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DRAGONWYCK – Alfred Newman


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned 20th Century Fox Studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck, who was always looking for a new story to film, came upon an 19th century period piece novel Dragonwyck, written by Anya Seton in 1944. He believed that its film noir tale of mystery and romance could be adapted to the big screen. He purchased the film rights and would personally oversee production with a $1.9 million budget. Joseph L. Mankiewicz was tasked with directing the film, and would also write the screenplay. In assembling the cast, Vincent Price won the lead role of Nicholas van Ryn when Gregory Peck withdrew after the original director Ernst Lubitsch was replaced by Mankiewicz due to illness. Joining Price would be Gene Tierney as Miranda Wells, Walter Huston as Ephraim Wells, Glenn Langan as Dr. Jeff Turner, Anne Revere as Abigail Wells, Spring Byington as Magda, Harry Morgan as Bleecker and Jessica Tandy as Peggy.

The story is set in circa 1844 in the massive gothic manor Dragonwyck located in the Hudson River Valley of New York. It is the ancestral home of the an Ryn family, which is cursed. Nicholas’ great grandmother Azilde bore her husband Pietr a son who died shortly after birth. Pietr’s anger and abuse for failing to produce an heir caused Azilde to commit suicide, and with her dying breaths she levied a curse, that she would never leave Dragonwyck, and that all future van Ryn heirs would suffer. Miranda Wells who was raised by her poor parents on a farm dreams of escaping in search for a better life. When her mother receives a letter from her wealthy patroon cousin Nicholas van Ryn, Miranda sees it as her ticket to escape and convinces her mother to let her join the Ryn household as a companion for their eight-year-old daughter Katrine. Once there she finds a distressed home with Nicholas and his wife Johanna estranged from not only each other, but also their daughter Katrine. Well, Johanna dies unexpectedly and Nicholas’ affections turn to Miranda, who is receptive. Yet she returns home only to have Nicholas show up and ask her parents for permission to marry, which they grant. Once there she becomes pregnant, but her son dies after birth of a heart defect, which sends Nicholas into isolation in the attic where he succumbs to drug addiction. Miranda learns that Johanna could no longer bear children, that Nicholas, as patroon needed a male heir to carry on the family name and retain ownership of the estate, and that he poisoned Johanna in hope that Miranda would bear him a son. Well events spiral out of control, Nicholas runs amuck with a gun, and is killed by a posse when he resists being arrested for murder. The film was a commercial success, earning a profit of $1.1 million. Critical reception was not positive with critiques leveled against the script and acting ensemble. The film failed to earn any Academy Award nominations.

Since Dragonwyck was another passion project for studio director, Darryl F. Zanuck, Alfred Newman as Director of Music personally took on the project. Upon viewing the film, he understood that this was film noir Gothic romance melodrama full of mystery, and that he would need to speak to intense, yet subterranean emotional drivers of Nicholas van Ryn. Additionally, he also understood that given the film’s old-world Dutch patroon culture, that he would have to infuse the requisite classical pieces to establish cultural sensibilities and ambiance. To that end he interpolated a number of pieces by Johann Strauss Jr., including “Auf Freiem Fusse”, Opus 345, “Sperl” polka, Opus 133 and “Wildfleur” polka, Opus 313, as well as Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata No. 2”, Opus 27. Newman would also compose an original piece, the “Astor House Waltz”, as well as two festive “Kermess Music” pieces, which would support the Dutch carnival scenes. In terms of songs, he used; “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls” from the 1843 opera The Bohemian Girl by Michael W. Balfe.

His soundscape would consist of five themes and three motifs. Foremost is the Dragonwyck Theme, which supports the actual gothic Dragonwyck mansion, and by extension its owner, Nicholas van Ryn. The theme is austere and emotes with a grand, maestoso power, which serves as a harbinger of dark purpose. Juxtaposed is the tender string borne feminine identity of Miranda’s Theme, which abounds with youthful innocence and sunny optimism. When rendered as a valzer romantico, its beauty becomes sublime. Derived from her theme and kindred is the Love Theme born by lush strings romantico. The theme is transformed during the film reflecting the changing emotional dynamics between the two, evolving from master and governess, to courtship, to husband and wife. Notable is that it emotes from her perspective, not for Nicholas, but instead the gilded life of luxury marrying him brings. The religioso Ephraim’s Theme speaks to the austere patriarch whose fear of God religious beliefs dominate the Wells family household. Azilde’s Theme speaks to the long dead great grandmother Azilde van Ryn who cursed the van Ryn posterity, and still inhabits Dragonwyck. Newman created a haunting song called the “Creole Lullaby” with lyrics by Charles Henderson. The melody is carried by harpsichord supported by ghostly women’s voices singing:

“Di Di De Di Do, the shepherd’s counting his sheep. It’s time for baby to sleep, Sleep gently. Di Di De Di Do, the moon will watch from the skies, while breezes hum lullabies, so gently, so, sleep my baby. Di Di De Di Do, may angels guard you safely throughout the night”.

In terms of motifs, we have the Patroon Motif, which emotes as an imperious fanfare, which heralds their standing and power in the community. The Oleander Motif offers an ominous construct, which supports the lethal flower used by Nicholas to murder his wife, Johanna. It features a foreboding, lurking menace empowered by an eerie violin tremolo joined by woodwinds. Dr. Turner’s Motif supports the hero of the story, supported by a clarinet tenero, which speaks to his good nature.

“Main Title” offers a wonderful score highlight. It opens with a grand gothic maestoso presentation of the Dragonwyck Theme, which replaces Newman’s icon 20th Century Fox studio logo. Newman immediately and masterfully establishes the tone of the film. The roll of the opening credits unfolds against the backdrop of the imposing Dragonwyck manor house. At 0:36 lush strings tristi usher in the eerie and haunting Azilde’s Theme. At 0:56 we enter the film proper atop a delightful scherzo bucolico as we see Miranda running down a hill full of grazing sheep to greet the postman as the screen displays “Greenwich Connecticut, May 1844”. She is ecstatic and the scherzo carries her into the kitchen to present a letter to her mother Abigail. “The Letter” reveals Abigail has received a request from her cousin Nicholas van Ryn for one of her daughters to join his household and become a companion to his young daughter Katrine. Newman offers a gentile passage borne by woodwinds tenero adorned with harp arpeggios, and aspirational strings, a nascent and still uncongealed Love Theme, which speak from Miranda’s perspective as she sees an opportunity to escape her dreary life.

“Miranda’s Yearnings” reveals Miranda entreating her mom to support selecting her, instead of her sister Tibby to join the van Ryns. As she relates that she wants to see people and places she has never known her theme enters for a wondrous statement on aspirational strings brillante shimmering over a string tremolo. At 0:28 we segue into “Table Grace” as Ephraim leads the family in grace after dinner. Reverential French horns usher in the religioso auras of Ephraim’s Theme to mark the solemn occasion. In “A Sign From God” Ephraim says that he is opposed to van Ryn’s request. Miranda makes a fervent, albeit clever appeal saying she received “a leading” during prayer and that she believes the Lord wants her to go. He tests her by having her blindly select a passage from the bible. She selects the story of Hagar who is sent by Abraham into the wilderness. Ephraim agrees to pray and meditate on his decision. For the scene, Newman offers interplay of Miranda’s pleading ethereal theme and Ephraim’s religioso theme, which achieve a beautiful confluence.

“New York” opens vibrantly to Strauss Jr.’s “Auf Freiem Fusse” as we see a panorama of the New York City skyline. The festive polka carries Ephraim and Miranda’s arrival at the Hotel Astor House for a meeting with Van Ryn. A sumptuous dinner has been prepared, which Ephraim rejects as wasteful. The Polka dissipates at 2:20 and Ephraim’s solemn theme borne by woodwinds religioso, strings reverenziali and bells move into the forefront as he tells Miranda to pray with him. As they pray Nicholas enters and respectfully bows his head. “After Dinner Waltz” reveals Nicholas, Ephraim and Miranda traveling up the Hudson River on a paddle wheel boat. Newman graces us with his elegant Astor House waltz as the two men argue the Patroon land ownership system. At 2:45 the waltz slows and assumes a more romantic aura as Nicholas and Miranda converse. Ephraim decides to go to bed, and Nicholas and Miranda bid each other a good night. The next day at 4:10 we segue into “The Paddle Boat” atop a grand and portentous Dragonwyck Theme, which resounds as we see Miranda on deck gazing at the gothic estate high atop a bluff through a telescope. Plaintive woodwinds take up the melody as Miranda and Nicholas converse. Later at 4:59 the woodwind borne Dragonwyck Theme demurs as Miranda enters the estate and is introduced to the housekeeper Magda. They go to the dining room for dinner and Miranda is introduced to Johanna van Ryn. Newman offers a subtle Dragonwyck Theme borne by forlorn woodwinds and strings to support, but we discern undercurrents of tension and sadness. At 6:39 the music brightens as Miranda meets Katrine, but it is fleeting as we see the troubled girl dismissed.

After dinner in “Azilde”, Nicholas plays the harpsichord in the parlor as Johanna sows and Miranda looks on. Miranda sees a large portrait and asks, who she was? Nicholas stops playing and says that she was Azilde, his great, great grandmother. Newman supports with an introduction of Azilde’s Theme by a forlorn flute, joined by aching strings tristi. At 0:49 a dire chord supports the revelation of her untimely death after the birth of her son. We close with a flute born elegy as Johanna retires for the evening. “I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls” offers a score highlight, where Newman demonstrates mastery of his craft with a very unsettling musical narrative. It reveals Nicholas insisting Miranda accompany him by singing “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls” by Michael W. Balfe. Unbeknownst to her the song is a love song, and when she begins singing the refrain, which speaks of love, she becomes uncomfortable at 0:47 and stops.

The Love Theme’s romance for strings unfolds as he compliments Miranda on her intuitive understanding of the lyrics, and then asks if she has someone at home that she has promised to love still the same, to which she replies, no. It is very clear that he is attracted to her, but he senses her discomfort, and so retires for the evening. As she looks again at the portrait at 1:40, Azilde’s Theme emotes as a misterioso with a palpable sadness. The music darkens, interspersed with bleak harpsichord chords at 2:34 as Magda joins her and relates that Azilde’s husband never loved her, only their son, which he kept from her. This brought her to despair, causing her to curse the van Ryn family and then kill herself. Subtle and foreboding undercurrents of the Dragonwyck Theme and a lurking Azilde Theme entwine as Magda escorts Miranda to her room. The musical narrative becomes ominous in her bedroom as Magda unsettles Miranda by foretelling that the day will come when she will dread ever coming to Dragonwyck.

“The Count Arrives” reveals Miranda tutoring Katrine. The child queries about her father inform us that she is estranged from him. The lesson is interrupted by the arrival by carriage of the Count and Countess DeGrenier. Newman supports with a prancing melody empowered by horns reale. At 0:21 strings and woodwinds tenero offer a gentile musical narrative as Katrine informs Miranda of the ball that her father with host tomorrow on the 4th of July. We see in Miranda’s eyes sweet anticipation. Newman’s music for this scene was dialed out of the film. In “Kermess” Miranda and Katrine watch the gala event from a hidden vantage point as Katrine has been forbidden to attend by her father. While watching Dr. Jeff Turner arrives and is introduced to Miranda. We see that he is attracted to her, but both remain formal and cordial. Newman offers the score’s second waltz, a valzer felice, which flows with gaiety.

“Kermess Part Two” reveals the gala event empowered by another Newman dance composition, a vibrant polka festiva. Jeff asks Miranda if he could call on her, and she says yes, which pleases him. He departs, and at 1:22 the music becomes oppressive and austere as the imperious Nicholas van Ryn arrives, dismounts, and stops to talk to Dr. Turner. He asks him why he is attending the Kermess and at 1:48 Dr. Turner offers a glib response supported by his sardonic clarinet borne theme. Afterwards the imperious van Ryn walks on to sit on the grand Patroon throne. He is here to collect annual tribute from all the farmers that till and harvest his lands, but we see a seething rage and contempt in the men’s eyes. In “Knife Attack” the tenant farmer Bleecker objects to paying anymore tribute and demands title to the land his family has worked for over 100 years. Van Ryn will have none of it, and orders him and his family to vacate immediately or be thrown out by the police. In a rage, Bleecker pulls out a dagger and lunges for van Ryn, only to be subdued by Dr. Turner. Newman supports the scene with a surging crescendo of violence. A diminuendo of sadness empowered by muted French horns nobile follows as Dr. Turner pleads for van Ryn’s understanding and leniency to no avail. At 0:43 an austere and grim musical narrative supports van Ryn’s assertion of his hereditary rights as the historic owner of these lands, and casting aspersion on the tenant’s rent rebellion and desire to take ownership of his lands.

“Dragonwyck Ball” reveals the gala ball held at Dragonwyck, where Newman graces us with a flowing tapestry of Strauss Jr. polkas, leading off with the lilting “Sperl” polka. Miranda tries to socialize, but takes offense at the pretentious Patroon culture, creating a scene as Nicholas observes. At 1:50 we flow into the spirited gentility of the “Wildfleur” polka as Magda tries to console Miranda. In “Terrace Waltz” an alienated Miranda has withdrawn to the terrace, where she is joined by Nicholas, who consoles and compliments her. Newman supports with Miranda’s Theme rendered as a valzer tenero. He then asks that she consent to a dance with him. She is reassured, reluctantly agrees, and at 1:10 we flow into the Love Theme expressed as an elegant valzer romantico. It offers one of the score’s finest moments as Nicholas sweeps her into his arms and they waltz into the house dance floor as his guests stare aghast. He asks her if she is now enjoying the ball, and she answers ecstatically yes as he laughs, while a distraught Johanna sits and stews.

“Stormy Night” offers perhaps the score’s most unsettling passage. It reveals an intense rainstorm buffeting the manor house as Nicholas gazes out the window. An ominous and dramatic Dragonwyck Theme empowers the scene. An oboe doloroso supports Johanna, who is ailing with a cold and resting in her bed. At 0:58 the foreboding, lurking menace of the Oleander Motif is felt as Magda brings in Nicholas’ gift, a white Persian oleander plant. Johanna is delighted, while Nicholas is taciturn as horns of doom buttress the motif’s eerie violin tremolo and forlorn woodwinds. Johanna’s mood again sours as Nicholas rebuffs her request for a doctor and departs. Later that night Dr. Turner visits bringing news of Bleecker being arrested for a murder he did not commit. Nicholas asks him to treat Johanna, stay for dinner, and also stay overnight due to the storm. “Katrine Hears Azilde” reveals it is 3 am and we see Katrine drawn to the parlor where she hears a lady singing a lullaby while playing the harpsichord. Miranda witnesses her descent and follows. They stop on the stairs and sit as Newman offers his most haunting and unsettling musical composition, the “Creole Lullaby” as we bear witness to the ghostly woman’s vocals attended by a harpsichord playing a lullaby. At 1:05 a crescendo of the increasingly discordant lullaby commences and evokes a reaction of terror in Katrine, who begs Miranda to make it stop. As she cowers in Miranda’s arms, the lullaby dissipates into nothingness, bringing peace and sleepiness to Katrine.

“Joanna’s Death” reveals Dr. Turner being called urgently to Johanna’s room. He finds that she has died and is perplexed. Nicholas joins but does not appear to be distraught at the news. Newman sows a pervasive tapestry of death with a grim musical narrative in which he subtly weaves in the eerie White Oleander Motif, an allusion to the method of her death as ingesting the plant’s flowers is lethal. At 1:42 woodwinds tenero support Magda’s observation that she died smiling. At 1:58 a dirge joins as Nicholas asks Magda to summon the pastor and departs. We close at 2:32 with a troubled Dr. Turner and Miranda departing, supported by the eerie violin tremolo of the White Oleander Motif as the camera focuses on the white oleander plant.

In “To Have No Son” Nicholas relates his unfulfilling life with Johanna. We open with a dark chord as he bitterly relates that he has no son, and so he will be the last to carry the van Ryn name. MIranda offers to console him and the music softens on her theme as he reveals he is receptive. Slowly passion builds on the Dragonwyck Theme as Nicholas states that Johanna’s death was inevitable, that fate brought the two of them together, and then confesses his love for her. Newman’s music powerfully amplifies the scene as Miranda is overcome, and Nicholas apologizes for saying what had to be said. At 1:52 a crescendo dramatico swells atop the Dragonwyck Theme as a troubled Miranda departs Dragonwyck manor by carriage as a dejected Nicholas looks out from the window. At 2:16 we flow seamlessly into “Jeff Says Goodbye to Miranda”. Newman supports the scene tenderly with a flute borne rendering of her theme attended by strings romantico as Jeff rides and intercepts Miranda’s carriage to say goodbye. Yet he also seeks to obtain her consent to visit her and her family, to which she coolly agrees. At 3:49 he expresses his romantic feelings for her as she departs, yet woodwinds tristi full of disappointment joined by aching strings enter as she does not respond in kind, instead remaining non-committal. At 4:23 horns solenne and church bells emote Ephraim’s Theme as he and the family walk home from church. We conclude with foreboding as an austere Ephraim informs Miranda that he wants to speak to her.

Ephraim chastises Miranda for being estranged from her family, and rejecting every potential suitor in the county. A letter then arrives from Nicholas van Ryn expressing his desire too meet to discuss a matter of great importance. In “Nicholas Asks For Mirands’s Hand” violins romantico so full of longing emote the Love Theme, which carries Miranda to her room, where she selects one of her finest dresses. At 0:15 the music become grim with the arrival of Nicholas. The Love Theme resumes as Miranda with longing eyes, descends the stairs to have her hand kissed by Nicholas. Ephraim and Nicholas then exit to the study to discuss important matters. Abigail and Miranda also have an intimate mother-daughter moment, which Newman supports tenderly. Yet at 1:30 the music sours as Abigail questions if she made the right decision to let Miranda go to Dragonwyck, asking if Miranda is in love with Nicholas, or the life he would provide. At 1:41 a harp romantico ushers in her string borne theme, which supports Miranda’s testament of love for Nicholas. At 1:59 Nicholas’ grim theme and Miranda’s Theme entwine as we see Abigail acquiesce to the inevitable. We close with subtle tension as they are called by Ephraim to join them.

“Miranda Accepts Nicholas’ Proposal” opens with woodwinds solenne emoting Ephraim’s Theme as he is not supportive of Nicholas’ marriage proposal. Yet Miranda, with support from Abigail, accepts the proposal as well as Nicholas’ insistence that the ceremony be held tomorrow at her house. Newman supports her joy with the happiness of her theme. Miranda escorts Nicholas to his carriage as Ephraim and Abigail try to absorb what just happened. At 0:38 we have one of the score’s most beautiful renderings of Miranda’s Theme as a valzer romantico as we see preparations being made at Dragonwyck to welcome the new Mrs. van Ryn. “Mrs. Van Ryn” was dialed out of the film. A gentile passage Miranda’s Theme by strings tenero support the new mistress of the house issuing orders and expectations for the grand ball tonight. At 0:42 we flow into her theme rendered again as a valzer romantico, which returns to its normal string borne form with some uneasiness in the notes as Nicholas returns home from New York.

“Nicholas Returns From New York” offers a score highlight where Newman masterfully speaks to an intersection of powerful emotions. Regretfully much of it was dialed out of the film. It reveals Nicholas return from a business trip to New York City. We open tentatively as we see Nicholas walking to greet Miranda. As he enters her theme blossoms as she is happy to see him after three weeks and they embrace and kiss. Peggy, Miranda’s new personal servant joins and makes a decidedly bad first impression with Nicholas, who pressures Miranda to fire her due to her deformed leg. Newman’s music from 0:43 – 1:27 of the cue was dialed out of the film. It offered soft Irish auras, which spoke to Peggy’s heritage. They argue over firing her and at 1:28 the music darkens as Nicholas states “deformed bodies depress me”. Miranda is offended and challenges him, and he relents as he pulls out a present bought at Tiffany’s. The music saddens as she relates that all of the guests they have invited have declined to attend, refusals she believes speak of their rejection of her. The musical narrative becomes tortured as they argue over people’s perception and whether they should have waited longer to get married. At 2:34 Dragonwyck Theme joins as Nicholas answers her question regarding God, that he only believes in himself, which clearly distresses her. A diminuendo takes them out to have lunch in the garden. At 3:22 a slow building crescendo of distress commences when Nicholas’ offer to say Grace is turned down as we see Miranda simmering. Her rage explodes as she runs into the house weeping. In her bedroom Nicholas is angry for her humiliating him in front of the servants. She states she believes in God, and so will her child. At 3:57 the music warms upon her theme as he becomes effusive with his joy and kisses her hand. The rest of the cue was evidently lost as part of editing the scene.

Nicholas goes to town and entreats Dr. Turner to come to Dragonwyck to assist Dr. Brown with Miranda’s delivery, which he does. In “The Child is Born-And Dies” Dr. Turner informs Nicholas that his son has been born with a malformed heart and will not survive. Nicholas embraces denial and dismissively sends Dr. Turner on his way. Newman supports the scene with an aggrieved rendering of Nicholas’ Theme by strings sofferenti. At 1:06 warm religioso auras support a minister baptizing the boy and offering prayers. Slowly the music darkens until 2:08 when strings affanato usher in a suffering Nicholas’ Theme, which surges on a crescendo of pain as Miranda declares their son was baptized just in time, and has passed. At 2:42 Nicholas vents his rage at Peggy and departs in a fury, as strings full of despair support his departure.

Nicholas has again disappeared for a week, and Miranda has had enough. “Nicholas’ Tower Room” offers a superb score highlight where Newman demonstrates mastery of his craft. Miranda ascends to his private retreat to discover just what he does up there supported by foreboding tremolo celli underpinning an ominous Dragonwyck Theme with forlorn woodwinds. Intangible strains of Azilde’s Theme are woven into the musical narrative, an allusion of her curse and haunting of Nicholas’ psyche. At 0:44 violins surge as she enters his forbidden domain. Her presence awakens him and he regards her visit as an unexpected pleasure. She asks what he does here and he begins to rave like a madman. Newman plays to this with a musical narrative that entwines the foreboding Dragonwyck Theme, a lurking woodwind borne Lullaby Theme and unsettling dissonance. At 3:08 dissonant horns bark as Nicholas discloses his horrific secret, that he is a drug addict and the music emotes with an increasingly tortured dissonance. At 4:00 she tries to exhort him to overcome this, yet he refuses, and so asks that he instead help her, empowered by her theme borne by yearning strings as she offers the power of love. Yet the music descends into despair, a sea of self-dissolution as Nicholas walks away and Miranda looks on helpless as he consumes more drug – (implied as the Hayes Code would not allow the filming of drug use at this time).

“The Doctor’s Suspicions” reveals Peggy begging Dr. Turner to come and save Miranda before Nicholas harms her. Music enters atop an eerie White Oleander Theme as she relates that Miranda is ill and that Nicholas has placed a white oleander plant in her room. Dr. Turner becomes alarmed at this revelation and as they depart a dark and foreboding musical narrative unfolds with accents of the White Oleander Theme embedded as we see Miranda reading her bible in her bedroom. At 0:49 we segue into “Dementia” as Nicholas enters her bedroom. The cue offers another testament to Newman’s skill emoting film noir brilliantly. He compliments her on her beauty, yet the music darkens and becomes tortured as he then raves against a God who purposely took the life of his son. Anger joins the music as he raves that he brought her here by his affection to live the life he gave he, a revelation marked at 2:47 by dire horns. At 2:57 a forlorn flute supports Miranda’s thoughts turning to Johanna, a revelation that disturbs Nicholas. At 3:10 Azilde’s Lullaby joins eerily as we hear her ghostly vocals accompanied by harpsichord and random strikes of pain. Nicholas becomes unhinged and races to the parlor as the melody crescendos, ending as he stands before her portrait and cups his ears in agony.

“Nicholas Attacks The Doctor” reveals Dr. Turner’s arrival, and the two men partake of an increasingly personal repartee as Miranda arrives. Eventually Dr. Turner reveals Nicholas’ dirty little secret, that Persian oleander is a lethal poison that he used to murder Johanna, and soon Miranda too. Music explodes on a crescendo of violence as Nicholas savagely attacks Jeff, empowered by orchestral mayhem. The dissonant, and at times shrill torrent of violence subsides at 0:34 as Jeff prevails and Nicholas lies knocked out on the floor. As Jeff beckons Miranda to depart with him, her anguished theme carries her tearful departure. At 1:10 a dissonant shriek supports Nicholas waking. A tortured, dissonant narrative of madness carries his walk to the garden where he mounts the Patroon throne, and begins calling out imperiously to his many tenants to come forth and pay tribute. Now totally mad, he raves against their pursuit of liberty and happiness as muted horns irato punctuate his diatribe. An anguished Dragonwyck Theme joins as he speaks of his son who will inherit Dragonwyck, only to realize a 2:41 that he has no son while horns affanato cry out, as we conclude on a crescendo of pain.

“Nicholas Is Shot” reveals the arrival of Dr. Turner and a posse headed by the mayor. Nicholas refuses to acquiesce to their arrest and points his pistol at Dr. Turner. Before he can shoot, Bleecker shoots and mortally wounds Nicholas as violins shriek in pain. As Nicholas bleeds out, he gazes at Miranda as violins wail in agony. At 0:28 dire horns of death resound as the men take their hats off to honor the Patroon, who dies at 0:51 atop a dark chord. In “Finale” Miranda departs Dragonwyck supported by a last dark refrain of the Dragonwyck Theme. As Jeff assists her into the carriage a clarinet tenero emotes his theme, which speaks of hope. Her theme, now full of nostalgia joins at 0:50 as she reminisces, recalling her mother’s counsel, that you cannot marry a dream. As she departs, she asks him to come and visit her, to which Jeff, replies, hopefully in the near future. We conclude atop a crescendo on her theme as the music swells to a magnificent flourish.

I would like to thank Ray Faiola, the late Nick Redman, Craig Spaulding and Screen Archives Entertainment for the premier release of Alfred Newman’s masterpiece, “Dragonwyck”. The original monaural recording was mastered by Ray Faiola and while the overall audio quality is good, there are some minor imperfections. Although 21st century audio qualitative standards were not achieved, the album never the less offers a testament to Newman’s compositional gift, and provides a rewarding listen experience. This film offered a period piece with a Gothic romance melodrama full of mystery. Newman, to that end created one of his most powerful and emotional scores of his brilliant career. In a masterstroke he created the grand, austere and oppressive Dragonwyck Theme, which perfectly captured the essence of the gothic estate, as well as its imperious patroon overlord, Nicholas van Ryn. Equally effective was his ingenious “Creole Lullaby” whose haunting harpsichord melody and ghostly woman’s vocals brought home the terror and implacable vengeance of Azilde’s curse. Juxtaposed from these were the elegant string borne Miranda and Love Themes, which when rendered in waltz form graced us with eloquence and sublimity. A number of original waltzes, polkas as well as interpolated classical pieces masterfully brought cultural and era authenticity to the film. The musical conception, and brilliant execution, during scenes where powerful emotions intersected and contested such as “Nicholas Returns From New York”, “Nicholas’ Tower Room” and “Nicholas Attacks The Doctor” offer an enduring testament to Newman’s genius. Folks, this score in my judgment is one of Newman’s most powerful, intense, and darkest scores. I believe it to be one of the finest in his canon, and a masterpiece of the Golden Age. I highly recommend purchase of the album as an essential score for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a nine-minute suite; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAT4a930FMI

Buy the Dragonwyck soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (1:21)
  • The Letter (1:04)
  • Miranda’s Yearnings/Table Grace (1:25)
  • A Sign From God (1:27)
  • New York (3:26)
  • After Dinner Waltz/The Paddle Boat (7:27)
  • Azilde (1:26)
  • I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls (5:18)
  • The Count Arrives (0:58)
  • Kermess (1:02)
  • Kermess Part Two (2:22)
  • Knife Attack (1:33)
  • Dragonwyck Ball (3:07)
  • Terrace Waltz (3:29)
  • Stormy Night (3:04)
  • Katrine Hears Azilde (2:03)
  • Joanna’s Death (2:49)
  • To Have No Son/Jeff Says Goodbye to Miranda (5:01)
  • Nicholas Asks For Mirands’s Hand (2:58)
  • Miranda Accepts Nicholas’ Proposal (1:01)
  • Mrs. Van Ryn (2:01)
  • Nicholas Returns From New York (6:12)
  • The Child is Born-And Dies (3:02)
  • Nicholas’ Tower Room (5:05)
  • The Doctor’s Suspicions/Dementia (4:46)
  • Nicholas Attacks The Doctor (2:59)
  • Nicholas Is Shot (1:10)
  • Finale (2:06)

Running Time: 79 minutes 33 seconds

Screen Archives Entertainment SAE-CRS-0006 (1946/2002)

Music composed and conducted by Alfred Newman. Orchestrations by Edward B. Powell. Recorded and mixed by Charles Althouse, Paul Neal, and Murray Spivack. Score produced by Alfred Newman. Album produced by Ray Faiola, Nick Redman, and Craig Spaulding.

  1. February 25, 2023 at 8:00 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this. I already loved and appreciated the film’s score (my Twilight Time blu-ray has the isolated score option but the film uses it so brilliantly already that I feel like I don’t need to use it) but this made me appreciate it even more. Its a shame Newman didn’t get nominated for anything with the score.

    Do you happen to know which tracks and/or themes the suite has? I wish the soundtrack was available to listen to digitally here in the US and all I have is the suite to listen to until I get my hands on the physical CD.

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