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THE GARDEN OF ALLAH – Max Steiner

January 16, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The Garden of Allah was the brainchild of David O. Selznick, who decided to embark on a third big screen retelling of Robert S. Hichens’s 1904 novel of the same name, following on from previous versions in 1916 and 1927. His own company, Selznick International, would finance the film and he would personally manage production with a budget that ballooned from $1.6 to 1.97 million. William P. Lipscomb and Lynn Riggs were hired to write the screenplay and Richard Boleslawski was tasked with directing. For this romantic drama, Selznick decided to cast the two most carnal actors of the day, Charles Boyer and Marlene Dietrich, as Boris Androvsky and Domini Enfilden. Ironic and mystifying in their choice is that he would be playing a celibate monk, and her, a devout girl raised in a convent! Joining them would be Basil Rathbone as Count Ferdinand Anteoni, C. Aubrey Smith as Father J. Roubier, Joseph Schidkraut as Batouch, John Carradine as “Sand Diviner”, Alan Marshall as Captain de Trevignac and Lucile Wilson as Mother Superior Josephine.

The movie is set French colonial Algeria in the early 20th century. Domini Enfilden, a wealthy Englishwoman returns to the convent where she was reared to seek the counsel of Mother Superior Josephine for her loneliness following the death of her father. She is counselled to seek spiritual renewal in the Saharan desert. She travels to the oasis of Bene-mora where she meets and falls in love with and marries Boris Androvsky, a mysterious man who hides his identity of a Trappist monk who violated his vows and abandoned his monastery. When the truth of his identity is revealed by Captain de Trevignac, Domini feels betrayed, but believes that no one who loves will be punished by God. She supports his decision to return to the monastery to atone for the sin of his broken vows, promising that they will be together forever. The film was a commercial failure, losing $370,000 – the cost of the budget overrun. Critical reception was mixed, although the film did receive two Academy Award nominations for Best Assistant Director and Best Film Score, winning a special award for W. Howard Greene’s Color Cinematography. Max Steiner was Selznick’s go to composer, and so he was hired for the project. Selznick was a demanding, imperious, and consummate micro-manager, and true to form issued one very explicit order saying; “He hopes that we won’t go overboard on Oriental music, as there is a danger of the picture being monotonous anyway – and more romantic and European music may help”.

Steiner dutifully carried out Selznick’s vision and imbued his soundscape with exquisite European romanticism joined with undercurrents of sensuality. He also understood he would have to speak to the stark beauty of the of the Sahara. He did so by creating a wondrous confluence by horns, organ, percussion and wordless voices to speak to the winds and ever shifting sands of the desert. Additionally, the film offers a conflict between spirituality and carnal desire. Steiner spoke to this by juxtaposing the Christian “Amen” against a Berber call of the desert. Lastly, Steiner did not fully adhere to Selznick’s command to eschew Orientalism, creating an amazing ethnic danza erotica for one scene for a woman performing a seductive Salome-like dance, which he describes in his notes as “kootch dance…orgasm music!!”. For his soundscape Steiner composed three primary themes. Domini’s Theme graces us with a gossamer-like valzer elegante. Steiner relates; “It ascends a full octave in its first phrase, then whirls in dance-like triplets to high G above middle C as if intoxicated by her beauty”.

Over time it evolves into a love theme for her and Boris, expressed in a multiplicity of forms, which spoke to the complex emotional dynamics of their relationship. The Sahara Theme offers the score’s most ethnic and dramatic theme borne exotically by strings orientale draped with Berber auras. It flows dramatically, ever shifting like the wind-swept dunes of the Sahara. The Dessert Theme speaks to Domini’s pilgrimage to find spiritual enlightenment and renewal, but it is also entwined with Boris’ destiny, offering a portentous fateful minor modal misterioso. Steiner also provided a number of songs for the film to speak to the requisite cultural and religious sensibilities, including “No One But God and I Know What is in My Heart,: a pre-existing Steiner song which serves as a secondary Love Theme. “Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert, and the Wedding March “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Felix Mendelssohn. Lastly, Steiner augmented his orchestra with cimbalom, balalaikas, zither, ethnic drums, celeste, and bells. Sadly, despite universal critical acclaim for his handiwork, his Oscar nominated score lost to Korngold’s “Anthony Adverse”, as it was typical in that era for scores attached to bad films to lose, despite their quality.

There is regretfully no commercial release of the score. As such I will use scene descriptors and film time indices for cue titles. 00:00 “Main Title” offers a magnificent score highlight where Steiner powerfully reels us into the film with his Sahara and Love themes. The Sahara Theme resounds as the Selznick International Picture logo displays against a Berber man kneeling for evening prayer against a cloudscape aglow with sunset auras. At 0:16 the flow of the opening credits against sunset lite desert vistas commences, carried by a breath-taking crescendo, which swells as we are swept ever upwards by strings appassionati. We crest at 0:27 with a declaration of the Sahara Theme by horns dramatico as the film title displays. At 0:37 we flow passionately into an exquisite rendering of the Love Theme borne by strings romantico, and woodwinds with harp adornment. At 1:25 we flow into the film proper with “The Convent” carried by a diminuendo gentile as the Convent of Saint Cecile displays. As we enter the convent organ solenne and religioso wordless women’s choir support scenes of sisters tutoring young girls. We see Domini lighting a candle and then praying on bended knees to a statue of the virgin Mary. She rises to kiss the ring of Mother Superior Josephine who is happy to see her.

A harp glissando at 03:21 ushers in “Your Old Room”, a score highlight with some of Steiner’s most beautiful writing. Mother shows Domini her old room supported by warm strings tenero brimming with maternal love. Domini discloses her loneliness and at 3:37 a wistful twinkling celeste joins as Mother recalls the happiness of Domini’s childhood here. A violin d’amore joins as Mother relates Domini’s desire to marry as she looks at a picture of the Marriage of Canaan on the wall. Thirsting strings surge as Domini is distraught, and pleads with Mother to counsel her on what she should do. At 4:50 the Sahara Theme, rendered as a misterioso supports Mother’s counsel that she abandons the cities she has found cold, and instead journey to the desert whose solitude may allow her to find herself. We conclude on warm, comforting strings of hope as Mother adds, that in the face of the infinite, your grief may vanish.

05:17 “The Monastery” offers script describing the Trappist el Lagarnine Monastery in Tunisia where men swear eternal vows of chastity, poverty and silence. Steiner supports with religioso serenity born by strings tranquilli, bells, and angelic harp arpeggios. This musical narrative supports a montage of scenes revealing the daily work and life of the monks. Captain de Trevignac is visiting, informing Father that his mother had wanted him to join the priesthood, but he refused, and now following her recent death, believes he should at least visit. At 7:19 resplendent violins support Father gifting de Trevignac a bottle of the liqueur they make at the monastery. At 7:47 dark, portentous horns sound, joined by grim strings as the camera shifts to Brother Gregory who is directed to retrieve Father Antoine whose secret recipe is used to make the liqueur. A dire musical narrative follows when he returns with Antoine’s robes, saying that he has broken his vows and fled the monastery. At 9:03 strings of forgiveness support Father’s exhortation to not condemn their brother, but instead pity him. An organ solenne chord sounds as Father points to a crucifix on the wall and declares that only through Christ will Antoine find peace.

Steiner creates a churning string motif to simulate a train locomotive as we see Antoine (Boris) in civilian garb traveling. In an unscored scene Domini arrives in Algeria and boards a train, which will take her south into the Sahara. She takes a seat in a car where across from her sits Boris, who is clearly agitated. They arrive at Beni-mora where she is assisted by the porter Batouch, and Boris departs without a word. 12:36 “Beni-Mora” reveals the Domini being escorted through the bustling streets of the town, which Steiner imbues with nativist drums, woodwinds orientale, sparkling glockenspiel and triangle, and exotic Berber auras, with quotes of the Sahara Theme entwined. At 13:06 trumpets dramatic resound as horseman charge through a cross street. At 13:19 strings religioso support Father Roubier greeting Domini and usher in the warmth and comfort of the Faith Theme. She departs and arrives at the Hotel des Dune carried by a meandering flute orientale with harp adornment. As Domini explores the hotel at 14:06, a woman sings “No One But God and I Know What is in My Heart”. A hotel servant informs her that the haunting song is sung by slaves who have been freed.

15:05 “Nightlife” reveals Batouch escorting Domini to the town’s festive nightclub. As many women dance, Steiner supports with nativist drums, flute arabo, tambourine, finger cymbals, and a danza festivo draped in Berber auras. Across the room she sees a sad Boris alone in his thoughts. At 17:34 a gong strike initiates new drum rhythms, which usher in the star, the beautiful Irena who performs a seductive danza erotica, with an uncomfortable Boris in her sights. The music surges with overt seductive power as Batouch informs Domini that she is waiting for the man to reward her attention for him with money. Domini says he does not understand and dispatches Batouch to advise him, which he does. At 21:02 the rewarded Irena unleashes a swirling and more energetic danza erotica, as she twirls much to the crowd’s delight. At 21:29 a diminuendo supports a waiter presenting her with two knives. She begins a slow seductive rendering of the dance until she sees Batouch’s brother Hadj, which incites her to fury as she lunges to stab him to death. Boris comes to his defense, causing chaos to erupt as he escorts Domini to safety.

22:24 “Boris and Domini” reveals Boris with his arm around Domini. He releases her, she thanks him for helping her, and departs. Yet he follows her and Steiner offers his Love Theme to support the moment. She turns back, their eyes lock, and we can see a mutual attraction. She tells him she does not need his escort, but he insists, and she accepts as they continue their walk. Steiner supports with a soft, strolling romance for strings with a flute delicato. At 23:49 the music darkens as a sand diviner joins them and states that the life of madame is in descent. A forlorn oboe and a portentous drum rhythm support his ill-tidings. When he turns to Boris, he refuses to hear what he has to say and leaves, taking Domini with him. As they reach her hotel, she introduces herself, as does he. Steiner supports with the Love Theme borne gently by strings romantico. We see desire in both their eyes and as she pauses on the stairs she says, perhaps they will meet again, and he answers, I hope so. She informs him that she is riding to the Oasis of Azur tomorrow, says goodnight, and an ascent motif by celeste carries her up the stairs. Steiner perfectly attenuated his Love Theme, which was gently present, but deferential to the dialogue.

25:21 “Oasis of Azur” reveals Domini at the oasis with Steiner supporting with strings gentile. Unsettled woodwinds join as we see Boris has also arrived, he joins her and we see she is happy to see him. Strings d’amore offer the Love Theme, yet at 26:07 a diminuendo of uncertainty supports his revelation that he’s been so long out of the world, that he does not know the right things to do. She comforts him and he is thankful. At 26:16 Steiner unleashes a horn propelled maelstrom as Count Ferdinand Anteoni and a brigade of armed guards ride into the oasis. A meandering oboe arabo supports Batouch’s introductions, with strings gentile creating a soothing ambiance as the count accepts her invitation for coffee. At 27:24 woodwinds offer a playful musical narrative as the count invites several women over, indulging their curiosity as they have never seen a European woman before. They are giddy, flock around her, and marvel at her clothes and blonde hair.
Yet the music darkens at 28:05 as the women expose a crucifix hanging around Boris’ neck, which causes him to tear it off in anger. Domini and the count are unsettled by this display and when Boris asks the women if they want it, the music sours as he tosses it into the oasis. The moment is awkward and Boris departs to see to the horses carried by aching strings tristi. As the count asks about him, she deflects, supported by her aggrieved theme.

28:56 “The Count’s Counsel” reveals him declaring that for a man who refuses to acknowledge his God, it is unwise to send wood to the desert. Adding that the Arabs have a saying, the desert is the garden of Allah. Steiner supports the scene with the Desert Theme, a misterioso borne by ethereal wordless women’s choir. 29:31 “Ferdinand’s Offer” reveals Domini receiving a letter from Ferdinand for a dinner date this evening. Steiner supports with a rhapsody borne by strings felice. At 29:46 we shift to the bazaar in the evening where Ferdinand and Domini are walking the streets supported by a Berber danza esotica playing in the background. They meet the sand diviner and Domini agrees to hear him tell her fortune. At 30:47 a misterioso unfolds borne by oboe arabo flowing over drum rhythms as he begins the divination, etching in the sand. He sees her on a pilgrimage and the musical narrative is joined by eerie undercurrents by harp and wordless women’s choir. Yet a 32:20 the music brightens with joy as he foretells good fortune saying that all the trees of the desert shall bear fruit for her. But at 32:29 a dire chord sounds as he offers a warning, only to be dismissed by Domini who pays him and departs, saying she does not want to hear it. We end with aggrieved strings full of woe supporting the sand diviner who holds his head in great distress.

33:04 “Desert Ride” offers a romantic score highlight. We see Domini and Boris riding across the desert dunes propelled by a spirited, galloping rendering of the Sahara Theme. As the reach the oasis and dismount, a diminuendo by harp misterioso ushers in a romance interlude by strings d’amore with harp adornment. At long last Boris opens up to a happy and receptive Domini. At 35:16 the music darkens when he says “I Thank God…”, and uncomfortably hesitates, as the music shifts to a grieving religiosity. Yet violins speranzosi brighten the musical narrative as Domini’s warm smile breaks the tension and reassures Boris. The Sahara Galloping Motif reprises as we see them riding over the dunes aglow with orange and crimson sunset auras. 35:58 “Boris In Pain” offers a poignant score highlight. It reveals Boris lying in bed clearly at war with himself. He gets up, opens the shudders to view a panorama of the town square set against pink tinted clouds wept skies of dawn. Steiner sows a contemplative musical narrative with harp, celeste, woodwinds delicato and ethereal strings. As he descends into the town square a Pathetique unfolds borne by strings doloroso. An aching crescendo di tormento swells as tears come to his eyes when he sees first a church bell, then a statue of the Virgin Mary, and finally a cross set atop a church. It crests, and then dissipates with a contour of pain as he reaches for his crucifix, only to remember throwing it into the waters of the oasis. At 37:31 the music warms as Father Roubier’s dog joins, whom he holds as it tenderly licks his face. When Father Roubier joins and says his dog has taken a liking to him, horns grave sound as Boris reacts defensively, apologizes and walks away. Father asks why he runs away, adding that the church is always open to him. Horns irato sound as Boris defensively says he has no use for the church and storms off. We close on the strings religioso of the Faith Theme as Father Roubier looks out, clearly bewildered.

Father meets with Domini and presses her to explain what is wrong with her fellow traveler. When he says he will offer him his prayers, adding that he does not believe he is evil. Upon hearing this Domini rises up at 39:01 “He Is Not Evil” empowered by surging strings romantico and informs Father Roubier that her instincts tell her, Boris is not evil. She tells him that she believes he has lost his faith and that she will help him regain it. Yet when Father firmly forbids her, citing his responsibility for her safety, the string borne narrative descends into sadness as Domini departs. Yet at the door, strings romantico reassert themselves as she turns and asks for his forgiveness if she disobeys his orders as she believes fate has brought her and Boris together. A dire statement of the Sahara Theme resounds and ends darkly with finality as he warns her of the dangers of this land of fire, and that he believes she is made of fire as she closes the door.

40:18 “Boris Declares His Love” offers an exquisite romantic score highlight. It reveals Batouch visiting Domini and advising that Boris intends to depart Beni-Mora tonight. An oboe arabo weaves a misterioso to carry his arrival. But the music loses vitality and descends into sadness as we see her not take the news well. She thanks him and he departs. An ascending harp arpeggio joined by tremolo violins support Boris’ arrival, and usher in the yearning Love Theme as she comes to him. Yet it becomes plaintive when he says that he came to say goodbye. When she asks why, he says that although he feels at ease with her, he has to go. At 41:20 she says that she will then go on the journey into the desert alone, supported by the Sahara Theme borne by violins tristi. The Love Theme entwines as he speaks of how she said that if he joined her, they could find peace and happiness together. And yet he says that he cannot go, and must instead say goodbye. As she turns away and he heads to the door, the Love Theme swells with heartache. He turns back, joins her at the window, and finally declares that he loves her, taking her into a kissing embrace empowered by a rapturous crescendo d’amore. We flow seamlessly atop harp glissandi and the strings d’amore of the Love Theme at 42:33 into “The Letter” as we see Father Roubier writing Mother Josephine and informing her that he will accommodate Domini’s request and marry her and Boris.

The next day at 43:00 “Marriage Ceremony” reveals Father Roubier buffeted by strong winds as he runs to the church. Steiner supports using strings to create a swirling wind effect. At 43:10 angelic harp, violins d’amore and woodwinds religioso voice the Faith Theme joined by “Ave Maria” by organ solenne, as Father Roubier performs the marriage ceremony while Ferdinand looks on grimly. At 44:38 we launch into a celebratory rendering of the “The Wedding March” as Boris and Domini depart the church. We flow into the Love Theme as Ferdinand gifts Domini a bouquet of roses and wishes the couple much happiness as they get into the covered wedding carriage. 45:06 “Departure” opens with a fierce Sahara Theme erupting as Ferdinand’s mounted guards escort the wedding carriage out of the city. Dire, portentous horns resound as script reveals that the prophecy of the sand diviner began to come true. As the caravan proceeds into the desert buffeted by a sand storm the Love Theme returns with interplay by a dramatic rendering of the Sahara Theme to carry their progress. As the winds subside, so too does the Sahara Theme rendered with tranquility by oboe arabo and harp adornment as we traverse beautiful desert vistas aglow with burning sunset auras. At 46:46 Domini prepares for her wedding night in her tent as the oboe arabo weaves a nocturnal Sahara Theme joined by men’s chorus singing “No One But God and I Know What is in My Heart” by Max Steiner. As Boris holds her in his arms, Domini says that he joins God and herself to know what is in her heart. He tells her that to only think of him tonight and that they both need to forget all that is in the past, kissing her passionately as the screen fades to black.

48:06 “The Pilgrimage” provides one of the score’s most beautiful passages. It reveals our lover’s caravan traversing beautiful desert vistas aglow with fiery sunset auras. Steiner offers exquisite idyllic romanticism with interplay by wordless choir of the song “No One But God and I Know What is in My Heart”, and the string borne Love Theme. 51:20 “Domini’s Vigil” reveals Domini concerned that Boris has not returned from his ride. She asks for a torch after nightfall and stands atop the tower of Googa ruin waving it against a brilliant star-filled firmament so Boris may find the path to return to her. Steiner supports with the Love Theme borne by yearning strings with harp adornment. At 51:54 a grim chord sounds as we see Captain de Trevignac and his men spotting the torch. A surging torrent of desperation carries he and his men’s run to the torch. He is shocked to find Domini, and says they have been lost for three days. A beleaguered French military motif supports their gratitude for her hospitable offer of food and water.

53:03 “Boris Returns” reveals Domini’s joy at Boris’ return. Joyous strings felice voicing the Love Theme support her departure to join her husband. Later in her tent she and Batouch prepare a dinner reception for the captain supported by strings felice voicing joie de vie. When the captain greets Boris, he asks if they had met before, to which Boris guardedly answers, no. Outside the French troops sing a festive French song. Inside the tent Batouch brings Domini a bottle of the renown el Lagarnine Monastery liqueur, which he sets on the table between Boris and the captain. 55:18 “The Captain Departs” offers a poignant score highlight. It reveals an enraged Captain departing and ordering his men to prepare for a dawn departure empowered by dire strings irato. Domini is stupefied and joins Boris in the tent, asking him what just happened supported by a sad rendering of the Love Theme. As the conversation shifts to and fro between them, so too does the articulation of their Love Theme; sad and despondent for him, loving and reassuring for her. A crescendo d’amore ascends as she pleads with him to believe in her undying love for him, and to share his dark secret for the sake of their happiness. The crescendo dissipates as he remains silent, causing her to turn away. We close darkly as the camera pans in on the bottle of liqueur. 57:12 “Domini Pleads” opens with an impassioned string ascent as Domini runs to the captain and pleads with him to reveal what happened last night. A foreboding low register sustain supports as he cannot bring himself to say it, makes the sign of the cross, and departs carried by a forlorn elegiac trumpet militare.

58:11 “Revelation” offers the score’s emotional apogee with Steiner’s mastery of his craft on full display. It opens grandly atop a galloping rendering of the Sahara Theme as Ferdinand and his guards ride atop the sand dunes. They spot the tower of Mooga and a misterioso unfolds as the caravan is nowhere to be seen. They ride towards it propelled by the Sahara Theme and discover the encampment hidden behind the dunes. Domini greets him and a romance for strings voices his longings for her and carry them into the tent. A harp carried misterioso unfolds as she relates that everything the sand diviner foretold, has come true. Yet eerie ethereal wordless women’s voices join as Ferdinand says he detects a small shadow across her face. During dinner Ferdinand asks for a taste of the el Lagarnine Monastery liqueur, which Domini accommodates over Boris’ objections. The misterioso develops unsettling undercurrents as Ferdinand relates that the monastery’s supply is exhausted because they can no long make it as the monk with its formula fled. A distressed oboe triste joined by increased dissonance supports Domini saying that a Trappist monk renouncing his vows to the church is truly horrible. Boris is becoming defensive and agitated and at 1:01:25 a crescendo tormentato commences and builds inexorably through the increasingly tense verbal exchanges. Ferdinand asserts that such a man can never find happiness or contentment as he has sworn to forego the delights of the world. Boris contests his and Domini’s judgements saying such a man can indeed find happiness and love. Ferdinand counters such a man can only find anguish and despair for abandoning his vows. Boris asks why should such a man be in despair? Ferdinand again counters saying because he has sworn to forego the delights of the world. At 1:02:06 we climax with great pathos as Boris declares that he, like other men has a right to love, thus exposing himself as Father Antoine. Strings affanato voice Boris’ price of his catharsis as he eyes meet Domini’s steely, judgmental and disapproving stare. Boris sheds a single tear, and then departs carried by a grim bass sustain.

1:02:49 “Aftermath” reveals Ferdinand admitting that captain de Trevignac advised him of Boris’ true identity and that he felt compelled to expose his duplicity for her sake. She admits that she prefers to know the truth. Steiner supports the conversation with the Love Theme borne by violin d’amore, which informs us that despite the revelation, that Domini still loves Boris. A grieving string descent of anguish supports Ferdinand’s departure, followed by hers. The string descent is sustained as we see Boris standing atop a dune with a backdrop of blue cloud swept skies. He falls to his knees and we see Domini walking to join him carried by the painful descent motif by strings affanato. She asks him why he did it? Were his vows too hard to keep? At 1:04:24 the music brightens as Boris relates that for years he kept them gladly, he was at peace and happy at the monastery. As he relates his lonely, but happy life working at the monastery the string borne music becomes wistful. At 1:05:40 Domini asks, what then happened to take your happiness away? A new, more intense string borne narrative unfolds on as Boris relates that he was released from his vow of silence, and put in charge of a small hotel where visitors to the monastery are received. He relates that he came across a couple in love and a crescendo appassionato surges and crests powerfully at 1:07:11 as he describes his feelings, and the realization of what he had denied himself. He says he fled and was a tortured soul, until the day he met her. He is sad, and questions why he did this to her. At 1:07:42 a harp and string borne angelic rendering of the “Ave Maria” song melody supports her revelation that she felt she was reborn with his love at the chapel that day. They both are unsure how to proceed, but Domini says she believes that no one is bad who loves, and that God will not punish us if we trust Him to show us the way.

Steiner imbues religiosity at 1:08:35 “Boris’ Decision” with strings brillante and organ solenne, which support Boris’ exit from the Beni-Mora church. As he ascends the hotel steps to join Domini on the terrace, a Berber woman sings with heartache “No One But God and I Know What is in My Heart”. Boris advises Domini that he must make reparations for what he has done. He asks her if she knows what he must do, and she asks how far is it to the monastery. The Desert Theme borne by strings arabo, ends with sad finality when he answers a few hours – a life time. 1:10:04 “Departure” reveals Domini and Boris, escorted by Batouch, boarding the train supported by the wandering oboe arabo of the Desert Theme. A tender Faith Theme, abounding with sentimentality joins as Father Roubier arrives, and wishes them well as they part ways. As they board the train and depart, anguish borne by strings tragico swell, and then merge with the churning locomotive motif.

1:11:47 “This Is Goodbye” reveals Domini and Boris waiting in the hotel parlor for a carriage to the monastery with our lovers realizing that they have come to the parting of their ways. Steiner supports with a wistful, aching Love Theme unable to forestall the end of their marriage. She asks that he not touch her, as she is trying to stay strong. He begins to waver, asking how he can bear to give her up, but she declares that they are believers and will be together again forever in the everlasting after life. He counters that he will always think of her beauty, tenderness and savor their love. They board the carriage, and sit together in silence as a trotting travel motive carries them to the monastery. A diminuendo supports the coachman asking if they would like to see the casinos when the return from the monastery. They decline and the trotting travel motive resumes, culminating with a crescendo dramatico at 1:14:06 as they stop at the entrance of the monastery. A harp arpeggio supports his exit from the carriage. As he says Domini, she pulls him into her embrace supported by strings full of heartache, and says “You’ll always be with me”. As he begins his walk down the long path to the monastery Steiner masterfully joins great pathos and choral empowered religious solemnity as a distraught Domini weeps and commands the coachman to drive away.

It is most unfortunate that this early career Steiner masterpiece has no commercial release. This was a bad film on so many levels with miscasting, poor dialogue and a lame script. Never the less Steiner took what was given him and, in every way, enhanced and elevated the film’s narrative. His exotic Desert and Sahara Themes achieved sublime confluences with the film’s beautiful cinematography, which often offered desert vistas of shifting sand dunes set against cloud swept skies alight in sunset of sun rise auras. Folks, this was a story of two people who had lost their faith, yet in the end, regained it through the power of love. Domini and Boris served as transformative catalysts for each other’s spiritual rebirth and Steiner displays mastery of his craft in speaking to this musically. His string borne Love Theme for Domini and Boris was exquisite, and elegant, but how he applied it was often brilliant. In the dramatic scene “The Captain Departs” as Domini and Boris’ tense conversation shifts to and fro between them, so too does the articulation of their Love Theme; rendered sad and despondent for him, loving and reassuring for her. In the scene “Boris Declares His Love” the Love Theme, which has been overt for Domini and latent for Boris at last finds voice for him as it blossoms as he confesses him love with a passionate kissing embrace. The scene “Revelation” offers a testament of Steiner’s peerless gift. Ferdinand is relentlessly provoking Boris to reveal his sinful deception. Steiner supports with a crescendo tormentato, which commences and builds inexorably through the tense, escalating verbal exchanges with ever increasing dissonance until we climax with great pathos as Boris declares that he, like other men has a right to love, thus exposing himself as Father Antoine. In summary, I believe this to be one of Steiner’s finest scores, and early career gem, and masterpiece of the Golden Age. Until such time that the score is re-recorded, I highly recommend you take in the film to bear witness to his genius.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a suite offering archival monaural sound; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UQgBxoexcc

Track Listing:

  • NOT AVAILABLE

Music composed and conducted by Max Steiner. Orchestrations by R. H. Bassett, Hugo Friedhofer, Bernhard Kaun, George Parrish and Edward B. Powell. Recorded and mixed by XXXX. Score produced by Max Steiner.

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