Home > Reviews > BLACK PATCH – Jerry Goldsmith

BLACK PATCH – Jerry Goldsmith

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film lay with producer-director-writer-actor George Montgomery best known for his work in the Western genre. In February 1957 he announced his latest project, “Decision At Sundown” based on an original screenplay by Leo Gordon. The title was later changed to “Black Patch”. His own production company Montgomery Productions would finance the project, with Allen Miller tasked with production as well as directing. A fine cast was assembled with Montgomery starring as Marshall Clay Morgan. Joining him would be Sebastian Cabot as Frenchy De Vere, Diane Brewster as Helen Danner, Tom Pittman as Flytrap (Carl), Leo Gordon as Hank Danner, House Peters Jr. as Holman Lynn Cartwright as Kitty and Jorge Trevino as Pedoline.

The story is set in New Mexico in the years following the Civil War where Marshall Clay Morgan is reunited with his civil war veteran friend Hank Danner, and his wife Helen, whom Clay was once in love. Complicating matters is Clay’s friend Carl, a young man who idolizes him and also falls in love with Helen. When Hank’s past as a bank robber is revealed, Clay becomes conflicted between duty and friendship, and has to arrest Hank, but does so humanely. Yet saloon owner Frenchy discovers Hank’s past and blackmails him into splitting the stolen money as the price of helping him escape. All goes awry during the escape when Frenchy’s henchman Holman shoots Hank in the back and Clay ends up being framed for the murder. He is acquitted and is forced into a showdown with Carl, who has been stoked by Frenchy to avenge Helen. In the end, Helen intervenes at the last moment, exposes Frenchy’s treachery, and Carl relents. The film did not perform well at the box office and critical reception was mixed.

Jerry Goldsmith had previously worked with producer-director William Conrad on his radio show. Conrad was also impressed by his score to “1489 Words” and so recommended to the film’s creative team to hire Goldsmith for the assignment. He was surprised, and with great pleasure accepted his first feature film scoring assignment, which was offered to him in April 1957. Goldsmith, who was twenty-eight years old at the time, had studied under the legendary Miklós Rózsa, and was part of the new generation of composers ascending during the waning days of the Golden Age. While he embraced leitmotifs in constructing his soundscape, he like generational peers Leonard Rosenman and Alex North, brought a more modernist scoring sensibility.

In terms of recurring themes and motifs, Goldsmith provides only a few including; the Black Patch Fanfare, an eleven-note declaration by horns bravura, offers a traditional western film opening, which establishes the story’s dramatic narrative, as well as the untamed expansiveness of the old west. Phrases of the fanfare permeate the film, providing a unifying underpinning for Goldsmith’s musical narrative. It also serves as the progenitor of the kindred Love Theme, which arises from it. Helen’s Theme offers a ten-note construct by strings or woodwinds, which rises and falls, yet never achieving a resolution, suggesting the uncertainty of her life. The Love Theme is also associated with Helen and applied throughout the film for each of the three men who love her; Clay, Hank and Carl. Its articulation varies between the three men who love her; for Clay, her true love it is ardent, full of longing and wistful. For Hank it lacks the ardency expressed for Clay as she did not marry him for love, but instead for necessity, while for the boyish Carl, it is borne by woodwinds gentile and tender strings. Hank is supported by two musical identities. Hank’s Theme offers a four-note construct by clarinet and flute, joined often with a phrase of the Love Theme, thus establishing his love interest with her. His secondary theme supports Hank’s troubled past, which follows him where ever he goes. A fanfare of dual horns bellicoso entwine with Hank’s primary theme, which is expressed by low register pizzicato strings, and piano with harp adornment. An automated machine called an “Orchestrion” offers synthetic calliope, snare drum, cymbal and tambourine sound that is used to provide a folksy small-town ambiance for the film. Goldsmith did not compose this music. Instead, it used stock O rolls embedded with source music and several different tunes are played during the film. Lastly, cues coded (*) offer music not found on the album.

In “Prologue” we open dramatically atop declaration by French horns bravura emoting the Black Patch fanfare, which supports the Warner Brothers Studio logo. At 0:15 we segue ominously into the film proper soon joined by a forlorn rendering of Hank’s Theme by flute as the camera pans over the bleak, cloud swept savannah. A riderless horse feeds until two shots are fired, followed at 0:40 by dire horns as Hank walks past a fresh grave. He mounts the horse, smiles at the grave where he buried the stolen bank money), and rides off carried energetically by his primary theme voiced by low register pizzicato strings, and piano with harp adornment. The film version of the “Prologue” is abridged, with the album providing the complete version composed by Goldsmith. “Player Piano – Main Titles” reveals a man running from the saloon, which elicits Carl to run out and investigate. A full, extended rendering of the Orchestrion enters to support the roll of the opening credits as we see Marshall Morgan walking with grim determination towards the saloon. Inside we see the automated Orchestrion diegetically playing the motif. We close with Clay throwing out two drifters and ordering them to leave town.

“Carl Meets Helen” reveals her arrival in town via stagecoach and we see immediately that boyish Carl is smitten by her beauty. Helen’s Theme emotes on solo clarinet d’amore and entwines with the Love Theme borne by with tremolo strings, which supports her arrival, followed by a gorgeous transfer to strings romantico with woodwind adornment as she departs and asks him to retrieve her luggage. This rendering of the Love Theme emotes solely from Carl’s perspective. At 0:28 a grim rendering of Hank’s Theme with references to the Love Theme supports his arrival in town and walk to the saloon where he imbibes some shots from a bottle of rye. “Welcome Home” offers a beautiful romantic score highlight. It reveals Hank checking into the hotel and finding to his delight that Helen arrived a day early. He is happy, and warm strings usher in a now tender rendering of Helen’s Theme, which joins with his theme as he ascends the stairs to room 212 to reunite. Goldsmith supports with a tender musical narrative born by violas, celli and bass, which begin to sour at 0:58 from his jealousy regarding Clay, her former suitor. She says she has not seen him, reaffirms her love, supported at 1:31 by her theme and as they embrace and kiss. We close with violins joining with kindred strings as the romantic narrative brightens beautifully for a gorgeous and fulfilling exposition of the Love Theme.

“Clay Meets Helen” offers another evocative romantic highlight. Pedoline informs Clay that Hank stopped by to see him. Clay goes to the hotel and warmly greets his old friend. When Hank invites him in to see his wife, Helen and Clay are reunited. We are graced with a tender rendering of the Love Theme by woodwinds d’amore, tremolo violins and harp adornment, which informs us that deep feelings still exist between the two. Goldsmith weaves a wistful musical narrative aching with shared regret, which is supremely moving. At 1:18 Clay and Hank depart and Goldsmith bathes us with violins full of longing as we see Helen clearly unsettled by Clay’s return.

“Love Reunited” offers a supremely beautiful romantic score highlight, which reveals Goldsmith’s early career mastery of his craft. Later that night we see Helen unable to sleep, while a distracted Clay sits at his office desk. Goldsmith music informs us of their silent thoughts and yearning, with a Love Theme full of longing, rendered by strings d’amore with harp adornment. At 0:58 she sees from her window that Clay is still awake in his office. Goldsmith supports with a contrapuntal flute and string line, which emerges offering exquisite tear-evoking romantic eloquence as we deeply feel their unspoken feelings. At 1:50 Helen departs to go to Clay carried by harp, vibraphone, trilling strings and gorgeous shifting woodwind solos. When she reaches him, she asks why he never came back for her, stating with heartache that she waited so long. At 2:57 a string borne crescendo romantico supports their passionate embrace, offering a sublime cinematic confluence. She tells him that she believes that he still loves her, and that nothing has changed. Yet at 3:15 as he pulls away, the musical narrative saddens as she weeps, asking why he did not come back. A solo oboe triste joins as he answers that he is now different, that he has seen too much killing and death, and needs time to recover from the trauma of war. When he returns to her, she says with regret, that it was now too late for them and departs, supported by an aching Love Theme rendered as a Pathetique. Cues such as this are why I love film music.

“Hank Gives Up” reveals a sheriff and his deputy arriving in pursuit of a bank robber. When Pedoline confirms the description matches Hank, Clay and the three lawmen walk over to the hotel. Goldsmith sows’ tension with a grim set of variations of Hank’s Theme with oblique phrases of the Love Theme, which carries their progress. A string alarm crescendo at 0:35 supports Hank pulling his gun, supported by a musical narrative of tension until he surrenders his gun to Clay. “Lock Up” reveals Clay stalling for time by refusing to release Hank without a court ordered warrant, which infuriates the sheriff who departs in a huff. A sonority of grim horns support Clay locking Hank up. Phrases of the Love Theme entwine as not only bars separate them as friends, but their shared love for Helen. Later that nigh Holman on Frenchy’s behalf offers to help Hank escape by smuggling a gun and providing a horse for $20,000. He agrees and advises Holman where he buried the money.

(*) “Saloon” reveals the deputy speaking to townsfolk in the saloon, which Goldsmith supports with the Small-Town Motif. In (*) “Frenchy’s Treachery” he plays a harpsichord (music not by Goldsmith) and places six bullets in glasses of champagne to render them useless. He then loads the gun that he will give Hank, ensuring his death so he can pocket all the $40,000. Frenchy’s henchman gives Hank his $20,000 and a gun, advising that a horse is ready in the stable. “The Fight” reveals Clay returning to the jail. Goldsmith sow tension with eerie strings and rumbling low register piano. Hank calls Clay up to his cell and when he arrives pulls his gun supported at 0:35 by a dire horn-empowered surge. Grim horns sound as Hank orders Clay into the cell, but as he tries to lock it, at 1:09 Clay shoves the door, knocks Hank off balance and a fight ensues propelled by horns bellicoso, violent ever-shifting rhythms and a driving piano ostinato. Goldsmith unleashes an orchestral torrent of violence as the men fight. Hank knocks him out, and tries to escape on horseback only to be bushwhacked in the back at 2:04 by Frenchy’s henchman Holman. A diminuendo of darkness ushers in unsettling tension with dark undercurrents and we close with a grieving Love Theme as a distraught Helen arrives.

“The Discovery” sows an eerie misterioso using vibraphone, harp, forlorn woodwinds, and deathly echoes of Hank’s Theme with shifting string harmonics with interplay of Clay’s Theme as he discovers champagne soaked bullets in Hank’s gun, which renders them duds. He then hides the $20,000 of cash in the stove. Afterwards he confronts Frenchy with the rigged gun, slaps him, and says he is going to hang. Hank’s death is declared justifiable homicide by the judge and Clay is acquitted. “Town Gossip” reveals gossip regarding the circumstances of Hank’s death, which Goldsmith supports with ghostly echoes of his theme. In “The Gift” reveals Clay taking Hank’s personal affects to Helen. Goldsmith weaves a wistful Hank’s Theme on English horn and bassoon, with a fragment of an anguished Love Theme as Carl travels to her hotel room. We see a distraught and grieving Helen refusing to eat and gifting Hank’s gun to Carl. Music more than acting conveys the emotions in this scene.

In “Mixed Emotions” Clay goes to visit Helen and is confronted by an angry Carl who now spurns his friendship, condemning him for shooting his friend Hank in the back. Clay enters Helen’s room with Carl following and then listening to their conversation outside the door Clay informs her that he was not the one who killed Hank, yet she refuses to believe him, and counters with a bitter rejoinder say “You didn’t just kill Hank, you killed me too.” We see both are in great pain with her shouting at him to not touch her and to “Get out! Goldsmith supports the scene with a plaintive Love Theme borne by exquisitely painful shifting woodwind solos, which flow over strings affanato. “Carl’s Love” reveals that after Clay departs, he enters her room to comfort her, to no avail. Helen’s Theme supports, borne by shifting woodwind tenero solos, tremolo violins with harp adornment.

(*) “Clay Confronts Frenchy” reveals Clay visiting the saloon owner after he discovers that the money, he hid in his stove is missing. His journey is supported by the Small-Town Theme, with Frenchy’s harpsichord playing as he punches Holman, threatens Frenchy, and searches his empty safe. He storms out issuing the clear threat to not leave town. Later, terrible gossip spreads through town regarding Helen with the Small-town Theme reprising diegetically as men banter in the saloon. “The Gun” reveals Carl repeatedly practicing drawing his prize – Hank’s revolver. It is clear the weapon has puffed up his ego and Goldsmith supports the scene with a quartet of shifting comic and playful woodwind figures by bassoon, clarinet, English horn, and flute.

Tough Guy” reveals Carl winning a pistol contest from a traveling con-man to the amazement of all, his victory marked by ominous strings and three dire horn declarations of the Black Patch Fanfare. Afterwards, Holman puffs up his ego with false praise, which leads Carl to confront Clay. Clay wisely avoids the challenge and steps out of the boy’s way, supported again by ominous strings and dire horns declarations of the Black Patch Fanfare marking his victory. At 0:24 horns sardonica and woodwinds support the school teacher erasing a disrespectful caricature of Clay kids drew on the chalk board. Later the town elders confront Clay out of the fear Carl is causing the town and demand he run the boy out or they’ll lynch him. Clay forcibly ushers them out saying if they act, he’ll charge them with murder as the boy has yet to break the law. Later, Frenchy conspires to recruit Carl to kill Clay so he can safely depart town with the $40,000. He gets Carl and Holman drunk, and the Orchestrion diegetically supports in the saloon (not on the album). Now drunk Carl begins shooting out street lamps, which leads to their arrest by Clay. Goldsmith supports by sowing palpable tension texturally with pizzicato celli and bass, muted horns, piano rumbling and shifting string figures.

In “The Showdown” Clay releases Carl and Holman with Carl’s spitefully saying “Yellow Patch” as he exits. Ominous string descents and the dire horns portend the inevitable conflict between Clay and Carl. At 0:19 Carl goes to visit Helen and we are graced by a tender musical narrative introduced by harp and joined by strings and woodwinds with yearning references to the Love Theme. The music emotes from Carl’s perspective, yet the narrative begins to darken, turning ominous at 1:50, replete with the portentous horns, and growling strings irato as she discovers that Carl is in love with her, and he concludes that her rejection of him is because she still loves Clay. He storms out full of rage declaring his intent to kill Clay. At 2:42 Carl rides off and Goldsmith unleashes an agitato of violence borne by dire horns and strings churning with rage. A diminuendo of menace at 2:59 takes us to Frenchy where Holman informs him that Carl blames Clay for killing Hank and we see the gears of Frenchy’s mind churning. At 3:20 writhing strings affanato emote as we return to Carl who is laying in a field outside town. He is clearly distraught over Helen’s rejection as a storm of self-pity and rage swells within. We close with a dark musical narrative by menacing string and horns as Frenchy informs Holman and Kitty that he will goad Carl into killing Clay, and then depart. When he advises Kitty that he will not be taking her with him, she makes a veiled threat to expose him, to which he responds by brutally punching her face.

(*) “Lighting The Fuse”, Carl who is a simmering powder keg of rage, enters the Saloon supported by the Orchestrion. Frenchy pours him a drink as we see Kitty come down the stairs with a massive black eye and a pistol hidden beneath her shawl. She asks Holman to let her see Frenchy, but he refuses and orders her to leave, which she does after thinking twice of shooting him. She goes to the hotel to speak to Helen as we see Carl drowning his self-pity with whiskey. Frenchy goads him into killing Clay and he departs much to Frenchy’s delight.

“The Duel” offers a dramatic score highlight. We open with the dire horns of menace using the second phrase of the Black Patch Fanfare as Carl exits the saloon, checks his revolver, intent on seeking to avenge Hank’s murder by Clay, as well as his betrayal of Helen. Goldsmith supports with a musical narrative of dark menace, evoked texturally by pizzicato strings, piano rumbling, harp and vibraphone, buttressed by the Black Patch Fanfare borne by horns bellicoso and woodwinds. At 0:54 a separate narrative by piccolo, harp and quivering violins supports a switch to Clay’s house where we see him sitting calmly in contemplation. We shift to and fro between these two musical narratives as the film shifts between Carl and Clay as Carl continues his walk to Clay’s house. At 1:27 dire trombones resound with the Black Patch Fanfare with overt menace as Carl calls out Clay. The music further darkens as Carl throws a rock through a window and again calls Clay out. At 1:58 a fleeting quote of the Love Theme joins as he looks out the window, reflecting Helen in his thoughts. Carl’s tortured theme joins as Clay puts on his gun belt with another fleeting quote of the Love Theme. As Carl rages and shouts insults to Clay, horns minacciose resound with his blood lust. At 2:34 Clay exits his house as a menacing Hank’s Theme growls with an overt swelling menace. When Clay refuses to draw Carl begins a countdown of five saying he will shoot on five. At 3:15 a crescendo of tension commences yet dissipates after five is called, Carl draws, and Clay remains motionless.

“Finale – Film Version” reveals Helen arriving and disclosing that Kitty informed her that Frenchy rigged Hank’s gun with duds and had Holman shoot him in the back. Carl drops his head in shame as well as his pistol. Carl’s original tender boyish woodwind motif returns as a paternal Clay picks up Carl’s revolver, gives it back to him, places his arm on his shoulder and asks him to help him take care of business. They walk off together as Helen watches and Goldsmith closes the film with a sumptuous affirmation of the Love Theme and a horn declared coda of Hank’s Theme.

I wish to commend Douglass Fake, Roger Feigelson of Intrada Records for this long-sought recording of Jerry Goldsmith’s inaugural film score, “Black Patch”. The audio quality is exceptional, the score reconstruction by Leigh Phillips outstanding, and the performance of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under William Stromberg’s baton, superb. “Black Patch” began Goldsmith’s 47-year career in film, which would include seventeen Academy Award nominations, with one win. Goldsmith at twenty-eight years of age was part of a rising generation of young composers, which included Leonard Rosenman and Alex North, that were bringing new more modernist scoring sensibilities during the waning years of the Golden Age. In taking on the assignment, he understood that the film’s narrative centered on a woman loved by three men, and that all of the resultant conflict emanated from this emotional nexus. To that end he created a Love Theme, which offered a tertiary expression that spoke to the three men who loved her. Clay’s sumptuous version is ardent, yearning, wistful and clearly the man Helen truly loved, while Hank’s version, although romantic, lacks passion and fever as Helen did not marry him for true love. Carl’s version is tender and boyish, supported more by woodwinds gentile than the other two string borne renderings. Juxtaposed is the Black Patch Fanfare, whose dire and portentous fanfare overtly empowers the story’s conflict narrative.

While the writing for the Love Theme clearly embraced Golden Age leitmotif romanticism, Goldsmith’s action writing was clearly modernist, eschewing melodic constructs with extended development and thematic interplay for a more dynamic non-melodic, textural and rhythmic approach. The suspense, tension and conflict he generated for these action scenes was very effective in fueling and propelling each scene’s narrative. Folks, this project was a seminal event in film score history in that it launched the career of one of the Titans of the art form. The romantic writing is exquisitely beautiful with the “Love Reunited” cue one of the finest in Goldsmith’s canon. While the action writing is a harbinger of Goldsmith’s later fame as one of the greatest composers of action music in film score history. I highly recommend you purchase this quality album, which includes the riveting score for “The Man” (1972) as essential for your collection. I close with praise for Maestro Stromberg’s longstanding dedication and contribution to resurrecting scores of the Golden Age for new generations of lovers of the art form.

Buy the Black Patch/The Man soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • BLACK PATCH
  • Prologue (1:14)
  • Player Piano (Main Titles) (1:28)
  • Carl Meets Helen (1:02)
  • Welcome Home (1:55)
  • Clay Meets Helen (1:39)
  • Love Reunited (4:20)
  • Hank Gives Up (0:56)
  • Lock Up (1:21)
  • The Fight (3:19)
  • The Discovery (1:38)
  • Town Gossip (0:25)
  • The Gift (1:10)
  • Mixed Emotions (0:47)
  • Carl’s Love (0:39)
  • The Gun (0:49)
  • Tough Guy (1:51)
  • The Showdown (4:07)
  • The Duel (3:37)
  • Finale (Extended Version) (1:44)
  • Finale (Film Version) (1:00) Bonus
  • THE MAN
  • Douglass Dilman (Main Titles) (1:48)
  • They Want A President (2:12)
  • The Lincoln Memorial (1:20)
  • The Oval Office (2:08)
  • An Invisible Man (0:31)
  • Mrs. Blore (1:06)
  • Let Him Loose (1:02)
  • Fishing (2:11)
  • Will They Make It? (1:16)
  • Protests (0:18)
  • Hail To The Chief and End Credits (2:00)

Running Time: 51 minutes 46 seconds

Intrada INT-7168 (1957/1972/2022)

Music composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Conducted by William Stromberg. Performed by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Original orchestrations by Jerry Goldsmith and Bert Plum. score reconstruction by Leigh Phillips. Recorded and mixed by Simon Rhodes. Score produced by Jerry Goldsmith. Album produced by Douglass Fake and Roger Feigelson .

  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 )

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: