Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > PRINCE OF FOXES – Alfred Newman

PRINCE OF FOXES – Alfred Newman

November 7, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1948 20th Century Fox studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck sought to recapture the box office success of Captain of Castile with the latest best-selling novel from author Samuel Shellabarger, Prince of Foxes. Zanuck purchased the film rights for $200,000 and envisioned studio star Tyrone Power in the lead role. Sol Siegel was assigned production, Milton Krims was hired to write the screenplay, and Henry King was tasked with directing. To create an old-world feel, Zanuck sent teams to Italy for filming in a number of palaces and gardens, which would be very expensive, ballooning the budget to over $4 million. To offset the projected costs, he made the creative decision to film in black and white, a decision opposed by King, and one he in hindsight regretted. The cast would include Tyrone Power as Andrea Orsini, Orson Welles as Caesare Borgia, Wanda Hendrix as Camila Verano, Marina Berti as Angela Borgia, and Everett Sloane as Mario Belli.

The story is set circa 1500 C.E. in northern Italy and follows the exploits of Andrea Orsini a nobleman, artist, and swordsman who is in the service of the evil Prince Cesare Borgia. Andrea is dispatched by the prince on a mission to facilitate the marriage of the prince’s widowed sister (who husband he had murdered) to rival Alfonso d’Este to forge an alliance in preparation of his ambition to conquer central Italy. Along the way Andrea falls in love with Camilia Verano who is in a political marriage to septuagenarian Count Marc Verano. After much court intrigue, Andrea betrays Cesare to support the count’s rebellion. In a surprise attack the count is mortally injured in battle, leaving Andrea to command the city defense from an enraged Cesare. With defeat imminent, Andrea surrenders himself to save the city and Camilia, eventually escaping to slay Don Esteban, and win at last the hand of his beloved Camilia. The film was a commercial failure, losing almost $2 million, as it failed to resonate with American audiences. It was also hurt by being filmed in black and white, which diminished the visual colors and splendor of Italian Renaissance Zanuck’s film teams had meticulously filmed. Critics praised the film for offering a thoughtful, finely acted, and well told morality play. Critical reception was unfavorable, although it did earn two Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

Alfred Newman as Director of Music assigned himself to the project given that this was yet another Darryl F. Zanuck passion project. Upon viewing the film, he understood that his music would have to speak to the vivid and opulent grandeur of the Italian Renaissance. Yet, at its foundation, Newman also understood that he would have to juxtapose the pervasive malignant malevolence of the Machiavellian Prince Cesare Borgia, which permeates the film, with the heroism and youthful nobility of Andrea Orsini. Additionally, the romance between our hero Andrea, and Camilia constituted a secondary plot line, which would require a love theme. Finally, the film featured a number of battle scenes as well as personal sword fighting, which would call for spirited and dynamic action writing.

For his soundscape, Newman created four primary themes, including; Andrea’s Theme supports our hero and offers a forthright, masculine identity empowered by horns bravura, which exudes confidence. When rendered alla marcia it exudes an inspired and rousing heroism, unstoppable and irresistible. Cesare’s Theme supports our villain as Duke of House Borgia. Strings malevoli impart menace and sinister auras that are formidable and lethal. Camilia’s Theme is kindred to Andrea’s Theme from which it is derived. It offers the score’s single feminine identity, which supports her personally, but also by extension, a love theme, which speaks of Andrea’s amorous desires to possess her. Count Verano’s Theme serves as his personal identity, but also, by extension, his domain, the mountaintop citadel Citta del Monte. Woodwinds devote offer a tender, yet lonely musical narrative in which we detect a subtle sadness in the notes.

Cues coded (*) contain music from scenes not found on the album. “Prelude” offers a rousing score highlight where Newman boldly sets the tone of the film with dynamic interplay of Andrea’s and Cesare’s Themes. He abandons his signature 20th Century Fox Studio anthem to support the studio logo, instead opening with thunderous martial timpani. From this is launched Andrea’s Theme, here rendered as a proud marcia orogliosa, a grand horn propelled declaration of our hero. It supports the display of the stylized script of the opening credits. At 1:07 the credits conclude with rolling timpani, and we flow darkly at 1:19 atop a sinister Cesare’s Theme into the film proper with narrative script of Cesare Borgia attending the funeral of his sister Lucrezia’s husband in 1500 C.E. (*) “Church Service” reveals the burial service for Lucrezia’s husband, supported with liturgical reverence by organ solenne. Liturgical chant joins as Cesare reproaches Lucrezia for talking during the service. He then departs, joined by subordinates Andrea Orsini and Don Estaban Ramirez. In an unscored scene Cesare tasks Andrea with a mission to induce Alfonso d’Este, son of the Duke of Ferrara, to join in a political marriage with House Borgia by taking the hand of Lucrezia. Cesare then directs Andrea to see his cousin Angela, as he wishes to facilitate their union. Andrea departs and Cesare summons his aide to arrange Andrea’s transport to Venice in the morning. Muted trumpets declare the imperious Borgia fanfare to support Cesare’s command.

(*) “Andrea and Angela” reveals him going into her bed chamber where they warmly embrace and kiss, supported by a romance for strings by sumptuous violins d’Amore. The music darkens as we see Cesare peering through a peep hole in the wall, satisfied of Andrea’s love of Angela, and reassured of his commitment to the mission. We close with horns minacciose declaring Cesare’s malevolence as he eyes the city of Venice on his enormous wall map. “Song Of Venice” offers a beautiful romantic score highlight of the Love Theme, where strings d’Amore support a tenor’s wondrously romantic vocals. “Romance On The Gondola” offers a beautiful passage, which enhances the scene. It reveals Andrea on a large gondola moving through Venice’s lagoon. Newman supports with an idyllic string borne passage with a retinue of woodwinds and harp adornment. In the actual film a male tenor sings, takes the part of the album woodwinds.

In (*) “Andrea Meets Camilia” the tenor continues to sing the Love Theme supported by strings and woodwinds gentile as Andrea barters to sell his paintings to an art dealer. The bartering is interrupted by the arrival of Camilia de Bologna, whose beauty elicits Andrea to gift his painting to her. The gentile musical narrative sours temporarily when she discloses that she has a husband, dashing Andrea’s amorous designs. Yet the music regains its lyricism, joined by a soprano, which emotes softly under the dialogue. (*) “Assassin” reveals Andrea and Angela enjoying an evening gondola ride, supported by the idyllic romance of the “Romance on the Gondala” cue, now embellished with harp adornment. Mario, an assassin lurks in the shadows and woodwinds sinistri growl as he pulls out his dagger while the couple disembark. Newman sows unease as they walk, slowly building to a crescendo of violence as the assassin strikes, but his thrust is parried. A fight ensues empowered by a heroic declaration of Andrea’s Theme as he subdues the man, sparing his life so he may learn the reason for his attack. The interrogation reveals opposition from the Ferrara royal house to the proposed marriage to Lucrezia Borgia. Andrea spares Mario’s life and they agree to join in common cause.

(*) “The Trip to Ferrara” reveals Andrea on a boat traversing the countryside along a canal. Newman supports with a gentile passage borne by woodwinds tranquilli. It shifts to a misterioso as the pilot offers a tale of a heartbroken widow who lost her husband, with her beloved son, whom they sent to art school, instead becoming a bandit. They stop for the night at Crispino, and a nocturne unfolds as Andrea journeys to a house for which the pilot spoke. (*) “Andrea and His Mother” reveals his arrival and rush inside, which startles the woman until she recognizes him, and hugs her beloved son. The warm, familial musical narrative has an undercurrent of unease as we see Mario listening outside by a window. The music sours when he reveals to his mother that he changed his family name of Zoppo, to a noble one, so he might advance at court. She reproaches him, but a grim chord supports his assertion that in life, “The ends, justify the means”. Aggrieved strings speak of her distress as she again reproaches him of his evil ways. He threatens to never return, she rebukes him saying that if he does return, it must be as her son Andrea Zoppo. She kneels to pray to the house Madonna shrine supported by stirring refulgent violins religioso, as Mario runs away, and Andrea departs.

“Ferrara” offers script stating that the proud and fortified city is ruled by Duke Ercole d’Este and his son Alfonso. Newman supports with a bravado rendering of a martial marcia imperial, which demurs as the scene shifts to Ercole talking to his son. Andrea arrives and evokes the ire of the duke, who orders him to leave, and then departs. Andrea however remains, appeals to Alfonso’s ego and vanity, and secures his pledge to marry Lucrezia with a dowry of 200,000 ducats. In “Royal Court” Andrea returns to give news of his success to Cesare, who credits his great judgment in selecting him. Newman supports with a series of vibrant court dances of the Renaissance, which create the perfect ambiance as the men talk while minstrels and acrobats perform. (*) “Cesare’s New Plot” reveals his latest plot, the assassination of Camilia’s aged husband Count Marco Antonio Verano so he may gain control of his strategic citadel Citta del Monte, gateway to the marches, which he intends to invade in the spring. Cesare intimates how this may benefit Andrea, and Newman offers a Camilia’s Theme rendered as a romance for strings as we see interest in Andrea’s eyes, joined by martial drums and horns as they speak of the coming invasion in spring.

“Madonna” offers a score highlight with wondrous thematic interplay. It reveals Cesare taking Andrea to see the count and Camilia. Martial music with underlying tension supports their walk as a concerned Angela looks on. At 1:26 French horns nobile carries Andrea’s arrival, joined by the lush strings romantico of Camilia’s Theme as she and her husband greet them. At 2:28 the transfer of the melodic line to oboe d’Amore is sublime. She denies they have ever met, and tension simmers between the two. Cesare slyly appoints Andrea to be his ambassador to the Count’s court and Newman supports the scene with superb interplay of a sinister Cesare’s Theme, Camilia’s Theme, and Andrea’s Theme. The count and Camilia bid them farewell and depart supported by her theme. Angela arrives and is distressed that her marriage to Andrea is being delayed again for his ‘romantic mission’ to Citta del Monte. Aggrieved strings support her distress, and rebuff from Cesare who informs her that affairs of state prevail over the needs of the heart. When she solicits Andrea’s support, he chooses to obey the commands of his master and she departs in a huff. We close with Cesare’s foreboding fanfare as he departs advising the distracted Andrea that “Women are a gauge of a man’s weakness”.

(*) “Cesare Buys Insurance” reveals Cesare is wary given Andrea’s obvious amorous weakness, and so recruits Mario with 200 ducats to be his watchman, alerting him should Andrea’s resolve or loyalty begin to waver. A malevolent declaration of Cesare’s Theme supports as Mario exits, and Cesare again gazes upon his wall map of Italy, his finger pointing to Citta del Monte. “Onward March” reveals Andrea riding in a caravan to the citadel supported by a grand rendering of his and Cesare’s themes. (*) “Andrea’s Reception” reveals the count hosting a dinner reception for Andrea, supported by gentile court music. After introductions, and mutual compliments, court music resumes as Camilia advises Andrea that she will call for him later that evening. Her sumptuous theme joins at 0:22 in “The Chapel”, which reveals Lady Beatrice escorting him to the chapel, which Newman supports with solemn, refulgent strings religioso. She cuts to the chase saying she believes Cesare has sent him here with ill purpose, and that should any harm come to her husband, she would hate him forever.

“The Fortress” reveals Andrea and Mario surveilling the citadel’s defenses supported by dramatic, menacing strings, which demur into a plotting rendering of Andrea’s Theme as he walks the battlements. Below, the count and Camilia are taking in the morning air supported by her lyrical theme. Her theme darkens with concern as they observe Andrea, as the count departs to join him. Andrea’s horn declared theme supports his assessment of the citadel, but dissipates as the count arrives and relates his fondness and memories living here. Newman graces us with the count’s wistful theme, borne intimately by strings sentimentali. Woodwinds pastorale join to support Camilia’s arrival, and the departure with the count to inspect the gardens. “Death Plot” reveals Andrea and Mario plotting the count’s death. Newman juxtaposes their evil, ill-purpose with a beautiful, full rendering of the Count’s Theme for one of the score’s finest moments.

“The Painting” offers a beautiful passage, which speaks to unexpressed romantic yearning. It reveals Camilia joining Andrea in his art studio as he paints, with Mario posing as Judas Iscariot. She is taken by his talent and asks if she could commission a work, to which he agrees, suggesting a personal portrait of her. She agrees, with the proviso that her husband permits, and then departs. Ethereal strings and Andrea’s Theme on warm French horns open the scene with woodwinds and strings d’Amore emoting her theme as she arrives. As she dances around stating directly what she wants from him, the ethereal string motif entwines until her theme becomes ascendent when her motive become clear. Andrea is summoned to the count’s bedchamber and a tense conversation unfolds as he advises Andrea, he is aware of his deceit and murderous intentions. Never the less, he grants his wife’s request and commissions Andrea to paint her portrait. “Madonna’s Portrait” offers a rapturous romantic score highlight. Camilia arrives at a terrace and is surprised when Andrea unveils her finished portrait. She is stunned at his beautiful portrayal, which presents her with even more beauty than real life. She graciously accepts it and Newman supports with an ardent exposition of the Love Theme, which blossoms as we see Camilia overcome and displaying the first noticeable sign that her heart has awakened to Andrea.

“Festival Of Spring” reveals people dancing in the streets and offers a joyful celebration of the citadel’s spring festival. Newman interpolates the festive music he wrote for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). The next day, in an unscored scene, a Borgia emissary arrives and presents a demand that the Count allow passage of Borgia troops through his territory and that he also supply 1,000 soldiers to support Cesare’s northern campaign. The count is troubled, defers his decision as he departs the throne room to contemplate atop the citadel battlements. Andrea contemplates and then decides that his path to fame, and glory has presented itself, and dispatches Mario to murder the count. In “Attempted Assassination” Andrea has a change of heart supported by a chord strike. He rushes out in pursuit of Mario with Newman juxtaposing the pious nobility of the Count’s Theme with the slithering serpentine strings melovoli of the assassin with superb thematic interplay. As Mario is about to strike, Andrea forcibly stops him, and they hide undetected in the bushes as the count departs. In an unscored scene the count declares to his court that Cesare Borgia is evil, and that he will not support his diabolical ambitions. He orders the citadel to prepare for war and for those who value their lives more than their liberty, to depart. The people voice their support for the count’s defiance, while in the garden outside, Mario, who feels betrayed, parts ways with Andrea. We close with Andrea stunning the count, Camilia and the court by offering his sword in service to defeat Cesare Borgia.

“Into Battle” offers a rousing, martial score highlight. The citadel prepares for siege and Andrea convinces the Count to do the unexpected, to strike Cesare with an ambush. Newman propels the preparations with Andrea’s Theme empowered by confident horns bravura, enforced with interplay of a contrapuntal string borne Camilia’s Theme as she sees her husband, and then Andrea off. At 1:05 horns nobile with muted trumpet counters usher in a marcia militare as the count and Andrea lead their troops into battle, with Camilia’s Theme again in counterpoint as she watches. At 2:08 we demur into a wistful interlude sentimentali as the count relates to Andrea how he took Camilia into his family for safety after her father died. At 2:44 a stinger alerts them of the approach of Cesare’s troops along a misty forest road, along which the count and Andrea wait to ambush. The count orders a charge and they route Cesare’s troops who flee after a brief skirmish, only to be cut down by archers and the count’s troops. The music after 2:48 was dialed out of the film, and the battle was left unscored. Newman original conception was a trotting string ostinato to support Cesare’s troops riding into an ambush. A crescendo of violence heralds the charge of the Count’s men, and we close with horns solenne as the count falls in battle.

“Death Of His Excellence” reveal the count has been mortally wounded. He lays on his death bed, asks for both Andrea and Camilia’s hands, and commends them for both being true to him. He then commands them to be true to each other as he takes his last breath and dies. Tolling bells (not on the album), join with a lamentation of the Count’s Theme as Andrea and Camilia grieve. At 0:30 a dire declaration of Cesare’s Theme informs us that he avenges his defeat by striking back with the full power of his army. (*) “The Battle” reveals Cesare’s catapults unleashing a fiery bombardment with the citadel people trying valiantly to put out the fires. Then large canons commence a bombardment that begins pummeling the citadel’s massive walls. Ladder men follow and begin scaling the walls, but are repelled with burning oil. Music enters atop bugles militare signaling retreat.

“The Truce” offers a supreme score highlight, where the score achieves its emotional apogee. It reveals a dejected Camilia walking through her garden, whose flowers have been decimated by the bombardment. A lamentation of her theme supports her sadness. At 0:42 we switch to the ramparts atop a forlorn trumpet as Andrea gazes upon Camilia below. He descends to her supported by a molto tragico rendering of his theme as he advises that the citadel will not survive another attack, and that all is lost. He counsels Camilia to escape through a secret exit, but she refuses. At 1:18 her theme becomes ascendent to support her nobility and courage, yet his theme joins heavily as he admits his failure in all things and beseeches her to let him have one victory – saving her life. A tête-à-tête of their themes unfolds with Camilia’s transforming into the Love Theme, which blossoms gloriously as she prevails, insisting that they stay together. At 3:03 the moment is lost with a foreboding musical narrative as a guard bring news that Cesare demands to parley. Andrea Theme rebounds as he orders preparation to receive the men, hopeful that they may yet escape destruction.

“The Duke’s Offer” reveals Esteban de Ramirez delivering his terms of surrender, which are that he will spare the town from looting, Camilia may remain, but with Cesare’s captain as commander of the citadel’s garrison, and lastly, that the traitor Andrea Orsinin be surrendered for punishment. Camilia refuses the terms and Don Esteban and his men depart supported by Cesare’s Theme emoted as a marcia sinistra. (*) “Our Last Stand” reveals Andrea declaring that this will be their last stand, with Camilia adding that she is not afraid as he kisses her hand. Newman supports with a sad, but heart felt rendering of the Love Theme. Later that night Andrea walks the ramparts supported by eerie strings full of foreboding, which usher in his theme by forlorn woodwinds. We close with Andrea looking at the enemy camp as his theme regains its strength atop horns of hope. Later Andrea surrenders himself to Esteban and obtains his written promise to honor the surrender terms offered earlier.

“The Duke’s Entrance” reveals the imperious Duke Cesare Borgia grand entry into Citta del Monte’s town square supported by a jubilant trumpet propelled marcia orgogliosa. Inside Cesare offers friendship and agrees to entertain a wish Camilia requests. She kneels and asks that Andrea’s life be spared. “The Banquet” reveals a lavish banquet with a troupe of dancers entertaining. Newman supports with a small ensemble offering a danza esotica enriched with ethnic Berber auras. At Camilia’s request Cesare orders Andrea brought in. Andrea enters in chains and dressed in peasant garb, as Cesare reveals that he is not a noble, but instead a peasant masquerading as a noble. “Of Peasant Birth” offers the score’s most heart wrenching passage as Cesare brings in Andrea’s mother, who confirms his identity as her son. Newman sows maternal heartache with grieving strings affanato and a solo violin doloroso as Andrea is exposed at court as a fraud. At 1:44 impassioned, aching strings of maternal love support her unconditional love for her son as Cesare has her dragged away. At 2:10 Andrea publicly rebukes Cesare empowered by a humbled woodwind rendering of his theme, joined at 2:41 by the Love Theme as Camilia reaffirms her love for him. Cesare orders a death sentence, and we descend into grotesque dissonance as Mario convinces Cesare to allow him to instead gouge out Andrea’s eyes. He feigns doing so with a clever deception aided by Andrea’s acting, as Cesare order’s him is taken away

“Madonna Imprisoned” reveals Cesare’s departure supported by his theme rendered as a marcia opprimente empowered by horns malevole. At 0:28 Cesare’s dire march supports Camilia being led to the dungeon. At 0:39 strings tenero abounding with maternal love support Andrea being attended to by his mother. At 0:49 tension surges as the dog begins barking, alerting them that someone has arrived. It is Mario, who informs them of Camilia’s imprisonment. Andrea resolves to rescue Camilia with an audacious plan. He recruits former guards from the citadel and assigns them to strategic locations throughout the citadel, where they will lead towns people and strike with the element of surprise. “The Rescue” offers a textual cue where Newman sows suspense and tension. It reveals Andrea and his men entering the city atop his theme with stealth woodwinds and tremolo violins sowing unease. The musical narrative becomes ominous as the men are advised one by one to strike when the church bell rings. Andrea reaches Camilia, but the body of a guard he killed earlier is discovered by the garrison captain who orders the alarm bell to be sounded. This triggers the rebellion before Andrea and Camilia have escaped and reached safety. A duel with Don Esteban whom Andrea slays is unscored and they continue their escape, ultimately greeted by his men as the rebellion has overcome the garrison and restored the citadel’s freedom.

“Finale” reveals a tapestry with script “Cesare or Nothing! The Die is Cast!” buttressed by narration by Andrea heralding the end of Borgia tyranny as the tapestry is consumed by flames. Dire drum strikes of doom support the scene. At 0:16 organ solenne supports the marriage ceremony of Andrea and Camilia and as they depart the chapel the Love Theme blossoms for a refulgent exposition, ending with a bravado coda of Andrea’s Theme as “The End” displays.

I would like to thank the late Nick Redman, Rick Victor and Film Score Monthly for this wonderful restoration of Alfred Newman’s masterpiece Prince of Foxes. The original score was monaural, however, because Newman used two microphones, one in front of the orchestra, and one in the back, the technical team was able to isolate the separate optical tracks and reissued the score in stereo. While it does not achieve 21st century state of the art quality standards, it never the less provides a good listening experience that in no way diminishes Newman’s handiwork. The legendary producer Darryl F. Zanuck sought to bring a Renaissance period piece to the big screen with lavish production values and a stellar cast. A creative error in judgment to film in black and white caused the film to founder commercially, but in my judgment, some of this was mitigated by Alfred Newman’s superb score. He created two contrasting, and antagonistic themes to support the struggle between our hero Andrea, and the villain Cesare; Andrea’s being major modal, confident, rousing and heroic, opposed by Cesare’s, which is minor modal, malevolent and malignant. This juxtaposition empowered the film’s narrative and propelled the onscreen struggle of good versus evil. A secondary plot that involved the romance of Camilia and Andrea blossomed atop one of Newman’s finest love themes of his career, borne by his trademark sweet high register violins d’Amore. When rendered molto romantico in song form and sung by a tenor early in the film, its articulation becomes sublime. In scene after scene Newman’s music masterfully voiced the intersection of powerful emotions, adding depth to the actor performances, and bringing to life their hopes, fears, love, heroism and lust for power. I highly recommend that you purchase this album as it offers a classic from the Golden Age and a gem from Alfred Newman’s canon.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a thirteen-minute suite; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL5vViY1-88

Buy the Prince of Foxes soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Prelude (1:33)
  • Romance on the Gondola (0:39)
  • Ferrara (0:29)
  • Royal Court (1:26)
  • Madonna (4:41)
  • Onward March (0:53)
  • The Chapel (1:22)
  • The Fortress (1:13)
  • Death Plot (1:05)
  • The Painting (2:18)
  • Madonna’s Portrait (1:30)
  • Festival of Spring (1:57)
  • Attempted Assassination (1:06)
  • Into Battle (4:27)
  • Death of his Excellence (0:45)
  • The Truce (3:36)
  • The Duke’s Offer (1:59)
  • The Duke’s Entrance (0:48)
  • The Banquet (1:08)
  • Of Peasant Birth (3:13)
  • Madonna Imprisoned (1:35)
  • The Rescue (4:38)
  • Finale (1:11)
  • Song of Venice (2:34)

Running Time: 46 minutes 06 seconds

Film Score Monthly Vol.2 No.5 (1949/1999)

Music composed and conducted by Alfred Newman. Orchestrations by Edward B. Powell. Recorded and mixed by XXXX. Score produced by Alfred Newman. Album produced by Nick Redman, Rick Victor, and Lukas Kendall.

  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 )

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: