Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > NOW VOYAGER – Max Steiner

NOW VOYAGER – Max Steiner

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1942 producer Hal B. Wallis signed a four-year contract with Warner Brothers Studios tasking him to produce four films a year. He decided that adapting Olive Higgins Prouty’s 1941 novel Now Voyager to the big screen would serve as his inaugural effort. Screen rights were purchased, Casey Robinson was hired to write the screenplay, and a budget of $877,000 was provided. Irving Rapper was given the reins to direct the film, and a stellar cast was assembled, which included Bette Davis as Charlotte Vale, Paul Henreid as Jerry Duvaux Durrance, Claude Rains a Dr. Jaquith, Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Windle Vale, Ilka Chase as Lisa Vale and Janis Wilson as Tina Durrance.

Now Voyager was unusual in that it was perhaps a film before its time, the first woman’s film, or what we would describe today in the vernacular as a “Chick Flick.” Charlotte Vale suffers under a cruel and tyrannical mother until a nervous breakdown sends her to a sanatorium. A kind Dr. Jaquith heals her psychic wounds and we witness Charlotte reborn. She begins her new life with a Latin American cruise where she at last discovers love, with unhappily married Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid). Their love and attraction is real, but they are reconciled to their fates. Charlotte leaves the cruise a stronger woman, and they retain hope that someday the two will reunite. It turns out that they do, through Jerry’s daughter Tina whom Charlotte helps heal, and in so doing, heals herself. The film was a commercial success for Warner’s, earning $4.2 million dollars or more than four times its production costs. It was also a critical success and firmly cemented Davis as the star of her day. It secured three Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, winning one for Best Film Score.
There was never any doubt in Hal Wallis’ mind as to who was going to score the film. These type of intimate character driven films with strong female characters brought out of Steiner his best. For “Now Voyager he was presented with a story well suited to his melodramatic style. He understood that Charlotte was the central character and that he not only had to capture her long suffering and wounded spirit, but also celebrate her healing, rebirth, and lastly, her bittersweet romance. He responded with perhaps one of his finest career efforts, providing quintessential romantic lyricism of the highest order. For lovers of Steiner, there is consensus that he created one of his most evocative and supremely romantic love themes of his career. Indeed, it found life outside of the film as a very popular song “It Can’t Be Wrong”, with lyrics by Kim Gannon where it soared and remained on the popular music charts for an amazing nineteen weeks.

There are eight primary themes, not unusual for a Steiner score, but what is remarkable is that five are kindred and interconnected. The Voyager Theme offers an expansive and complex construct with a primary string borne melody spanning three octaves and a contrapuntal line carried by celli, French horns and trumpet. Each of the theme’s motifs emotes with different rhythms, which creates feelings of dislocation and uncertainty. Yet it also speaks to Charlotte’s desire to realize emotional fulfillment and her romantic yearnings. Charlotte’s Theme supports the most complex character in the film, who evolves not only from daughter, to adult woman, to mother, but also from an ugly duckling to beautiful swan. Her theme is usually emoted by violins, upper register woodwinds and celeste. While the thematic construct offers a descending melodic line, which imparts feelings of sadness, major modal chordal accompaniment imbues it with a kernel of hopefulness. Insightful by Steiner is the thematic relationships with the Mother Theme and its static, suffocating 6/8 rhythm – the beginning of Charlotte’s journey, and Tina’s hopeful ¾ rhythm – the end of her journey, which offers liberation. Dr. Jaquith’s Theme is kindred to both the Voyager Theme and Charlotte’s Theme, a catalyst used for Charlotte’s evolution. The use of a solo cello to emote the ascending melody serves to create a soothing and comforting warmth, as well as the trust needed to facilitate Charlotte’s evolution.

The Love Theme stands as one of Steiner’s most unusual and complex, in that he infused it with uncharacteristic harmonics, which shift upwards and downwards imparting a bittersweetness to its expression. Although its phrasing is short, Steiner amplifies its emotional potency with repeating crescendo and decrescendo statements that ascend and intensify, sometime achieving breath-taking climaxes. So well received was its melody that singer Dick Haymes transformed it into the song “It Can’t Be Wrong”, which soared and remained on the popular music charts for an amazing nineteen weeks. Steiner’s love theme melody over the years has become iconic and timeless, firmly embedded into the collective consciousness of America. Tina’s Theme as mentioned above is kindred to Charlotte’s, offering with its ¾ rhythm a path to liberation. Charlotte’s meeting with Jerry is fateful in that it is through him that Tina enters her life. The theme’s expression commences with phrasing, which offers a descending melodic line that imbues subtle auras of sadness, yet it closes upwards with the hopeful promise of resolution. The Mother’s Theme emotes with a static 6/8 rhythm, with imperious martial rhythms, which perfectly speaks to her domination of her family and home with her repressive, controlling and suffocating nature.

Leslie’s Theme speaks to this scion of Boston nobility, an older widower with two sons who becomes attracted to Charlotte after her remarkable transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan. We note that Steiner chose to utilize diegetic music, excerpts of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, the Pathétique to support this character. I perceive a juxtaposition in the choice of this music, believing that it does not serve as his identity, but rather to what he is lacking from Charlotte’s perspective – passion. The Gift Theme is linked to the gift of perfume by Jerry, and is in its construct it is kindred to Tina’s theme. It offers the score’s happiest and longest lined expression from a joining of several motific identities, which serve to imbue it with feelings of both anticipation and excitement. Additionally, Steiner infused his soundscape with contemporaneous source music of the day to provide a relatable ambiance familiar to the audience. Tragically, there is no commercial CD or digital release of this score. If ever there was a project, which demanded a restoration, this is it. Until that day we must be content with its beauty by watching the movie.

Given that there is no commercial album for reference, I will use film scene descriptors and time indices instead. 00:00 Film Scene “Main Title” offers a score highlight where Steiner masterfully sets the tone of the film. We open with the display of the Warner Brothers Studio logo supported by Steiner’s Warner’s Brothers anthem. As the roll of the opening credits commences Steiner supports with a dramatic rendering of the string borne Voyager Theme, which spans three octaves and is enriched a contrapuntal line carried by celli, French horns and trumpet. Both primary and secondary lines emote with different rhythms, which creates feelings of dislocation and uncertainty. At 0:29 yearning strings usher in the Love Theme, which speaks to Charlotte’s desire to realize emotional fulfillment and her romantic yearnings. We return at 0:56 to a reprise of the Voyager Theme, which closes on a diminuendo as we enter the film proper.

01:23 Film Scene “Tea Time” reveals it is tea time at 4:00 pm and we see the butler announcing to the maids that “She is coming down”, which Steiner supports with a woodwind warning, followed by a descent motif by fluttering woodwinds animato as the imperious Mrs. Vale descends to the first-floor parlor. 03:55 Film Scene “Charlotte” reveals the butler at her locked bedroom door summoning her for tea. We see only her hands carving a wooden box supported by a plaintive cello borne rendering of the Voyager Theme. At 4:22 we see just her legs descending the stairs carried by her theme, but there is a desynchrony with the rhythm of her gait, as though she goes unwillingly and with dread. Her theme’s sadness is palpable as her mother explains to Dr. Jaquith the story of her ugly duckling child born unexpected in her forties. She arrives dressed in a dowdy dress with a hair style that is unflattering and aging.

06:46 Film Scene “Meeting Dr. Jaquith” reveals Charlotte being berated by her mother and discussion of a sanitorium to treat her melancholia. Anxious strings rise despite Dr. Jaquith’s soothing words of comfort. She is distressed and bolts the room at 06:53 on a crescendo of distress, followed by Dr. Jaquith. A distressed Voyager Theme carries them upstairs where she accommodates his request for a tour. Steiner drapes us in dark auras as she reveals her mother’s room. As she takes him to her room on the floor above, they are carried by a distressed string tremolo. As he enters at 08:53 a solo cello emotes the ascending melody of his theme, which is soothing, reassuring, and brings a comforting warmth. 09:20 Film Scene “Charlotte’s Carvings” offers a score highlight with masterful musical support. It reveals Dr. Jaquith complimenting her on the exquisiteness of her creations, his theme warmly emoted by solo cello, which elicits her demeanor to brighten, carried by her violin rendered theme. They exchange mutual compliments, and we see her lower her guard and begin to warm to him. The music darkens at 10:22 on a descent of shame as Charlotte sees him look at the burnt-out cigarette butts in her trash basket. He tries to diffuse it by asking for a cigarette, but at 10:36 a tortured crescendo swells on the Voyager Theme as she becomes very defensive about her habits. She snaps, becomes crazed, and demands that he read her journal, he is taken aback, his eyes revealing an escalating alarm, with the music amplifying the tension.

11:28 Film Scene “Flashback” offers a masterful highlight where Steiner’s genius in scoring a film’s emotional dynamics is on full display. It reveals a flashback of Charlotte carried by ethereal strings to a cruise where she says she was twenty. She is vibrant and happy as we see her embracing and kissing Leslie, a dashing young officer. Steiner supports the moment romantically with violins appassionato emoting the contrapuntal line of the Voyager Theme. A romance for violin with woodwind adornment supports the tender moment as he parts, saying he must return to duty. He surrenders to her entreaty for a parting kiss, with Steiner crowning the perfect romantic moment. The music sours a 13:13 as she joins her mother who orders her to put on her glasses, mocks her for reading a book on Marconi’s wireless invention, orders her to write letters, and then forbids her to join a social gathering in the evening. Steiner supports the mother’s toxic, and suffocating presence by entwining an oppressive Voyager Theme and Charlotte’s Theme whose spirit and joy is crushed. Later that night at 14:10 Charlotte has slipped out to spend time with Leslie. A foreboding Voyager Theme carries the search by the Captain and mother, which ends with a chord of doom as they are discovered kissing in Leslie’s arms. Leslie and Charlotte’s Motif swells romantically as he says he wants to marry her and that they are engaged. Yet Leslie is rebuffed with the Captain ordering him to his cabin and Mrs. Vale shaming Charlotte. Their theme swells with joy as she confides with Dr. Jaquith she was happy to defy her mother as Leslie placed her on a throne. Back in the bedroom her rage against her mother explodes, years of repressed anger released in a torrent, which Steiner supports with a crescendo of pain. We close at 16:13 atop the gentle and comforting Dr. Jaquith’s Theme as he comes to her, soothes her, thanks her for the gift, and asks her to return to the tea party.

18:13 Film Scene “June’s Arrival” reveals Charlotte’s niece June arriving and offering sardonic criticism. Charlotte’s hand begins shaking as she tries to pour tea, and the Voyager Theme swells with distraught as Charlotte explodes in anger at 19:04 on French horns as she bolts the room in tears. 19:25 Film Scene “The Sanatorium” reveals exterior shots of the Cascade Sanatorium, which Steiner supports with Dr. Jaquith’s Theme on idyllic strings with harp adornment, joined by a warm Voyager Theme as Lisa arrives to see Dr. Jaquith. He relates that she is recovering and has lost weight. At 20:25 we see Charlotte at a weaving machine supported by a more tranquil rendering of her theme. Dr. Jaquith says she is ready to leave and departs, handing her an inspirational quote by poet Walt Whitman.

22:27 Film Scene “The Cruise” reveals her reading the note; “Untold want, by life and land ne’re granted, Now, voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find”. As she reads it, his warm theme on solo cello gentile joins for a wondrous exposition, blossoming at 22:44 atop French horns, saxophones violas and celli, which impart a nautical air as we see a cruise ship Dr. Jaquith has booked to initiate her new reborn life. At 23:02 Steiner creates a delightful ambiance with an allegretto as we see the ship’s purser organizing the passengers for a day trip ashore. At 23:23 Charlotte enters, again starting with a foot shot, which ascends to reveal a glamorous new appearance, which Steiner supports with a gorgeous string borne statement of her theme. The allegretto returns at 23:49 as the purser introduces Mr. Jeremiah Durrance, asking if she would share her on shore carriage. At 24:19 harp glissandi take us back to Dr. Jaquith coaching her to enjoy herself as she boards the ship. A confident statement of her theme takes her back to real time where Jerry is relating all the sights he wishes to see. He asks why she is smiling at 24:55 and she says she was thinking of her mother, with a flashback to her disdain of joining ‘common travelers’ supported by a sardonic Voyager Theme. We end with pleasant strings as she agrees to tour with him.

25:15 Film Scene “Time Together” reveals the two of them touring the island together supported by soothing languorous island strings. At the restaurant Steiner creates café ambiance with a soft Fox Trot using a small ensemble. They go shopping afterwards with her helping him buy gifts for his wife and daughter. As he discusses his daughter Tina, her theme enters at 28:48, offering with its ¾ rhythm a gentle descending expression that imbues a subtle sadness, yet it closes upwards with auras of hope and resolution. He shows her pictures of his family and we see Tina, an ‘ugly duckling’ with glasses, to which Charlotte remarks that she was not wanted was she? Jerry confirms his wife’s feeling towards her and at 29:42 he offers her a gift of perfume in thanks of her helping him buy gifts. Emoted by strings tenero, it offers the score’s longest lined expression, which serves to imbue with feelings of both anticipation, happiness and excitement. At 30:02 she tanks him, promises to wear it tonight, and accepts his invitation for cocktails. She is happy and the theme carries ever upwards in a glorious ascent of joy as she returns to her cabin and selects a dinner gown.

30:46 Film Scene “Date Night” reveals Charlotte in a glamorous evening gown, transformed from her ugly duckling past into a woman of stunning beauty. To set the ambiance of the lounge, Steiner interpolates an instrumental version of Yellen and Friend’s “You Belong to Me” to support her and the subsequent scene in the cocktail lounge. She feels out of sorts and flees to the deck where Jerry joins her. He sees she is troubled and when he remarks at 34:23 that she does not seem to have a high opinion of herself, an aggrieved statement of her theme joins. She shows him a picture of her family, with her as the frumpy, ugly duckling and then admits she has just been released from a sanatorium. He comforts her, yet she walks away again. He follows and after he asks if she is feeling better, and she responds much, thanks to you. The Love Theme enters at 35:35 on yearning strings romantico as we see a nascent love borne between the two of them. She departs and agrees to his offer to join him for breakfast.

36:15 Film Scene “Tortured Sleep” reveals the ship’s horn blasting as it departs Nassau. In the engine room a churning mechanistic motif supports the ship’s turbines rotating up and down to drive the ship as we see astern its wake erupt. At 36:24 we see Charlotte suffering tortured sleep supported by a beleaguered Love Theme. Yet its turbulence subsides and warms as we shift to Jerry’s cabin where he writes her a comforting letter. 39:31 Film Scene “Jerry’s Past Revealed” opens the next day on the deck where Jerry’s friend Debbie goes into great detail discussing the sadness of his homelife. When he meets Charlotte and asks her to tell him what Debbie said, she grabs his arm gently, joined by a tender, though minor modal statement of the Love Theme, as she deflects diplomatically, believing it best to not discuss it. At 39:55 horns maestoso sound to support magnificent views of the harbor of Rio de Janeiro, gaining a religioso aura as they view the imposing Christ the Redeemer statue.

40:18 Film Scene “The Trip” reveals them travelling by car for some sight-seeing. A rhythmic travel motif carries their progress. At 41:27 we shift to a Portuguese danza festivamente as the driver turns off the main road and ends up crashing the car. Giuseppe departs to get help, and at 45:00 Jerry and Charlotte take refuge in an old hotel room in town trying to stay warm by a hearth fire. A tender rendering of the Love Theme supports as he kisses her while she lays sleeping. The next day as they have breakfast in town and wait for a car, he informs her that the ship reaches Buenos Aires in five days, so why not spend the time here with him rather than leave now and be alone there. The Love Theme plays gently in the background as she takes up his offer and agrees to stay. The theme gains passion as he confesses that he is love with her. At 47:23 festive Portuguese violins and Brazilian rhythms support a panorama of Rio de Janeiro and a montage of our couple touring the city. That evening at 47:36 Steiner interpolates Leeds and Dominguez’s Perfida to set the perfect ambiance as they dine and later, when she accepts his offer to dance. 48:05 Film Scene “The Confession” offers a romantic highlight with an exquisite extended rendering of the Love Theme. Jerry joins Charlotte on a moonlight draped balcony overlooking the harbor, supported by a yearning Love Theme as we see recognition in his eyes that he truly loves her. At 49:35 the theme struggles to blossom, fueled by his hopes, yet restrained by her unwillingness to commit. We shift to an exquisite restatement of the theme by yearning solo violin, attended by celeste, vibraphone and piano adornment as he asks if she is immune to happiness and wants him to go. Now tearful, she turns to him, expresses her gratitude saying no one has ever called her darling, and the Love Theme blossoms as they embrace and kiss.

50:55 Film Scene “Airport Goodbyes” offers the score’s emotional apogee. It reveals Jerry presenting Charlotte with roses as she prepares to fly to Buenos Aires to rejoin her cruise. An achingly beautiful Love Theme, now expanded at 51:11 to include a yearning B Phrase by solo cello creates greater depth and feeling as they agree to part ways, and return to the former lives. At 51:58 Steiner initiates the score’s supreme romantic moment, using a repeating pattern of crescendo-decrescendo to propel an impassioned ascent of fervent love, which brings a quiver and a tear. We bear witness to an exquisite passage, which sets Steiner apart from all others, offering testimony to his genius in creating the perfect cinematic moment. The theme swells as each declares how much they will miss the other during a parting kiss. She walks away, he calls to her, comes to her, and they again embrace and kiss at 52:11 as the Love Theme ascends and reprises fervently. She turns to depart again, yet he follows her, takes her one last time into his embrace with the Love Theme resounding on a breath-taking crescendo appassionato as they kiss one last time. As she walks away from him the music undergoes a stepped descent upon their theme in an aching, heart-wrenching expiation as we see the plane take off to his longing eyes. Bravo!

52:48 Film Scene “Charlotte Returns Home” reveals Steiner interpolating “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as we see New York City harbor and the Statue of Liberty. Lisa and June greet her as she disembarks from the boat, with both taken aback by her stunning transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan. At 56:00 Charlotte arrives home, and ascends the front stairs to enter her house supported by two chords of trepidation. As she walks up the stairs with Dora the nurse to see her mother, Steiner counters with a sad descent by her theme as painful memories are reborn. She enters her room with happiness and kisses her cheek with affection, which is not reciprocated. Instead, she barks orders to walk, turn around, and then states it is far worse than I thought. She orders Charlotte to sit down, and then informs her of a dinner party, and the dress she is to wear. Then she states that she has had all her belongings moved next door into her father’s room as she is to remain nearby. She then orders her to wear her glasses and change her hair styling. At 1:00:28 an achingly sad rendering of her theme, a descent of despair, carries her departure and return to her new room. At 1:01:10 the music brightens atop ascending ethereal chords as Hilda brings in a box that contains a Camelia corsage from Jerry. As she opens it at 1:01:32, the Love Theme returns and blossoms.

1:02:05 Film Scene “The Confrontation” reveals the Love Theme severed when her mother enters Charlotte’s old room and demands to know why she is there. When she answers that she intends to sleep here at 1:02:13, the imperious Mother’s Theme enters to support her insistence that she move into her father’s room. At 1:02:39 the Love Theme returns as mother demands to know where the flowers came from. At 1:03:02 a confident Charlotte’s Theme rises up as she advises her that she has her own life and will not be treated as a child again. She asks her for her freedom and for her to meet her half way. The music sours as she rebukes Charlotte and leaves, carried by a plaintive descent motif that crashes down at 1:04:23 as she falls down the stairs. She has suffered a torn ligament, bandaged by a doctor and is told to rest. She commands Charlotte to greet the dinner guests and send them up to her in groups of two. Charlotte descends the stairs, and warmly greets each of them, as they all stare, stunned at her remarkable physical transformation.

1:06:59 Film Scene “The Party” Charlotte’s warm theme with shimmering accents supports the goodbyes to her guests. She is again summoned by her mother and once again Steiner scores her stair ascent with the contrary motion of her theme is descent. Its plaintive auras carry her into the bedroom, ceasing as they talk. Mother threatens to end her monthly allowance if she does not obey her orders. At 01:10:55 a bright and confident Charlotte’s Theme enters as she replies, that she is not afraid to pay the price for her independence. At 1:11:13 Mother’s Theme enters on solemn horns reale as she informs Charlotte that her Will stipulates that she will become the most powerful and wealthiest member of the Vale family, with the caveat that she does what she is told. An imperious Mother’s Theme reprises when she orders Dora to tend to her needs. We end darkly with Dora, signaling Charlotte to depart while her mother’s head is down for her massage. 1:12:17 Film Scene “The Letter” reveals Charlotte writing a letter to Dr. Jaquith informing him of her holding her ground with her mother and new love interest, Elliot Livingston, who has proposed, a proposal she is prepared to accept. A warm and comforting extended rendering of Dr. Jaquith’s Theme accompanies his reading the letter. His theme is sustained in the following scene where Charlotte arranges a rose bouquet for her mother who gives her a back-handed compliment for securing the family a great match with Elliot Livingston.

1:15:45 Film Scene “Jerry’s Return” reveals Charlotte and Elliot attending a party where she is unexpectantly reunited with Jerry. Steiner interpolates an instrumental rendering of “Night and Day” by Cole Porter to provide the party ambiance. Jerry tells her that he remains in love with her and she deflects asking about Tina, whom he says has been referred to Dr. Jaquith. At 1:18:14 we change scenes to the concert hall for a dramatic performance of an excerpt from the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, the Pathétique. During the performance she sits between Elliot and Jerry, and we see Jerry beg her to allow him to come over for ten minutes to talk, to which she consents. Afterwards she looks left and right at the two men and we see her conflicted. As she arrives home alone the pathos of Tchaikovsky’s music lingers, Steiner informing us of the conflict raging within her.

1:19:54 Film Scene “Jerry Cancels” offers a powerfully emotional and poignant score highlight. The phone rings, which Hilda answers. As Charlotte hurries to the phone, yearning strings of love’s desire carry her. He states that an urgent business issue requires him to take the midnight train to New York, and that he has to cancel. Her joy is dashed on the rocks, replaced by a sad rendering of the Love Theme, which is a shadow of its former self. She insists on seeing him, but he wishes her a good life with Elliot and hangs up. At 1:20:36 surging strings of desperation rise as she orders Hilda to order a taxi, carrying her arrival at the train station where she finds Jerry. He states she should not have come, but she says she needed to talk to him about Elliot. When he asks why is she marrying him, she bares her heart that he is the one she loves, not Elliot. Steiner supports with an aching Love Theme full of regrets for what could have been. Yet it brightens at 1:22:05 as he asserts, she has helped him with his wife, with better understanding Tina, and in restoring passion for his work. The theme continues to gain potency as she relates that he was her first friend, and when he fell in love with her, she felt so proud. Adding of how much his Camelia’s helped her once she returned home. The conductor calls all aboard and the Love Theme swells at 1:22:55 for an aching molto tragico rendering as he tells her to have a happy life with Elliot, to which she answers. I’ll try. They kiss one last time, and he boards to her longing eyes. As the train departs the Love Theme crests, unbearable, and so full of wanting, ending with the tragic realization of what could have been as the camera pans in on the wilted camelia corsage on her coat. Bravo!

1:23:34 Film Scene “Charlotte and Elliot” reveal them sitting together on a couch supported by the pathos of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 as he relates that in two weeks, they will be on a wonderful cruise. Elliot sees hesitancy in her eyes as she stands up, and we see her come to the realization that this is not going to work. He too then questions what feelings they have as Charlotte tells him she believes it best that they call the engagement off, thanking him for feeling that she was the best woman for him. They part amicably, she declining his offer of a kiss, but promising to remain friends in the future. Afterwards she is not distraught, with the Tchaikovsky melody carrying her up the stairs with her thoughts playing out the rebuke she anticipates from her mother when she brings her the news.

1:27:49 Film Scene “The Final Confrontation” reveals a scathing and very hurtful rebuke by her mother at the news. Strings irato enter and slowly begin a crescendo furioso as Charlotte returns a brutal rejoinder relating counsel from Dr. Jaquith where he said that tyranny is sometimes the expression of the maternal instinct. She adds, if that’s a mother’s love, I want no part of it. She turns away and declares angrily that she did not want to be born, and that you did not want me either! Closing with “This has been a calamity on both sides”! The crescendo crests at 1:12:13 with mother dying in the swift agony of a heart attack. Charlotte turns, see her mother lifeless, and walks to her carried by a string borne descent of death. Strings affanato writhe in pain as she informs Dora that they quarreled and that she did it. At 1:28:48 an elegiac Mother’s Theme sounds, replete with tolling bell sounds as we see a black wreath on the door and the attorney reads aloud her Last Will and Testament. A soliloquy of sadness and regret by strings support Charlotte inheriting all her monies and estate as we hear in her thoughts “I did it”. The sad string melody is sustained on a train trip to see Dr. Jaquith as we hear her repeatedly saying in her thoughts “I did it”. At 1:29:22 an aching Love Theme enters as she asks Jerry in her thoughts where are you as I need you so much.

1:29:33 Film Scene “Dr. Jaquith” reveals her return to Cascade to see Dr. Jaquith. His warm and inviting theme supports the view of the Sanatorium and her entry into his office. As she prepares to walk to her room Tina’s gentle theme enters at 1:30:22 as she sees her in the adjoining room, a reincarnation of her former self – an ugly duckling estranged from love. With hesitation she joins her and tries to bond with a jigsaw puzzle. Steiner supports their meeting with interplay of their two themes, Charlotte’s now lifted from sadness to one of quiet optimism and maternal warmth. At 1:32:19 strings of anxiety rise triggering a crescendo of fear as the nurse informs Tina that she will play ping pong on Bob’s team. Tina is terrified of failure and cries out to not make her play. Yet the storm subsides as Charlotte asks to take her on an excursion into town. Tina’s theme surges with happiness as the nurse agrees. We close gently as the nurse asks her to try and get some food into her.

1:33:56 Film Scene “Charlotte and Tina” reveal Tina enjoying an ice cream sundae at the parlor supported by sunny source music with upbeat tempo. Tina remains distraught, does not want to go home, and is afraid her father is dying. Charlotte helps her make a telephone call so she can talk to her father. Two bright chords support the deposit of two quarters in the phone. At 1:36:06 a solo violin tenero ascends gently as we see Jerry pick up the phone. Tina’s Theme blossoms at 1:36:18 as she takes the phone and says “Hello daddy”. At 1:37:00 a warm and sunny Charlotte’s Theme enters as they share more ice cream and bond. She withholds her name from Tina as she does not wish to reopen her relationship with Jerry at this time. A tender Love Theme enters at 1:37:40 when she calls her Tina – Jerry’s pet name for her, instead of Christine. We close with a tender and loving flourish as we see Tina bonded to Charlotte.

1:38:11 Film Scene “Tina Crying” offers a very tender and moving musical passage. It reveals Charlotte coming into her adjoining bedroom when she hears her crying in the middle of the night. Steiner sow anxiety with a deconstructed Tina’s Theme now borne by forlorn fluttering woodwinds as Charlotte sits on her bed. The music swells on a crescendo of pain as Tina cries in her arms that she is ugly, mean, and that nobody likes her. We see in Charlotte’s eyes a recognition of her former self, a self-tortured kindred spirit as she hugs her with maternal affection. The music warms and brightens at 1:38:52 on a comforting Charlotte’s Theme replete with angelic harp as she reassures Tina that there is another form of beauty that dwells within you as you are a nice person. She adds that if you want people to like you, you must first like them. She tells her a bedtime story, which puts her to sleep as she thinks “This is Jerry’s child clinging to me”. This cue offered an intersection of powerful emotions where Charlotte’s maternal love ameliorates Tina’s self-loathing, born by a stirring rendering of her theme, which not only heals Tina, but Charlotte herself.

1:41:43 Film Scene “Tennis” reveals Charlotte and Tina playing tennis, which Steiner again supports with an allegretto abounding with a sunny and playful happiness. The happy times are ended by Dr. Jaquith summoning Charlotte and gently admonishing her for taking over care of Tina from his staff. She opens up regarding her former relationship with Jerry, and he agrees to let her continue to work with the child. Strings of joy surge at 1:44:35 as Charlotte departs and we later see Tina calling her father to inform him that Miss Vale will be taking care of her. When she declines to speak to him at 1:45:11 the Love Theme again blossoms, not romantically but maternally as Charlotte evolution from child, to adult woman to mother is now complete. 1:45:28 Film Scene “Camping Trip” reveals Charlotte taking Tina on a camping trip, something she had always wanted. The allegretto, abounding with happiness and delight supports the drive and montage of the two enjoying themselves fishing, frolicking in the woods, and canoeing. The music’s energy dissipates, assuming a gentile expression at 145:56 as we see them sleeping under the stars. The next morning a waltz like rendering of Dr. Jaquith’s joins at 1:46:11 as Tina cooks breakfast and Charlotte joins after writing a letter to Dr. Jaquith asking to take her home to Boston with her. We end with loving satisfaction as Tina decides after numerous suggestions to call Charlotte by the name Camille, supported by a fleeting reference to the Love Theme.

1:47:43 Film Scene “Dr. Jaquith and Jerry Visit” reveals them arriving supported by strings solenne. As they enter soft source music plays, and we see a party with guests roasting weenies in the fireplace. June warmly greets them and invites them to join. At 1:48:48 Tina calls out daddy from atop the stairs and we see her transformed by a beautiful dress, hair styling, and no glasses. She descends to him carried by a joyous rendering of her theme with a descent motif joining. Father and daughter lovingly embrace and she exudes happiness with her first party dress as he relates how beautiful she is. When she asks if he likes her, he embraces her, and says I love you. The Love Theme supports this at 1:49:30, still full of regret when his and Charlotte’s eyes lock. Its melody is sustained when he asks Tina what he should call her new friend, and she says her private name for her – Camille. She then takes him up to see her room as Charlotte’s eyes reveal the silent restless seas of her heart. At 1:50:16 source music returns as we see Charlotte and Dr. Jaquith reviewing the blue prints of the new wing of the sanatorium that will be built thanks to her generous grant.

1:51:15 Film Scene “We Have The Stars”. offers a powerful cathartic score highlight where all that is unsaid between Charlotte and Jerry is at last revealed. Tina returns and says that daddy is waiting in the library for her. Charlotte goes to him and he tells her he wants to take Tina home as his pride is wounded as she is always giving and he always taking. When she asks him is this really about us, he says bitterly, of course it is supported at 1:52:43 by an aggrieved rendering of the Love Theme, which swells full of hurt and regret. He says he feels guilty for breaking up her engagement to Elliot, and for Tina taking up all her time, which prevents her from finding a man to make her happy. Interplay of Charlotte’s Theme and the Love Theme commences at 1:53:15 as she informs him that she needs no man to be happy and that she cares for Tina out of love, nurturing the fantasy that she was their child. He realizes his error, comes to her and at 1:54:26 the Love Theme becomes ascendant as he admits that he knows she still loves him, and that what is between them, won’t die. The theme begins to swell as he embraces her, yet when she resists, and pleads, please let me go, he turns away with sad realization that it cannot be. Steiner supports with an aching molto tragico climax of the Love Theme at 1:54:55. She pleads with him, saying that him coming tonight was a test by Dr. Jaquith, and if she fails, she will lose not only Tina, but each other. She pleads with him to help her. A final statement of a now wistful rendering of the Love Theme enters at 1:55:43 as he asks, shall we have a cigarette on it, and once again he lights two as he did before on the balcony in Rio. He asks if he can come back to visit our daughter, which moves her deeply. She answers, of course. We close at 1:57:00 when he asks; “Will you be happy, Charlotte” and she replies “Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s not ask for the Moon – we have the stars”, which Steiner supports with a tear evoking, final molto romantico reprise of the Love Theme that ends in a flourish as the camera pans upwards to the star filled skies. Bravo!

For Now Voyager Steiner was presented with a story well suited to his melodramatic style. He responded with perhaps one of his finest career efforts, providing quintessential romantic lyricism of the highest order. He created a multiplicity of interconnected and kindred themes masterfully woven into the tapestry of the film’s narrative. He understood that Charlotte was the central character who undergoes a profound metamorphosis, evolving from daughter, to adult woman, to mother, but also from an ugly duckling to beautiful swan. To that end we find that Charlotte’s Theme also evolves from a reticent and self-tortured expression of hopelessness and dread born in the crucible of pain wrought by a cruel mother, to a more confident, assertive and hopeful expression. Masterful is the interrelatedness of the other themes; the Voyager Theme was an over-arching theme, which spoke to circumstances of Charlotte’s pathetic life, creating feelings of dislocation and uncertainty. The Mother’s imperious and suffocating theme represented the shackles that repressed Charlotte’s spirit, while Dr. Jaquith’s comforting and soothing theme served as the key that unlocked the shackles that liberated Charlotte. Finally we have Tina’s fragile yet hopeful theme, which potentiates in Charlotte self-acceptance and love of herself, as one cannot love another, if they do not love themselves.

The Love Theme however is where Steiner’s mastery of his craft is fully demonstrated and realized. Some argue that it may be the finest in his canon, and I would be hard pressed to find one in film where a theme blossomed and swelled to such profoundly moving expositions. The use of a repeating pattern of crescendo and decrescendo in which each cycle ascends with greater ardency brought forth two of the most sublime, tear-evoking, romantic climaxes in cinematic history – the Airport scene and the final scene. Folks, this score is a masterpiece, one of the finest in Steiner’s canon, and a testament to the glory of the Golden Age of film scoring. For me this score occupies first place on the Holy Grail list of film score that need a rerecording. It is completely unacceptable that a commercial issue of this score after 79 years is unavailable and I call upon the major labels to find the resources and means to address this as soon as possible.

Editor’s note: the best commercial recording of the Now Voyager score is on the 1973 album ‘Now Voyager: The Classic Film Scores of Max Steiner,’ which is part of the RCA Victor series of film music compilations conducted by Charles Gerhardt with the National Philharmonic Orchestra. The album contains a 5 minute 56 second suite of music from Now Voyager, plus selections from other scores including King Kong, Saratoga Trunk, The Charge of The Light Brigade, Four Wives, The Big Sleep, Johnny Belinda, Since You Went Away, The Informer, and The Fountainhead.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link of Gerhardt’s suite, which offers Steiner’s wondrous love theme in all its sumptuous glory. The construct of the suite is: Warner Brothers Fanfare – Main Title – Love Scene and Finale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3jrPmMp7v8

Buy the Now Voyager soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Suite from Now, Voyager (5:56)

Running Time: 5 minutes 56 seconds

RCA Victor 0136-2-RG (1942/1973)

Music composed by Max Steiner. Conducted by Charles Gerhardt. Performed by The National Philharmonic Orchestra. Original orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer. Score produced by Max Steiner. Album produced by George Korngold.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: