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ABOVE AND BEYOND – Hugo Friedhofer

October 18, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Hollywood screenwriter Beirne Lay Jr., a retired USAF bombardier, gained fame after the war for his screenplay to the 1949 film 12 O’Clock High. In 1951 he conceived a new screenplay for a WWII story he felt needed to be told. To that end he met with Air Force General Curtis LeMay, commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). He suggested a new film that would explore the experiences of Colonel Paul Tibbets, the commander of the historic 509th Composite Group, which was responsible for dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima during WWII. LeMay fully supported this, gave his consent, and Lay provided his outline to screenwriters Melvin Frank and Norman Panama who collaborated with USAF technical advisors Lt. Colonel Charles F.H. Begg, Major Norman W. Ray and Major James B. Bean to write the screenplay. With USAF backing Frank and Panama impressed MGM studio executives with their story, and they were given reins to produce the film with a budget of $1.4 million. Frank and Panama would also take on co-director duties and a fine cast was hired, including Robert Taylor as Tibbets, Eleanor Tibbets as Lucy Tibbets, and James Whitmore as Major Bill Uanna.

The film explores the secret mission to select and train an elite crew to test and fly the air force’s new bomber, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The men selected were among the many assigned to the top-secret Manhattan Project, which was created to develop and deploy a new and devastating weapon, the atomic bomb. The men are initially kept in the dark regarding their mission, however once the commander and flight crew are selected and moved to Wendover Field in Utah, they are briefed on the mission. The importance of the mission for the war effort and the vital need for secrecy causes tensions to erupt in the Tibbets family personal life. Eventually Tibbets and his crew are deployed to the air force base at Tinian in the Northern Mariana Island some 1,500 miles south east of Japan. They successfully deliver the bomb to the port of Hiroshima on August 3, 1945 and return home safely as heroes. The film was a commercial success earning a profit of $2.5 million. Reviews were generally favorable and it secured two Academy Award nominations for Best Original Story and Best Film Score.

Co-directors Melvin Frank and Norman Panama were impressed and moved by Hugo Friedhofer’s Academy Award winning score to the WWII story The Best Years of Our Life in 1946 and believed he was the best choice to score their film. Friedhofer was inspired to take on the assignment, and upon viewing the film realized that this was not at its crux a war film, but instead a psycho-drama and character study of a commander and his crew placed under great duress for a mission which could very well determine the outcome of the war. The responsibility, heavy burden and cloak of secrecy that surrounded the mission, took their toll and had profound effects not only on the men, but also on their loved ones, which duty required be kept in the dark. Friedhofer related;

It was a very strong and very fine picture. The reason I like the picture so much was because it was not a flag waver, which would have been pretty horrible in light of subsequent developments. The film was a study of character, of a man whose loyalty to his country and the whole circumstances went against the grain. It told the fact that he lost his friends and wife, or almost, through having to keep this very tight security. It was a study of a man and his crew, rather than a war picture”.

Friedhofer understood that he would have to infuse his soundscape with the requisite Americana, drawing upon the traditions of both Aaron Copland and George Gershwin. But he also related being influenced by one of his favorite composers, Ralph Vaughn Williams whose “freely modal” lyricism inspired him. To support the film Friedhofer would compose several themes and motifs, two horn calls, and some marches, including; the Main Theme offers a proud marcia nobile, which embodies America’s forthright strength and righteousness in the defense of liberty. Friedhofer does not infuse it with traditional patriotic fervor, using instead solemn lyricism to express the finest attributes and nobility of the nation. The reprise of the melody by strings bravura buttressed by contrapuntal horns elevates the march into the ranks of Hollywood’s finest. Paul’s Theme offers a solemn marcia militare, which reveals a silent, unboastful strength, and forthright purposeful determination. The Love Theme for Paul and Lucy speaks to the love, devotion and loyalty between the two, as they struggle with the vicissitudes the military imposes on married couples. The elegant theme is one of the finest in Friedhofer’s canon with its achingly beautiful melody shifting from cello, to strings to solo violin with grace and aplomb. We discern a subtle sadness in the notes full of longing, yet also a love which remains true and perseveres. For me, this theme is the score’s finest.

Lucy’s Theme supports her identity as the aggrieved, long suffering, but steadfast wife of Paul Tibbets. It emotes as a solo violin tenero attended by a retinue of woodwinds tristi and kindred strings. The Atomic Bomb Theme was brilliantly conceived and executed by Friedhofer. When first heard it emotes as a nascent abstraction, supported by intangible and portentous horns. As this monstrous weapon is constructed and takes form, its motif slowly transforms into a majestic, yet ethereal construct of shimmering ascending chords, which bely its destructive all-destroying might. Horn Call #1 offers a repeating bold declarative call by ascending horns dramatico, answered by descending horns, drums potenti and lyrical strings. The motif is not patriotic in its bearing, but instead emotes as an homage to bravery. Horn Call #2 is associated with Operation Silverplate and its crew. Its repeating six-note declarations by forthright horns provide a formal, military bearing. The Tension Motif offers a repeating stressful pattern by strings full of tension with horn counters, which support scenes of the B-29 being tested. Lastly, scenes coded (*) have music not found on the album.

We open with the roaring lion of the MGM studios logo, which is supported by the bold horns dramatico of Horn Call #1, which unleashes a surge by ascending strings energico. Horn Call #1 reprises its bold declarations at 0:11 as typed script rolls across the screen, displaying a distinguished service cross draped against cloud swept skies. We are informed of the release of previously classified materials and gratitude to the Department of Defense for its cooperation in making this film. At 0:36 we flow into the “Main Title” a powerful score highlight with the display of the film’s title, which commences the roll of the opening credits. Friedhofer empowers his proud Main Theme for a stirring exposition, which in a masterstroke declares the film’s purpose and captures its emotional core. At 1:38 we demur on horns solenne as scripts credits the commander of the ‘Operation Silverplate’, Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Jr. At 2:01 we flow into the film proper in “Narration” atop horns solenne as script displays “Washington D.C. – 1945”. A diminuendo of sadness takes us to Lucy Tibbets who is informed of a thirty-minute delay. At 2:26 as she begins to reminisce over all that has transpired over the last two years, and whether this will be the end of her marriage. Her theme enters on a solo violin tenero with a retinue of woodwinds tristi. When she states that it all began about two years ago over North Africa in 1943 a nascent almost intangible quote of the Atomic Bomb Motif sounds. We close on a contemplative reprise of the Horn Call #1 as we shift to Colonel Paul Tibbets commanding a bombing mission over Bizerte Tunisia beset by German anti-aircraft flak.

“Tibbett Is Selected” reveals Tibbets being selected by General Vernon C. Brent who after witnessing his challenge to his commanding General Roberts order to fly missions at the dangerously low altitude of 6,000 feet, selects him on a hunch for America’s developmental B-29 program. On the plane back to the states Brent informs Tibbets that given the importance of the B-29 program he wants to limit distractions. He orders him to proceed to Wichita without his wife who he has not seen in two years, or son which he has never seen, allowing him only 30 minutes at the airport to see them. The scene is unscored. “Paul’s Homecoming” offers a romantic score highlight where we are graced with a full exposition of the gorgeous Love Theme. It reveals Paul spending his precious 30 minutes with Lucy in the airport coffee shop. She is disappointed that they will again be apart, and worried as she has heard the B-29 is a death trap. Paul gifts her his usual perfume and attempts to soothe her, promising to return as soon as he can. Friedhofer supports the intimate moment eloquently with the deeply moving Love Theme for one of the score’s finest moments. At 1:35 the sadness of parting intrudes as he prepares to depart. She weeps unable to bear being apart, yet the Love Theme blossoms when he tells her that if he did not have her, he would not have anything. She is deeply moved and they kiss full of love for each other, his parting words being, not to worry as it is just another airplane.

At 2:49 we segue into “B-29 Montage” on a surge by strings of tension, which is sustained by the Tension Motif as Lucy narrates a montage that reveals the repeated fires, malfunctions and problems experienced by Paul who rigorously tests the new plane’s capabilities in radical maneuvering, and all types of weather conditions. A surge of anxiety and emotional distress arises at 3:44 as Lucy, who is visiting Wichita, witnesses a horrible day when Paul loses an engine, landing gear and is forced to crash land before her eyes. Friedhofer sow a mounting tension as the plane descends perilously carried by a descent motif of terror replete with howling horns. Paul successfully lands the plane with a suspenseful chorale of horns dramatico carrying him out from the crash site dust storms. Lucy cannot not take it and woodwinds of anguish carry her departure later that night. At 5:00 we segue atop a gorgeous solo violin romantico emoting the Love Theme into “Weekend Cabin” where months later Paul is granted leave. We are graced by a tender exposition of the Love Theme full of warmth as they spend time at a lakeside cabin cuddling in front of the fireplace, reminisce about their life together, and make love. At 6:21 we segue atop strings of tension with horn counters of the Tension Motif into “More B-29” where Lucy narrates that Paul tirelessly tested and refined the B-29 until all the bugs were fixed, which finally led to the plane’s mass production. At 7:02 we segue into “Leave of Absence” a beautiful score highlight atop the solo violin romantico of the Love Theme as Paul returns home to Lucy, who is pregnant with their second child. We see Paul, her and their son Paul Jr. enjoying a normal family life together, which Friedhofer supports with a wondrous exposition by strings tranquilli, gentle woodwind accents and harp adornment.

“Top Secret Bridge” opens with violins of disappointment as Paul is ordered to report to the air base at Colorado Springs, which cancels their family outing to the mountains. Lucy is sad as Paul holds and comforts her. At 0:10 the forthright horns militare of the Horn Call #2 Motif support Tibbets arrival and demand by security MPs for his identity card before entry, which he finds unusual given his rank. In “The Mission” Tibbets is interrogated by Major Uanna regarding past incidents, and then taken in to see General Brent who gives him a choice to command a great mission. A mission that would end the war, save a million American and Japanese lives, but require him to in a single flash, kill 100,000 people. After a suspenseful soul-searching contemplation, Tibbets consents to command the mission. He is then introduced to the Manhattan Project chiefs who brief him on the atomic bomb being developed. Brent informs him the “Operation Silverplate” will require him to select and train a crew and then fly a B-29 to deliver the atomic bomb to a Japanese target. Tibbetts accepts and is cautioned that the operation demands complete secrecy. This dramatic scene was unscored.

In “Personnel Montage” Paul leaves the briefing, pauses and says “My God” as grim portentous horns sound. At 0:08 a solo flute misterioso supports his call to Lucy saying he would be away for a couple months, but still be home for the baby’s birth. Yet he sounded too casual and Lucy suspects something is amiss. Tibbets selects the isolated Wendover air force base as the headquarters of “Operation Silverplate” and at 0:24 we see a montage of scenes where he selects the members of his flight crew. Friedhofer supports with the reserved, yet determined marcia militare of his theme. “Security Montage” reveals Paul briefing his B-29 flight crews on their mission to end the war, the extensive training that will be needed, as well as the need for absolute secrecy. Major Uanna then informs them of multiple security areas requiring specific passes, and that should any of these areas be violated, the MPs have standing orders to “shoot to kill”. He dismisses the men for a ten-day furlough supported by drums potenti, which usher in variations of the Horn Call #1 Motif as we follow a number of the men on furlough. Several of the men talk too much to clandestine security men, are ordered back to base and threatened with court-marshal by Tibbets. Fearing disclosure by wives, Uanna suggests bringing all the wives and families to the base, where they can be better monitored and controlled.

“Training Montage” opens with forlorn woodwinds as Major Uanna recommends against bringing Lucy to the base advising Paul that he is already under too much pressure for this mission and it would only get worse if she came. At 0:11 the music brightens as we see that families have arrived and children are playing. We close on a forlorn Horn Call Motif #1 as Lucy advises that she was never called to come and that Paul no longer writes. “Labor Pains” opens with a dramatic horn declared Horn Call #2 as Tibbets counterman’s General Robert’s order refusing to provide him with six C-54 transport planes and commandeers them. At 0:23 we shift to a very pregnant Lucy at home atop her theme borne by a solo oboe delicato, which shifts to a plaintive solo violin as she complains of loneliness and of feeling abandoned by Paul. At 0:36 trepidation enters on strings of distress as Lucy goes into labor and is forced to drive herself to the hospital. The music darkens as she realizes that she will again have to deliver alone, joined at 0:55 by a grieving rendering of her theme on solo violin draped with forlorn woodwinds full of sadness. At 1:13 the music darkens for an extended exposition with angry tremolo strings, drum strikes and a growing dissonance as she relates her fury for Paul abandoning her, no longer caring about his welfare. We close darkly on his aggrieved theme, which speaks to the heavy burden he carries and his worsening exhaustion.

“Congratulations, Pal” reveals a very weary Paul taking Lucy’s phone call and apologizing for not being there for the birth. He finally relents to allow her to join him and music enters as she tells him how much she loves him, and then exhorts him to go out on the town and celebrate their new baby boy. The Love Theme enters gently on woodwinds tenero to support the intimate moment and then slowly becomes wistful as he grabs a cigar, and ponders his second boy. The theme’s vitality dissipates with weariness as the exhausted Paul lays his head down on his desk and falls asleep. (*) “The Dance” reveals Paul and Lucy out on the town, which is supported by three source music songs. When Harry begins explaining to Lucy that she has been dancing with security agents Paul cuts him off and sends him home. Lucy and Paul agree to go home to the kids and we segue into “During the Bawl” where we see them preparing to turn in. We open with a tender Love Theme, which blossom as he puts his gift of perfume on her pillow. She is thankful, yet troubled by his harshness with Harry and starts probing. He gently deflects and resumes his embrace and kissing as we are graced by a wonderful exposition of the Love Theme. At 1:40 we segue into “Four Seasons Montage” where we see a montage of scenes, which shift to and from between Lucy’s domestic washing chore drudgery and Paul’s accuracy testing of his bomb drops. Her scenes are supported with comedic tediousness, while his scenes are supported by statements of the Main Theme March. The juxtaposition magnifies Lucy’s growing frustration with Paul’s reticence to disclose any information about his job.

In “Los Alamos” Paul is called away to the Los Alamos Lab and is forced to miss Lucy’s special anniversary dinner she prepared. He apologizes and she is again disappointed, especially when he refuses to tell her where he is going. Strings of aerial flight join with a resounding Horn Call #1 Motif to propel the plane through the skies. At 0:10 the motif’s energy dissipates and becomes sobering as we enter a meeting with the project’s technical team. They discuss the challenges of detonating the bomb, which their calculations have determined must be done at a height of 1,600 feet above the ground for maximum effectiveness. After the meeting in “Anniversary” Paul and General Brent share a private moment where Brent confides that he believed Paul looked uncomfortable during the meeting. Paul admits to this saying “I would not think much of myself if I didn’t”. The menacing Atomic Bomb Motif sounds to open the cue with a grim solemnity to support the moment. The Horn Call #1 motif supports the flight back home and at 0:14 we shift to a sleepy, but tender Love Theme as Paul arrives home and kisses a Lucy who is sleeping on the couch. The theme carries them as they put Paul Jr. to bed as Paul kisses her. Yet the idyllic moment is shattered at 1:34 with a surge of angry dissonance supporting Paul’s defensive, hard edged rebuke when Lucy relates her sadness that kids like this are dying from bombs dropped in the war.

In “Lucy’s Distress” Paul unleashes a very harsh rebuke to Lucy saying that the war is indeed terrible, but losing the war to gangs like this would be worst. As he storms away to the bedroom Lucy is incredulous, unable to understand that Paul’s rage reflects his inner moral conflict regarding his role in the U.S. plan to kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians with the atomic bomb. Friedhofer scores the aftermath with a plaintive and aggrieved expression of the Love Theme as both Paul and Lucy lie awake with a wall of silence separating them. At 0:20 we shift to Paul performing a montage of bomb drops, each of which fails to detonate at the required 1,600-foot altitude. A beleaguered Horn Call #1 Motif empowers with a series of grim descending chords supporting the bomb drops. “Lucy’s Security Breech” reveals her breeching security to get Paul to release a plane to take Marge’s son to a Salt Lake City hospital for a concussion. He does so, orders the guard imprisoned for letting Lucy pass, and the rebukes her for violating security protocols. We see that this may be the last straw for their marriage as she departs. The scene was unscored.

“Blue Light” offers a score highlight, which was sadly dialed out of the film. I believed the dramatic importance of the scene would have been enhanced by Friedhofer’s handiwork. General Brent informs Paul that the President has authorized “Blue Light” for the deployment and use of the atomic bomb, with the caveat that he, and he alone will make the final call that his flight crew is ready. We open with a solemn Main Theme, joined with muted horns which usher in at 0:57 a majestic full exposition of the Atomic Bomb Theme, an ethereal construct of shimmering ascending chords, which bely its implacable all-destroying might. Afterwards as General Brent gives him two bronze eagles and congratulates him on his promotion to full colonel, the bond between the two men is supported by a warm, and thankful rendering of Paul’s Theme. “The Fight” reveals Paul coming home, yelling at Paul Jr. and making him cry, and Lucy unloading on him for his intolerance and obsession with perfection, ending with mocked praise of his promotion. He leaves full of anger and says that he will eat at the base. The scene is unscored.

“Bomb Montage” reveals Tibbet’s crew dropping bombs, which reliably detonate at 1,600 feet. We open with the Horn Call #1 Motif and then Friedhofer supports with a repeating cycle of upper register bursts as the bomb is dropped, answered by grim low registers eruptions that simulate the bombs exploding at 1,600 feet on the oscilloscope. “Indecision” reveals the project team divided on deployment with Colonel Tibbet’s arguing that after nine successful tests his team is ready, while the scientists insist on several more months of testing. Paul leaves saying he has to think about this and music enters in his office atop a meandering clarinet triste dancing over dark low register strings. As he places a call for General Brent the Horn Call #1 Motif ushers in an unsettling statement of the Atomic Bomb Theme.

“Hospital” offers a score highlight with the full spectrum of human emotions on display. Lucy has had enough, tells Paul he has killed her love for him, and demands he arrange to move them off base. He grudgingly agrees and leaves. Friedhofer scores the aftermath with a molto tragico statement of the Love Theme as Lucy sinks with despair into the bed. At 0:24 we shift to Paul’s office atop dark chords of regret joining his depressed theme as he looks at a photo of Lucy, and then orders his plane readied to fly him to see General Brent. At 1:04 Lucy’s Theme by strings affanato support her feeding the baby as she sees Paul’s personal plane take-off. At 1:20 the Horn Call #1 Motif supports Paul’s arrival in Colorado Springs. He visits Brent who has been gravely injured in a plane crash to inform him, after hesitating, that “Blue Light” is a go. At 1:47 a solemn rendering of his theme ushers in at 2:44 the Atomic Bomb Theme cloaked in ethereal splendor, whose power will soon be unleashed, forever changing the course of human history. We close with a warm and sentimental rendering of Paul’s Theme, which brings out Paul’s humanity as Brent congratulates and offers praise, wishing him well with the mission. At 3:26 we close with a wistful statement of the Love Theme as Paul walks into a store to buy perfume for Lucy.

In “Breakup” Lucy confronts Major Uanna demanding to know what Paul is doing as it has changed him, and is breaking up their marriage. He refuses, counsels patience, and she storms out threatening to find out the truth. Later Paul rages to Uanna and questions whether this was worth it, about the terrible sacrifices he has had to make, including his marriage and family. He departs with both agreeing to send her and the kids back to Washington D.C. Music enters as he returns home supported by grim allusions to the Atomic Bomb Theme – the cause of his marriage break-up. As Lucy greets him her theme by strings and woodwinds affanato express her regrets, as a steady timpani cadence of pain beats. The entwining of her theme on solo violin and the portentous chords of doom of the Atomic Bomb Theme speak to the tragedy, which has broken up his family. “Silverplate” reveals Lucy and the kids departing as Paul waves goodbye with his eyes full of regret. Friedhofer supports with a molto tragico rendering of their now broken Love Theme. At 0:39 horns dramatico resound as we see the “Operation Silverplate” authorization form stamped “Blue Light”. A robust declaration of both Horn Call Motif’s propels a montage where we see a squadron of B-29s enroute to Tainan. At 1:05 a parade of chords brilliante resound as the squadron flies over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the vast Pacific Ocean. At 1:19 Horn Call #2 Motif sounds as Tibbets alerts his crew to the island of Tinian below, their new home. Both Horn Call Motifs support the planes landing with airmen running out to greet them on the tarmac.

“Letter” reveals Tibbets on Guam briefing General LeMay and his command staff. After a brief debate he is given to green light to make the bombing run tomorrow. Back at Tinian a chaplain blesses the flight crew in hope that the bomb will end the war. Paul gives a letter to Major Uanna in case he does not make it, and then returns to his room where he cannot sleep. He pours some coffee and then writes a letter to his mother, Enola Gay, in which he bears his soul, revealing his fear of what he is about to do, the potential impact on his family should he fail, and the world he will leave his sons should he succeed. Friedhofer supports Tibbet’s testament with a flowing stream of foreboding statements by the omnipresent Atomic Bomb Theme buttressed by drums of doom. At 1:05 we segue into “I’ll Be All Right” as he accepts his fate and declares, I’ll be all right”. He turns to the plane’s mechanic and asks that he paint the plane’s name as “Enola Gay”, and we close on a warm rendering of his theme. “Hiroshima Run, Part. 1 & 2” was severely edited with only the first 1:12 of Part 1 being used in the film, and the entire original Part 2 discarded and rewritten to reflect footage edited out of the film. We open with the dramatic interplay atop horns bravado of the two Horn Call Motifs as a tarped cart wheels in the “Little Boy” atomic bomb. A grim descent of foreboding at 0:24 supports the fiery crash of a B-29 on the runway. As the men fret about them crashing, an ominous Atomic Bomb Theme lurks in the background. At 0:55 Paul’ Theme brings reassurance to his crew when he advises that they are taking off with the bomb unarmed. They board, fire-up the engines and complete pre-flight checks. The tower clears them for take-off and Tibbets commences his flight of destiny.

After 1:12 of the cue we segue into “Hiroshima Run, Pt. 2”, which was rewritten after 3:14 minutes was edited out of the film. The music darkens on repeating, grim piano strikes as Tibbets orders Captain Parsons to arm the bomb. Friedhofer supports the suspense by sowing tension as the bomb is armed using a portentous, repeating phrases of the Atomic Bomb Theme buttressed by a grim bass heart beat ostinato. The stream of tension includes surging horn dramatico declarations, which unsettle and sow fear. At 2:21 horns maestoso resound as Parson reports to the cockpit and advises that the bomb is armed. Tibbets then reveals to the crew that their mission is to drop an atomic bomb and that they need to wear their protective goggles and be prepared for a shockwave. “Journey’s End” opens on tense repeating descents by tremolo strings, which sow tension. At 0:30 horns of doom sound as they begin receiving weather reports of the four available targets. At 0:52 a confident Main Theme rises up as Hiroshima it designated the target. Friedhofer sustains tension with interspersing declarations of the two Horn Call Motifs as the crew dons their masks and prepare for the drop. The two escort B-29s then depart leaving Tebbit’s to take the Enola Gay onward to her destiny. The music for this cue was dialed out of the film. I believed Friedhofer’s conception worked fine.

“Armageddon” offers a crowning score highlight where Friedhofer brilliantly succeeds in composing an orchestral passage as powerful, awesome and horrific as the nuclear explosion. We open with the sighting of Hiroshima. The crew dons their googles, the bomb bay doors are opened, and we hear twenty seconds to target. A dramatic countdown commences with the bomb released at zero. A descent motif carries the bomb down (not on the album) and Tibets banks the B-29 hard to port to put as much distance between them and the nuclear explosion. Music enters with the blinding flash of the nuclear explosion as a monstrous cacophonous orchestral eruption. Tremolo strings take over at 0:13 as a massive mushroom cloud rises up unstoppable. We commence a horrific horn declared, chordal ascent from the abyssal depths of the orchestra on the Atomic Bomb Theme, guided by a searing tremolo by strings di terrore. As the surging mushroom cloud reaches their altitude Tibbets is awestruck and utters “God” as the men see the bomb’s spreading, all-consuming wave of destruction. At 1:03 the shock wave hits supported by harsh orchestral buffeting. At 1:10 the storm momentarily subsides as thunderous timpani are joined by resounding declarations of the Atomic Bomb Theme by horns of doom as the men look down in horror at the city aflame in a hellish conflagration. Tibbet’s sends a message to base, results good, and then looks down at the destruction he has wrought. Friedhofer ends the scene not with a paean of victory, but instead as a tragic elegy borne by the two Horn Call Motifs.

“End Title” reveals Lucy hearing over the radio that Paul had commanded the mission that dropped an atomic bomb that wiped out and entire city, and which may end the war. Reporters barge in and swarm asking questions, but she is overcome, finally realizing why Paul was so consumed and secretive. She closes herself off in the bedroom and weeps supported by an aching rendering of her theme, joined at 0:21 by a string ascent of the Atomic Bomb Theme. At 0:31 we shift atop fanfare to the airport where Lucy waits for Paul. The solo violin romantico of the Love Theme supports her and informs us that they will again be reunited in love. He deplanes, hesitates, yet when he pulls out of his pocket her usual gift of perfume, they race to each other’s arms carried by a Love Theme, which blossoms as they embrace and kiss. We segue at 1:42 into “Cast”, which is supported by a rousing patriotic rendering of the Main Theme that ends in a glorious flourish.

I would like to thank Lukas Kendall and Film Score Monthly for this restoration of Hugo Friedhofer’s masterpiece, “Above and Beyond”. The original stereo tapes were lost, which necessitated digital mastering using the back-up monaural tapes. Doug Schwartz’s digital mastering efforts are to be commended, and were for the most part, successful, although 21st century audio qualitative standards were not achieved. Having said this, I believe the beauty and magnificence of Friedhofer’s score shines through. Friedhofer understood that this was not at its crux a war film, but instead a psycho-drama of a commander and his crew placed under great duress for a mission which could very well determine the outcome of the war. The responsibility, heavy burden, and cloak of secrecy that surrounded the mission, took a heavy toll on Tibbets, and had deleterious effects on his wife Lucy and family. Accepting this, Friedhofer eschewed the conventional forthright rousing patriotism of war films, instead offering a more nuanced and introspective exploration of the film’s potent psychological drama.

He composed the requisite horn calls and marches emblematic of the military, yet juxtaposed more intimate and lyrical constructs, which spoke to Paul and Lucy’s love and individual struggles. I believe this insightful juxtaposition enhanced the film’s narrative and empowered its commentary. The construct of the Atomic Bomb Theme was brilliantly conceived, and its exposition during the bomb’s explosion in the “Armageddon” cue offers a testament to Friedhofer’s mastery of his craft. As awesome the visuals of the atomic blast are, it is Friedhofer’s score which drives home the horrific, devastating, all-consuming destruction seen in the eyes and expressions of the crew. I my judgement Friedhofer’s conception and execution of his score allowed Frank and Panama to achieve their vision. I believe this score to be one of the finest in Friedhofer’s canon, a masterpiece of the Golden Age worthy of its Oscar nomination, and highly recommend you purchase this fine album.

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

Buy the Above and Beyond soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title/Narration (3:22)
  • Paul’s Homecoming/B-29 Montage/Weekend Cabin/More B-29/Leave of
  • Absence (7:49)
  • Top Secret Bridge (0:46)
  • Personnel Montage (1:27)
  • Security Montage (1:05)
  • Training Montage (0:28)
  • Labor Pains (2:23)
  • Congratulations, Pal (1:03)
  • During the Bawl/Four Seasons Montage (1:00)
  • Los Alamos (0:25)
  • Anniversary (1:39)
  • Lucy’s Distress (1:05)
  • Blue Light (2:23)
  • Bomb Montage (0:20)
  • Indecision (0:55)
  • Hospital (3:45)
  • Breakup (1:36)
  • Silverplate (2:17)
  • Letter/I’ll Be All Right (1:40)
  • Hiroshima Run, Pt. 1 & 2 (7:10)
  • Hiroshima Run, Pt. 2 (revised) (2:44)
  • Journey’s End (2:37)
  • Armageddon (2:43)
  • End Title and Cast (2:15)

Running Time: 52 minutes 57 seconds

Film Score Monthly – FSM Vol.5 No.11 (1952/2002)

Music composed by Hugo Friedhofer. Conducted by Andrè Previn. Orchestrations by Alexander Courage, Robert Franklyn and Harold Byrns. Recorded and mixed by XXXX. Score produced by Hugo Friedhofer. Album produced by Lukas Kendall.

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