Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN – Max Steiner



Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1941 Warner Brothers Studios decided that they wanted to bring to the big screen a biopic film, which explored the life of one of America’s most beloved writers, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. The project was forced to reckon with Twain’s daughter Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch, who was fiercely protective of her father’s legacy. Research into Twain’s life was meticulous and screenwriters Alan Le May and Harold M. Sherman eventually wrote a screenplay, which satisfied all stakeholders. Jesse L. Lasky was placed in charge of production with $1.623 million provided for the budget. Irving Rapper was tasked with directing, and an exceptional cast was assembled, including Fredric March in the titular role, Alexis Smith as Olivia Langdon Clemens, Donald Crisp as J.B. Pond, and Alan Hale as Steve Gillis.

The story is set America 1835 – 1910, and syncs with the 76-year cyclic return of Haley’s comet. We open with the birth of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) on the auspicious day of Hayley’s comet return. The film unfolds as a series of heartfelt vignettes, which explore the real-life basis of many of Twain’s novels, including The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavares County, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as the publishing of President Grant’s memoirs. Clemens life and the comet are linked, and when it returns 76 years later, he passes, called by Tom and Huck to join them on new adventures in the afterlife. Warner’s Brothers canceled the film’s premier in 1942 due to the onset of WWII, instead releasing it two years later in 1944. The film resonated with audiences and earned a profit of $727,000. Critical reception was mixed with the film securing three Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Special Effects, and best Film Score.

Director Irving Rapper had just finished his prior film “Now Voyager” and was very much impressed by Max Steiner’s score. He reflexively offered him the assignment, which Steiner was most eager to accept. It would result in one of his personal best loved scores in which he offered a heartfelt tribute to America, his beloved adopted homeland. Paddlewheel Mississippi boats were part of Twain’s era and one day Steiner heard crewmember shout; “Mark Twain! Safe Water!” From this Steiner conceived his bright, major modal four-note declaration underpinned by a paddlewheel like churning four-note ostinato. Steiner understood that the film offered a tale of a beloved American icon, and that he would have to infuse his soundscape with quintessential Americana, folk songs and other traditional ballads, including the Confederate anthem “Dixie” by Daniel Decatur Emmett, the U.S. anthem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe, “My Darling Clementine” by Percy Montross, “Camptown Races” and “Oh Susannah by Stephen Foster, “Aloha Oe” by Queen Liliuokalani and Edmund King Jr., the British naval anthem “Rule Britannia” by Thomas Augustin Arne and James Thomson, and the traditional African-American spirituals “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”.

Steiner supports his soundscape with seven themes; Mark Twain’s Motif serves as the score’s main theme, which permeates the film. As described above, when rendered as a four-note fanfare it emotes as a bright, confident D major four-note declaration underpinned by a paddlewheel like churning four-note ostinato. Yet it also assumes tender and heartfelt renderings by woodwinds or strings. It captures both Twain’s story-telling, but also the ever-flowing waters of the Mississippi River. His full theme offers a classic ABA construct with the eight-note A Phrase being wistful, with the six-note B-Phrase being hopeful and even playful. The theme evolves over the course of the film as Steiner emotes it with different orchestrations and harmonies. Livy’s Theme serves as both her personal identity, but also as the Love Theme for her and Mark. Strings tenero offer a romance for strings, whose articulation becomes sublime when transferred to solo violin d’amore. The two-note Comet Theme offers an ethereal misterioso, which is associated with the awe and mystery of the great Halley’s Comet, whose cyclical seventy-five-year visits to earth heralded Twain’s birth in 1835, as well as his death in 1910. The Mississippi River Theme offers steadily plodding low horn cadence, which supports the mighty river’s steady flow to the sea. The Luck Motif is derived from and kindred to Twain’s Theme. It emotes with irony by low register bassoon and bass clarinet. For the Frog Theme Steiner uses a small ensemble of contrabassoon, bassoons, bass clarinet, a small cymbal and stick to animate this comic musical narrative. A Squirrel Theme supports with xylophone animato and rapid bubbling woodwinds of delight, which animate their cute antics. Lastly, cues coded (*) contain music not found on the album.

“Main Title” offers a grand score highlight where Steiner masterfully sets the tone of the film. We open with grand declarations of Steiner’s fanfare for Warner Brothers as the iconic studio logo shield displays. At 0:14 the roll of the opening credits commences and we flow with grandeur atop horns maestoso into the bright, confident four-note D major declaration of Mark Twain’s Motif as we see a paddlewheel driving a great river ship forward. At 1:32 we flow into the film proper atop repeating statements of the Comet Theme, which offers a foreboding ethereal misterioso as we see it alight in the star filled night sky. A party of black folk stand in awe as a messenger alerts Judge Clemens to come home at once. He reaches the bed of his wife and a tender statement of Twain’s Theme joins as she informs him that he has a son, which he cradles with paternal love. At 2:43 script displays “November 30, 1835 – began The Adventures of Mark Twain”. Further narration with a warning of punishment to those seeking the film’s motive, moral will and plot, signed by Mark Twain as he, as an older man appears onscreen supported by his theme. As he sets the stage for the story that is about to unfold, we have an extended wistful and folksy musical narrative with variations of both phrases of his theme. We close with a churning rendering of the theme as a paddle-wheeler steams upriver.

“Pirates” reveals Jackson’s Island, home of three boys, the ‘blood-thirsty pirates” Tom, Huckleberry and the slave-boy Jim. The narrator speaks of their boyhood adventures as pirates raiding on the river. Steiner provides a jaunty musical narrative empowered by bassoon led woodwinds, which slowly evolves into a dance as we see the boys constructing their pirate vessel (a rope tied platform of logs with a sail). At 1:12 the nautical Mississippi Theme enters, borne by languorous strings, which support the arrival of a mighty paddlewheel steamer that the boys prepare to attack. At 1:40 a series of descent motifs support turbulence from the massive paddlewheel, which pummels the log raft, breaking it into pieces, with the boys ending up in the water. Later at 1:50, a playful woodwind musical narrative empowered by Twain’s Motif supports Sam sneaking into his house and pretending to be asleep. Yet his mother cannot be fooled. At 2:30 his theme becomes tender, full of familial warmth as his mother coaxes him to assist at the print shop so he can grow up to be a fine young man, respected in the community like his father.

Three years later in “Young Samuel Clemens Finds His Place” we see Sam employed at the Hannibal Journal Printing shop. Twain’s narration reveals Sam’s unhappiness and discontent as his brother Orion scolds him for new rounds of mistakes. His youthful theme, tinged with regret supports, joined at 0:10 by the melody of the African-American spiritual song “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” (1867), which plays over a violin animato tremolo. At 0:14 a grand horns maestoso declare Twain’s fanfare as the townsfolk rush to the dock to welcome the arrival of a steamboat. Sam knocks over a print set and a diminuendo supports him picking up the pieces. We end with an angry musical narrative as a man comes in and complains of an unfavorable article written about him. “Sam Says Goodbye” (*) reveals him writing a goodbye note to his mom and then kissing her goodbye as she sleeps, saying he is just not cutout for the printshop and wants to seek his fortune on the river. Steiner evokes sentimentality, supporting with strings tenero and a quote of his theme. “The Paul Jones” (*) reveals the paddle wheeler plowing through the Mississippi River empowered by the repeating two-note paddle wheel Motif.

“The River Pilot” offers a masterfully conceived and executed score highlight. It reveals Sam being challenged by hard task master Captain Horace Bixby. We open with the languorous Mississippi nautical theme as Sam pilots the ship in calm open waters. Woven within the musical narrative are quotes of Sam’s Motif. However, at 1:44 Steiner commences to sow tension as Sam is challenged to pilot the paddle wheeler through a narrow turbulent river channel with unpredictable swirling waters. The ebb and flow of fluidic tonal woodwinds and strings evoke the treacherous currents. A crescendo dramatico swells at 1:54 on the repeating churning paddle Wheel Motif as Sam begins losing control of the helm wheel, which lifts his light boyish body off the deck. At 2:10 a diminuendo of relief unfolds as Bixby takes over the helm and rights the ship. The furious Bixby orders Sam off the bridge, yet relents calling the boy back as he gives him the wheel, insisting that he will teach him the river. When a crewman yells “Mark Twain, safe water!” we see the lifting of the pall of tension, replaced with relief by the languorous Mississippi River Theme, joined with the churning Paddle Wheel Theme as the ship heads safely back into the wide main channel. We conclude with a warm and heartfelt statement of Sam’s Theme.

“Sam, The Pilot” (*) reveals narration stating how over time Sam became a pilot as we see the ‘Queen of Dixie’ steaming down river, supported by a heartfelt Sam’s Motif and the churning Paddle Wheel Theme. In the main cabin a black-face troupe offers festive banjo driven music as we see the passengers drinking and enjoying themselves as Sam, now a man exits his cabin labeled “Samuel L. Clemens Chief Pilot”. His friend Steve Gillis entreats him to leave the river and go west to strike it rich with the newly discovered silver deposits. Sam saves Charles Langdon money for which a conman swindled and returns to him a locket with his sister’s photo. “Riverboat in Fog” reveals Sam hosting Charles in the pilot house as they steam into fog supported by the rhythmic Paddle Wheel and languorous Mississippi River Themes. Sam refuses to tie up despite mounting concern of the passengers, puts out the torch baskets, and steams on. At 0:49 a slowly swelling crescendo of mounting tension rises on the Paddle Wheel Theme, yet at 1:22 the calmness of the Mississippi River Theme joins and speaks to Sam’s confidence in his mastery of the river. At 2:11 a new crescendo dramatico slowly swells as a small raft crosses in front of the ship, forcing Sam to turn hard to port. At 2:26 a glancing blow occurs with both Sam and the other pilot exchanging hard words as a diminuendo of relief dissipates the drama.

“Sam’s Epic Voyage” (*) reveals the two men conversing supported by the repeating four-note phrases of the Paddle Wheel Theme. Sam is bullshitting Charles about alligators and the theme slowly transforms into an eerie iteration. As they head for the dock at Hat Island the propulsive theme regains its usual churning expression. A crescendo of tension slowly builds as Sam approaches the dock blind, buttressed by confident strings emoting his motif. She runs aground, and Sam orders full steam ahead empowered by a hard churning Paddle Wheel Theme. A crescendo dramatico swells atop the theme until the ship breaks through and the crew depth sounders shout “Mark Twain, Safe Waters!” We conclude with Sam’s victory being declared by a proud rendering of his four-note motif. Below deck the black crew sing and dance, offering praise to Sam’s great feat. “Sam’s Last Voyage” (*) reveals that it’s the next day as we see the ‘Queen of Dixie’ steaming up river. The soft cadence of the Paddle Wheel Theme propels the ship, joined by a warm rendering of Sam’ Theme as he informs Charles that this will be his last trip on the river. Tremolo strings of hope ascend as Sam tells Charles that he is going west to make money, as he will need the money to marry his sister. An orchestral chime marks Charles’ surprise. “Sam Heads West” (*) reveals their arrival at St. Genevieve Missouri supported by a confident rendering of Sam’s fanfare. The theme softens mischievously as Sam steals a portrait of Charles’ sister and tells him not to be angry as he is heading west. Later a buoyant Sam’s Theme brimming with confidence propels his stagecoach westward as he and Steve take in the vast vistas. Later, as he and Steve continue the trek on foot with a mule carrying supplies austere horns sound as they gaze at the vast canyon below.

“The Mule” reveals their stubborn mule Beulah refusing to budge. A comedic musical narrative follows as Sam insults her and she gets up and begins walking, only to once again collapse at 0:17 with an orchestral kerplop. Two descent motifs support Sam and Steve also plunking down. At 0:32 we segue into “Digging” with a sign that says “Queen of Dixie Silver or Gold Mine” atop Sam’s four-note fanfare emoted as a string ostinato, which entwines with his theme as the two men dig for gold. Comedic accents join as Sam tosses shoveled dirt that falls back atop him. At 1:10 segue into “Cave” atop a descent motif after Sam’s pic shatters a hidden ceiling and he falls into a cave. Strings of alarm carry Steve to the pit, but is replaced at 1:28 by the Love Theme as Sam retrieves Olivia’s precious portrait, which fell out of his pocket. An ascent motif supports Steve pulling Sam up with a rope, but Sam has had it, quits, and kicks Steve’s sifting pan to the ground as they walk away carried by Sam’s Motif. As the camera pans back at the sifting pan at 2:20, metallic glistening reveals gold sparkling in the midday sun.

“Lake Murders a Newspaperman” (*) reveals Sam and Steve walking through town dead broke when gun shots ring out supported by a crescendo of violence. A Mr. Lake has gunned done a newspaperman for reporting on his activities. He tosses a newspaper at the corpse and rides off with menace carried by horns bellicoso. Sam asks for the newspaper office and a marcia fiduciosa carries him resolutely into the office. He says he is the new reporter and offers his boss his first article – an account how Mr. Lake murdered a reporter. “Frogs” offers some deliciously comic writing by Steiner. Steve convinces Sam to obtain a frog from the local creek and enter it into the Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Contest to make a lot of money. As Sam and Steve hunt down the elusive frog Steiner uses a small ensemble of contrabassoon, bassoons, bass clarinet, a small cymbal and stick to animate this comic musical narrative. Woven into the narrative are playful-comic woodwind renderings of Sam’s Theme.

“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Contest” (*) reveals crowds cheering as a band march down Main Street playing the festive song “Camptown Races”. The contest pits Bret Harte’s frog Daniel Webster against Sam and Steve’s frog Wun Long Hop. Steve manages to steal Harte’s frog and pour metal gunshot balls into it. As they prepare for the contest festive music and the traditional bugle call mark the start of the contest with Wun Long Hop The Contrabassoon Frog Motif supports with it jumping three times for 12 ½ feet. Daniel Webster is placed and supported by playful woodwinds animato. The Contrabassoon Frog Motif reprises for a silly musical narrative as the gunshot laden frog jumps three times for 3 inches. After the match in the confusion Steve grabs Daniel Webster and shakes out of it all the gunshot. Later, Sam writes his first short story “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” supported softly by his theme. He then crosses out “By Samuel Clemens” and instead writes “By Mark Twain”, crowned with his proud fanfare as he tosses it in the mail out basket.

“Gold Rush” offers a radiant score highlight where Steiner dazzles us with glistening orchestral musical narrative. It reveals throngs of prospectors heading off to find their fortune supported by a sparkling, confident musical narrative empowered by the song melody “My Darling Clementine”. The glistening allure of gold beckons as Steve and Sam gather horses and supplies to join the gold rush. At 1:00 a gentile string borne rendering of Sam’s Motif joins as a man searches the town for a man named Mark Twain. At 1:55 “My Darling Clementine” resounds as Sam and Steve arrive at the prospector camp – the exact site of their original mining efforts. Steiner supports with a glistening musical narrative of hope as we the hills alive with prospecting activity. Yet all is lost as they arrive to late, with all sites already sold. In “Sam Gives Up” (*) a dejected Sam and Steve head back into town as Mr. Pond continues to inquire about Mark Twain at the newspaper office. Sam has had enough and decides to return to his former life as a Mississippi River pilot. Grim drums of war enter when the editor advises that Fort Sumter has been fired on and all steamboat traffic on the Mississippi has been stopped with the sinking of a ship off St. Louis. Dark chords usher in a dire musical narrative as a civil war has begun. Sam leaves determined to join the Confederate cause.

“War” (*) reveals a montage of raging battles supported by Dixie, buttressed by horns bellicoso and rendered as a war anthem as we see the Union defeated at Bull Run and then Fredericksburg. To lighten the mood of the North, an editor prints Twain’s frog jumping story on the front page with the silly Frog Motif joining in the martial musical narrative. Comedic woodwinds take over as we see people laughing at the story. A new battle montage begins with Dixie succumbing to the Battle Hymn of the Republic as Richmond is evacuated. Horns trionfanti resound as newspapers declare “Peace!” with Lee’s surrender to Grant. We see the burnt-out hulk of the ‘’Queen of Dixie aground, supported by a plaintive rendering of Sam’s Theme. In “Mark Twain is Discovered” Mr. Pond joins Sam by the wreckage and relates his tale of seeking Mark Twain. Strings brillante begin emoting Sam’s Motif in a series of statements until Pond realizes that Clemens is Twain! Yet at 0:26 the silly Frog Motif joins as a frog leaps across their path. A comedic Sam’s Motif then supports a poster “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” with a lecture by Mark Twain. Strings full of gaiety support the arrival of distinguished guests to the Martin Grand Hotel. “Theatre Scene” offers a delightful score highlight. As guests enter the hotel, Steiner offers classic old-world ambiance with a Minuet like sensibility by strings eleganti. In the theater, seated guests await Twain on stage supported by a comedic Sam’s Motif and Luck Motif as Sam gets cold feet. Pond forces him onstage and he becomes transfixed when he sees Olivia Langdon seated next to her brother Charles. Sam offers comedic storytelling for over an hour, which endears him to the crowd.

In “Jervis Langdon’s Outrage” (*) Sam has joined the Langdon’s as an uninvited house guest. When Jervis learns from Charles of Sam’s desire to marry Olivia, he will have none of it and informs Sam that he will drive him to the train station. Steiner sows discord and tension, which gives way to heartfelt Sam’s Motif as he bids Olivia goodbye. A mischievous rendering of his motif supports him purposely removing the back seat lynch pin of the carriage. He topples out for a hard fall as the carriage moves forward. Musical comedy joins as Sam feigns injury and secures his stay with the Langdons. Woodwinds groan when the doctor informs Jervis that Sam should stay and rest. The next day in “The Squirrel” Olivia and Sam enjoy watching a squirrel chewing on a nut, which Steiner supports with xylophone animato and rapid bubbling woodwinds of delight. At 0:10 a diminuendo takes us into “Livy” a supremely romantic score highlight as we see the two strolling in the garden. Repeating romantic phrases of his motif usher in a nascent statement of the string borne Love Theme. At 0:39 a downpour suddenly starts and scurrying strings of flight and the Squirrel Xylophone Motif emerge as they run for cover to a gazebo, while the squirrel flees to her tree nest hole. Violins d’amore sing the Love Theme and we are graced with a truly beautiful extended romance for strings as Sam confesses both his love for her, and unworthiness as he returns to her the portrait he has cherished. She will have none of it, declares she fell in love with him at the theater and wants to spend her life with him. At 3:30 a thunderclap shatters the romanticism as Sam promises to never lie to her again as we end tenderly on his motif.

In “Jervis Consents” (*) tense strings carry his entry into the library to speak to Jervis. He informs Sam that out of love, he consents to his marriage to Livy, gifting them a house in Buffalo. “Toy Shop” offers a wondrous score highlight. It reveals a bookshop window where we read “Works of Popular New Humorist Mark Twain” as we see two of his novels “Roughing It” and “Innocents Abroad” on display. Warm, repeating four-note phrases of his motif by strings support, and usher in a playful musical narrative as we see Mark entering the toy store on a snowy winter day to buy his son a paddle wheel steamer. Steiner fills us with a child’s sense of wonderment unfolding as a glistening Mark’s four-note motif borne by bells, celeste and xylophone. Yet at 1:36 a diminuendo brings sadness as Livy cries out, that their son cannot see the boat as his hand falls limp. They call a doctor and a molto tragico musical narrative unfolds as they bear the grievous loss of their son. He says he will never write again as bells toll; however, Livy convinces him that he must keep writing and the music slowly rises up from a kernel of hope, regaining the light at 2:50 in a stirring heartfelt rebirth. As he remembers his child-like memories as a barefoot boy on the river, the music become playful, joined by reaffirming statements of his four-note motif as he grabs his pen and begins to write.

“Inspiration” reveals Sam writing “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” as horns brillante resound. A montage of scenes reveals Twain writing one chapter after another with occasional flashbacks to his boyhood days on the river, all supported by interplay of his motif and the Paddle Wheel Theme. At 0:56 playful, magical wonderment unfolds atop Mark’s full theme as he dozes off. Soon little miniatures of Tom, Huckleberry and Jim come to life and jump atop the page Mark was writing. Mark wakes, the boys dissipate and at 1:30 a crescendo of joy supports him writing – “Finis”. At 1:43 a stepped ascent by tremolo woodwinds speak to Mark’s need for validation as Livy reads his manuscript. His thankful motif sounds as she is overjoyed, saying he has given readers eternal youth with this timeless tale. “Appreciation” reveals Mark receiving an invitation to speak at a prestigious venue, and both he and Livy are very happy. Steiner supports with a musical narrative of happiness centered on his buoyant four-note motif. In “Darn Coat Tails” Willian Dean Howell arrives as a mischievous Mark cast a fishing hook out the second story window. It catches Howell’s cloak which the butler notices, but not Howell. Steiner supports with a silly, comic musical narrative as Howell is unhooked and enters.

Steiner sustains the playful silliness and comedy in “Neck Tie Troubles” as Sam takes off his necktie and in frustration throws his tux shirt out the window, landing on Mr. Pond’s head. Pond throws it back, Sam asks for his suspenders, and Pond climbs the trellis to reach his second-floor bedroom. “More Squirrels” seems attached to a deleted scene. It features a comedic musical narrative with interplay of the Squirrel Motif and Twain’s Theme. “Public Shame” reveals Twain inexplicably making a terrible, ill-conceived public speech, during which he ridiculed three of America’s greatest writers; Whittier, Longfellow and Emmerson, which makes him a pariah in literary circles. Dire fanfare declarations of his motif support a montage of damning newspaper headlines. At home Livy is sobbing as he returns, carried by a plaintive narrative of woe. Yet the music brightens at 0:58 as she discloses, they are tears of joy for his greatest book yet – “Huckleberry Finn”. Yet later the music sours at 1:58 as damning newspaper clippings cut out by Livy, fall from his manuscript, which he sees for the first time. Pond tries to ameliorate his wounds, but Twain will have none of it, declaring he was going to change himself. We close with hopeful strings and a determined statement of his four-note motif.

“Buggy Ride” offers a delightful trotting promenade as a carriage carries Mark and Livy through the countryside. We end with a sardonic bassoon as Mark unveils his mechanized typesetting machine. “Typesetter” opens with cringing discordance as we see a less than stellar demonstration of the device, which breaks down. Mark is committed to his vision, while Livy is dubious and worries. Steiner speaks to this interplay of Mark’s Motif and Livy’s Theme, interspersed with comic accents. At 1:04 strings felice usher in a montage of scenes depicting technological progress sweeping across America; telegraph lines, railroads, and the automated printing press. Steiner supports with a strings nobile espousing classic Americana, joined at 1:19 by “Oh Susannah” and at 1:24 with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as President Grant is featured. As mechanical printing presses churn out books, and we see new cities and factories being constructed, a mechanistic musical narrative supports the bustling activity. At 1:52 bold repeating statements of Twain’s four-note motif supports a montage of new books he is writing to fund his publishing house. At 2:09 a diminuendo of exhaustion supports Twain’s weariness of constantly having pressure to earn money to support his printing press and publishing company. We close with a dispirited Twain Motif as he makes the decision to shut down everything to avoid bankruptcy.

In “Meeting General Grant” Twain comes carried by his motif to deliver the bad news that his publishing company has been forced to shut down and that he cannot publish Grant’s memoirs. At 0:15 a solemn “Battle Hymn of the Republic” tinged with sadness supports him being greeted by General Grant. As they discuss the book a crescendo of hope rises atop Twain’s Motif. As Twain reads the counter offers at 1:32, a grave rendering of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” supports the revelation that they are taking advantage of the general. Twain offers Grant a stirring tribute at 1:54 supported by a heartfelt rendering of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as he decides to proceed with publishing, believing it both patriotic and an homage to a great American hero. “Twain’s Decision” (*) reveals Twain advising his financial counselor, to proceed with publishing Grant’s memoirs, fully understanding that it will bring about his financial ruin. Steiner supports the argument with repeating dramatic statements of Twain’s Motif.

“Bedtime Story” reveals Twain’s three young daughters requesting he come to their bedroom and tell them bedtime stories. A magical rendering of Twain’s Motif blossoms in their glistening eyes. At 1:33 a tender rendering of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” supports the girl’s query regarding General Grant. The theme develops intrigue and tension as Mark tells the tale of a woolly bear fighting a fire – a metaphor of Grant saving the Union. The theme assumes a plaintive contour as Mark relates that after he saves the day, there is no place for Woolly bear to stay, as he is now forgotten. We close at 1:33 with a heartfelt rendering of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as Mark relates that he will ensure the woolly bear (Grant’s) tale is told. “Grant’s Memoirs Published” (*) reveals Twain’s publishing company churning out copies of the memoirs followed by a montage of new novels flowing across the screen as the councilor tells Twain that he will have to write for the rest of his life to pay off his debts. Steiner supports with dramatic declarations by horns bravura and a confident “Battle Hymn of the Republic” melody. A new montage of newspaper headlines reveals news of Twain’s publishing company failing, and finally filing for bankruptcy, now supported by dire statements of Twain’s Motif.

“World Tour Begins” reveals Twain setting off on a world tour providing lectures to pay off his $250,000 debt. Music enters grimly with a dramatic statement of his motif as Twain departs the train station leaving an ailing Livy and his daughters weeping. A montage of a world map and speaking engagements to laughing crown unfolds with interplay of his playful motif and at 0:27 the patriotic song “America”. At 0:36 the song “Aloha Oe” as we pass over Hawaii, followed by British pageantry as he speaks in Sydney Australia. At 1:17 we are bathed in pentatonic orientalism as we pass over south east Asia to Allahabad India. A marcia esotica follows as elephant parade down the street until we shift to new lectures across the vast country where Twain’s Motif is transformed with ornate Indian auras. We flow seamlessly atop a nautical motif into “World Tour Continues” as we cross the Indian Ocean to Africa and up into Europe. At 0:09 Flamenco rhythms give way to a descent motif in London as a courier descend stairs to give Twain a cablegram, which states he is dead. Dramatic horns usher in a marcia funebre crowned with a sardonic saxophone, which support his legendary response as he tells the courier to reply, that the news of his death has been greatly exaggerated. His London lecture is well received and supported by a happy albeit playful musical narrative. A diminuendo at 1:42 reveals Twain sailing to the continent to begin speaking engagements in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Munich as he reveals to Pond that he is a spent force. The music brightens, emerging from a kernel of hope as Pond advises that he needs only to more lectures to be debt free. At 2:20 Twain’s Motif becomes romantic as Livy, who is recuperating in Florence, receives welcome news that Mark in on his way to join her. Woodwinds tenero usher in sweet violins d’amore as Twain hold up a sign ordering the birds to not sing to loud as Livy is sleeping.

“The Call” offers a supremely moving score highlight. We open with a fluttering sparking effervescence as Livy calls to Mark. She informs him that he has at last achieved the greatest of honors. Steiner supports with a truly heartfelt musical narrative with repeating refulgent statements of his motif draped with harp glissandi adornment, crowned at 1:18 with trumpets trionfanti when she states that he is to receive an honorary degree from Oxford University, as was afforded to literary legends Wordsworth, Macaulay and Browning. Mark is overwhelmed, knowing that his talent has finally been validated. The music evokes a tearful thankfulness, which is supremely moving. “Sorrow” offers a very sad score highlight, and a film-album variance. In the film Mark plays the piano and sings the African-American spiritual song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. John Morgan made the creative choice to replace the sad vocals with a mournful English horn. I believe having Mark sing as Livy passes was more poignant in connecting the two lovers very personally as their time together ends. Having said that, the album cue is indeed very beautiful and tear-evoking replete with tolling bells at 1:38 to mark Pond informing Mark of Livy’s passing. We close tearful, aching musical narrative as we see Mark offering to Pond his heartfelt words on the terrace that he wanted etched on Livy’s tombstone.

“Oxford” reveals a panorama of the historic university supported by grand heraldic fanfare joined by celebratory church bells. As the Oxford Roll of Honour displays, Steiner supports with a processione maestoso crowned with Twain’s Motif at 0:37 as he dons his ceremonial robe. As Twain enters the auditorium, “Rule Britannia” rendered as a processione maestoso supports. In “Twain Returns to America” (*) a celebratory Twain’s Motif supports a montage of his journey home as well as newspaper headlines of him receiving additional honors in America. “Comet’s Return” reveals a doctor and then his daughter Clara attending to him Mark as he rests in bed. Strings tenero offer a sentimental rendering of his full theme, which entwines with his four-note motif. After this there is a film-album variance. In the film version Clara opens the window and calls out with alarm to the doctor who joins her as we see Halley’s comet alight in the night sky. The Comet Misterioso Theme supports and after she runs to his bed and finds him dead, Twain’s Motif returns in whistling form as we see his apparition. Soon a playful musical narrative unfolds as we see apparitions of Huckleberry and Tom as boys calling Sam to join them. As he walks off to join them a celebratory rendering of his theme reunites the three, expanding into a grand choral statement as the they walk over a hilltop into the “sunrise of immortality”. On the album version at 0:39 a refulgent exaltation of Twain’s Theme resounds. A diminuendo then ushers in repeating statements of the Luck Motif at 1:03, which interplay with Twain’s Motif. At 1:26 strings tenero reprise the Love Theme, which joins in heartfelt interplay with Twain’s Theme. At 2:44 the Comet Misteriso Theme enters and is joined by ethereal wordless women’s choir and we flow into “Finale” atop a playful musical narrative, which unfolds as we see apparitions of Huckleberry and Jim as boys calling Sam to join them. As he walks off to join them a celebratory rendering of his theme reunites the three, expanding into a grand choral statement as the they walk over a hilltop into the “sunrise of immortality”.

I wish to commend Produced by Betta International for this long-sought rerecording of Max Steiner’s classic score for “The Adventures of Mark Twain”. The audio quality of the recording was excellent and the performance of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra under William Stromberg’s baton, outstanding. Steiner understood that the film centered on the Mark Twain, an American literary legend who rose from humble roots, yet never lost his connection to them. The film called for a folksy score full of Americana and humor to capture Twains singular wit and story-telling. To that end he created a pervasive four-note motif, which serves throughout the film as Twain’s identity. Its versatility and expressionist flexibility enabled it to support Twain across the full spectrum of human emotions. The tender Love Theme between Mark and Livy offered not passion, or ardency, but instead an enduring testament of two hearts bound deeply to each other. A number of themes brough the great Mississippi River and paddle wheel steamers to life, while motifs for frogs and squirrels offered delicious comedy. Steiner’s score brought Fredric March’s superb performance of Mark Twain to life, masterfully enhancing in scene after scene his performance, story-telling and well as the film’s folksy narrative. I believe this score offers vintage Steiner, an enduring testament of his mastering of his craft, which fully embraces Americana. I highly recommend this album, this gem of the Golden Age, for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to its wonderful Overture; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaImD4_HxI4

Buy the Adventures of Mark Twain soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (4:56)
  • Pirates (3:30)
  • Young Samuel Clemens Finds His Place (0:51)
  • The River Pilot (4:05)
  • Riverboat in Fog (2:53)
  • The Mule-Digging-Cave In (2:32)
  • Frogs (2:13)
  • Gold Rush (2:39)
  • Mark Twain is Discovered (1:04)
  • Theater Scene (1:47)
  • The Squirrel-Livy (3:55)
  • Toy Shop (4:22)
  • Inspiration (2:21)
  • Appreciation (1:24)
  • Darn Coat Tails (0:17)
  • More Squirrels (0:34)
  • Neck Tie Troubles (1:22)
  • Public Shame (3:06)
  • Buggy Ride (0:51)
  • Typesetter (2:57)
  • Meeting General Grant (2:26)
  • Bedtime Story (2:11)
  • World Tour Begins (2:56)
  • World Tour Continues (3:20)
  • The Call (2:40)
  • Sorrow (2:56)
  • Oxford (1:33)
  • Comet’s Return (3:38)
  • Finale (1:29)

Running Time: 70 minutes 48 seconds

Naxos 8.557470 (1944/2004)

Music composed by Max Steiner. Conducted by William Stromberg. Performed by The Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Original orchestrations by Bernhard Kaun, Hugo Friedhofer and Murray Cutter. Recorded and mixed by Genadiy Papin. Score produced by Max Steiner and Leo F. Forbstein. Album produced by Betta International.

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