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HIGH NOON – Dimitri Tiomkin

March 27, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producers Stanley Kramer and Carl Foreman had long sought to film a Western and saw their opportunity when they came across an inspiring short story “The Tin Star” by John Cunningham. Foreman adapted it for the big screen and hired European director Fred Zinnemann to direct. For the film veteran actor Gary Cooper was given the lead role of Will Kane. He was joined by Grace Kelly (Amy Fowler), Ian MacDonald (Frank Miller) and Lloyd Bridges (Harvey Pell). The story is set in 1880 in the New Mexico Territory. It is a classic morality play regarding personal honor, civic duty, and a man’s struggle to overcome his fears. The story reveals Will Kane, the Marshall of Hadleyville, who has retired after many years of service to marry his sweetheart Amy Fowler. (The casting of Cooper who was 50 years old and 30 years Kelly’s senior raised eyebrows). As he is about to depart to start a new life in another town, word comes that Frank Miller, an outlaw he brought to justice has been acquitted on a legal technicality. Miller has announced to all that he is spoiling for revenge and will arrive on the noon train. Will’s sense of honor leads to him reclaiming his badge to safeguard the town, yet his nobility is unrequited by townsfolk who all refuse to stand with him against Frank, his brother Ben and fellow outlaws Jack Colby and Jim Pierce. Even his deputy rejects him for not recommending him as his replacement. Well, the epic confrontation takes place with Will standing alone against four men. He guns down Ben and Jack, but is wounded in the process. Amy, a pacifist Quaker comes to her man’s aid and shoots Jim in the back. An outraged Frank takes her hostage to force Will’s submission. Yet Amy suddenly strikes Miller, thus distracting him and giving Will a clear shot. Will finishes his task by shooting Frank. As the relieved townspeople come out from the shadows, Will stares at them with palpable contempt. He throws his marshal’s star in the dirt with disdain and leaves the town with Amy. The film was both a critical and commercial success, including twin Oscars for Best Score and Best Song for Tiomkin. Read more…

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL – Bernard Herrmann

March 20, 2017 2 comments

thedaytheearthstoodstill100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Julian Blaustein had long sought to make a film that would serve as a metaphor for the dark pall of fear and suspicion, which had fallen over humanity following the onset of the Atomic Age. Unfortunately after reviewing over 200 scripts he was unable to find one that suited him. He managed to obtain backing from Fox Studio Executive Darryl F. Zanuck to hire screenwriter Edmund North to adapt the short story Farewell to the Master (1940) by Harry Bates. From the story Blaustein saw opportunity arise for thoughtful moral commentary against armed conflict. He also hoped that the story’s nuanced subliminal parallels between the alien visitor Klaatu and Jesus Christ would help drive home the message. Veteran director Robert Wise was brought in to manage the project, and a fine cast was selected, including; Michael Rennie as Klaatu, Patricia Neal as Helen Benson, Billy Gray as Bobby Benson, Hugh Marlowe as Tom Stephens and Sam Jaffe as Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Read more…

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE – Alex North

March 13, 2017 1 comment

astreetcarnameddesire100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Elia Kazan had achieved widespread critical acclaim while directing Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire” on Broadway. At the bidding of Williams, he was exhorted to duplicate this success on the big screen. Warner Brothers bought into the idea and purchased the film rights with the proviso that Williams himself write the screenplay. Since Kazan was already quite familiar and comfortable with the Broadway cast, most of them were brought in to reprise their roles, including Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski and Karl Malden as Harold “Mitch” Mitchell. Studio executives however vetoed the talented Jessica Tandy from the Broadway cast for the lead actress role of Blanche DuBois, preferring to add the star power of Vivian Leigh. Read more…

A PLACE IN THE SUN – Franz Waxman

March 6, 2017 Leave a comment

aplaceinthesun100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The film was adapted from a 1925 novel “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser. Director George Stevens hired Michael Wilson and Harry Brown for the screenplay, and assembled a stellar cast to at last bring this tragic story to life. George Stevens (Montgomery Clift), Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) and Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) were hired as the principles and paired with a great cast of supporting players. The film centers on George Eastman, a poor man raised by an evangelical mother, who is tragically undone by his own actions. He leaves Chicago dirt poor, determined to make a name for himself working in the company of his wealthy Uncle in California. While there he begins dating Alice, a girl he met in the plant. All seems fine until he becomes completely enamored with Angela, a drop dead gorgeous socialite whom he meets at a party. He abandons Alice without a thought and begins dating Angela. The two fall in love, yet things begin to unravel when Alice discloses to George that she is pregnant. When she threatens a public disclosure if he does not marry her, George feels cornered and so devises a plot to murder her. When the time comes to strike through a staged boat accident, his conscience prevails and he relents only to see Alice drown anyway by accident. He survives, but inexplicably fails to report her death to the authorities. As such, although innocent, circumstantial evidence and his own guilty behavior make authorities suspicious. His arrest comes just as Angela’s father grants him permission to marry his daughter. He is then tried and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Read more…

SUNSET BOULEVARD – Franz Waxman

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

sunsetboulevard100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Billy Wilder and producer Charles Brackett created a brilliant film noir screenplay, which told the story of a once proud but now aged Hollywood actress who wished to end her seclusion and regain past glory. For the principle actors, Gloria Swanson was given the part of Norma Desmond. A young William Holden was selected for Joe Gillis and Erich von Stronheim was cast as Norma’s former husband and now butler Max von Mayerling. The story tells the tale of Joe Gillis, a young screenwriter down on his luck that drives into Desmond’s estate while fleeing a car repossesor. Norma, who has written a script to propel her comeback, hires Joe to create a screenplay. She lavishes her wealth and affection on him, which he freely and shamelessly accepts. Ultimately she falls in love with Joe and when he rejects her she shoots him. The story ends as a now elegantly dressed yet mad Norma descends her grand staircase to greet the police. Halfway down she pauses and announces proudly that she is happy to be making films again, ending with “All right, Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.” The movie was both a commercial and critical success earning eleven Academy Award nominations, winning three for Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Score. Read more…

THE RED PONY – Aaron Copland

February 20, 2017 Leave a comment

redpony100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In the 1940s Republic Pictures was struggling to find its place in the sun, and so made a concerted effort to gain equal status with the major studios of the day. To that end they began to take on serious dramas with renowned directors. Producer-Director Lewis Milestone was hired to bring George Steinbeck’s short story series The Red Pony to the big screen. Steinbeck himself was hired to write the screenplay as the multiple story lines had to be blended into a cogent narrative. Milestone brought in a splendid cast which included Myrna Loy as Alice Tiflin, Robert Mitchum as Billy Buck, Louis Calhern as Grandfather, Sheppherd Strudwick as Fred Tiflin, Peter Miles as Tom Tiflin, and Margaret Hamilton as Teacher. The story is classic Americana, set in the 1930s, and takes place in the Salinas Valley ranching communities of central California. A young boy Tom is gifted a red pony colt by his father Fred. The two are not close and Fred hopes that the gift will strengthen the father-son bond. But instead of seeking help from his father, Tom instead asks stableman Billy to help assist him in caring for the pony and in its training. Read more…

THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE – Max Steiner

December 5, 2016 Leave a comment

treasureofthesierramadre100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Writer-Director John Huston saw an opportunity with the novel Treasure of Sierra Madre (1935) by B. Traven to bring a timeless tale to the big screen. He convinced Warner Brothers studio executives of his vision and purchased the film rights for $6,500 from the reclusive author. He himself wrote the screenplay and he secured a first class cast for the project, which included; Humphrey Bogart as Fred Dobbs, Walter Huston as Howard, Tim Holt as Bob Curtin, Bruce Bennett as James Cody, Barton MacLane as Pat McCormick, Alfonso Bedoya as Gold Hat, and Arturo Soto Rangel as El Presidente. The theme of the story is as old as time itself – a study in human greed explored through the lives of three gold prospectors. Read more…