57)
  • Unwanted Missionary (5:54)
  • Francisa and Joseph (1:19)
  • A Child To Be Cared For (0:58)
  • The Son of Mr. Chia (7:56)
  • Ungrateful Children (2:37)
  • The Hill of the Brilliant Green Jade (3:35)
  • The Reverend Mother (2:13)
  • The Devil’s Number One Boy (2:35)
  • Attack of the Imperial Army (8:25)
  • The Church Afire (5:27)
  • General Hua’s Demands (1:13)
  • Destroying the Attack Gun (2:58)
  • News of Bishop Macnabb’s Death (1:37)
  • Monsignor Angus Departs/Mother Maria’s Apology (4:59)
  • Calling Upon the Protestants (0:58)
  • Encountering Mr. Chia (3:42)
  • Called Back to England (5:40)
  • Reception (1:34)
  • Father Chisholm’s Farewell (2:32)
  • Finale (0:46)

Running Time: 92 minutes 58 seconds

Screen Archives Entertainment SAE-CRS-011 (1944/2004)

Music composed and conducted by Alfred Newman. Orchestrations by Edward B. Powell. Recorded and mixed by XXXX. Score produced by Alfred Newman. Album produced by Ray Faiola, Nick Redman and and Craig Spaulding .

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