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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…

CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE – Alfred Newman

November 28, 2016 Leave a comment

captainfromcastile100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck came across the novel Captain From Castile (1945) by Samuel Shellabarger and was captivated by its love story and grand adventure. He paid an astounding $100,000 for the film rights and hired trusted director Henry King to manage the project. Lamar Trotti wrote the screenplay, which had to go through several incarnations to appease the Hayes Commission and the Catholic Church who objected to the novel’s critical portrayal of the Spanish Inquisition. King brought in a fine cast, which included; Tyrone Power as Pedro de Vargas, Jean Peters as Catana Pérez, Cesar Romero as Hernán Cortéz, Lee J. Cobb as Juan García, John Sutton as Diego de Silva, Antonio Moreno as Don Francisco de Vargas, and Thomas Gomez as Father Bartolomé de Olmedo. The story is set in Spain circa 1518 CE and offers a classic romance and adventure. Our hero Pedro de Vargas and his family are opposed to the Spanish Inquisition, which is directed by the diabolical Diego de Silva. Read more…

SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC – Ralph Vaughan-Williams

November 7, 2016 Leave a comment

scottoftheantarctic100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Michael Balcon of Ealing Studios resolved to tell the story of the famous British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, and his ill-fated journey to discover the South Pole. Charles Frend was hired to direct and he brought in a splendid cast which included Sir John Mills as the titular character, James Robertson Justice as Petty Officer Taff Evans, Derek Bond as Captain Oates, Kenneth More as Lieutenant Teddy Evans, John Gregson as Petty Officer Crean, James McKechnie as Surgeon Lieutenant Atkinson, Barry Letts as Apsley Cherry-Garrard, and Christopher Lee as Bernard Day. The screenplay drew by Major Walter Meade and Ivor Montagu extensively from Scott’s personal diaries, while additional dialogue was adapted from novelist Mary Hayley Bell (John Mills’s wife). The expedition takes place in 1911–1912. Scott, who in 1904 initially explored Antarctica, resolved to organize an expedition to discover the South Pole. Initially he is unable to secure adequate funds for the expedition, as the British business class is skeptical. He ultimately manages to secure government funds after an appeal to British pride. Regretfully Scott chose to forgo the traditional method of relying exclusively on dogs, instead choosing to augment his dogs with ponies and motorized sleds. This decision would ultimately contribute to his demise. Read more…

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR – Bernard Herrmann

October 31, 2016 1 comment

ghostandmrsmuir100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck was taken in by R. A. Dick’s 1945 romance novel A Ghost and Mrs. Muir, bought the screen rights, and commissioned Philip Dunne to adapt it for the big screen. Fred Kohlmar was assigned to produce the film and Joseph Mankiewitcz was tasked with directing. An exceptional cast was assembled, which included Gene Tierney as Lucy Muir, Rex Harrison as Captain Daniel Gregg, George Sanders as Miles Fairley, Edna Best as Martha Higgins and Venessa Brown as Anna Muir. The film offers a classic romance with powerful themes, which explore the yearning, pain and devastation of unrequited love, the sad sanctuary of solitude, and the romantic promise of spiritual liberation and transcendence through death. Mankiewicz’s biographer Bernard Dick relates that “Essentially Lucy was in love with Death; it was a love that could only be satisfied in myth, or in a dreamlike relationship with a visitor from Death’s kingdom. But mythic roles are difficult to sustain; dreams are evanescent; and art without an artist is impossible. To regain what she had with the captain, she must die.” Read more…

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES – Hugo Friedhofer

October 24, 2016 Leave a comment

bestyearsofourlives100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Famous producer Samuel Goldwyn became inspired to make a film that spoke to challenges facing our returning servicemen after reading an article in Time magazine, which described the difficulty experienced by Marines returning to civilian life. He hired war correspondent MacKinlay Kanto to write the story; a novella titled “Glory for Me”, and then brought in director William Wyler and Robert Sherwood, his go to playwright, to adapt it for the big screen. They assembled a first class ensemble of actors, which included Fredric March (Al Stephenson), Myrna Loy (Milly Stephenson), Dana Andrews (Fred Derry), Virginia Mayo (Marie Derry), Cathy O’Donnell (Wilma Cameron), and for authenticity, newcomer Harold Russell (Homer Parrish), a real life serviceman who had lost both his hands in the war. The story follows the reintegration struggles of Homer and two fellow soldiers into civilian life. Each of them comes from a different walk of life and each has a different family situation. The film proved to be a huge commercial and critical success, earning eight Academy Award nominations and winning seven among them, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best supporting actor and best Film Score. Two additional Oscars were awarded by the Academy; a honorary Oscar to serviceman Harold Russell for “bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance”, and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to director William Wyler, whose body of work reflected a consistently high quality of motion picture production. Read more…

IVAN THE TERRIBLE – Sergei Prokofiev

October 3, 2016 Leave a comment

ivantheterrible100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Josef Stalin had always admired Tsar Ivan IV, AKA Ivan Grozny (Ivan the Terrible), for his brilliance, decisiveness, and success as a powerful and resolute leader of the Russian people. Stalin saw himself as the incarnation of Ivan and when he became aware that filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein was also interested in the man, he ordered him to make a film with himself as author and director. Eisenstein understood his task and sought to create a narrative that extolled Ivan as a national icon and hero. The story would offer a trilogy of films, which covered the three stages of his life; part 1 would portray his childhood, coronation and early reign. Part 2 would focus on the Boyar plot, and Part 3 would cover his final days. The right cast was needed to realize his vision, so he brought in Nikolay Cherkasov to play the titular role. Joining him would be Serafima Birman as Efrosinia Staritska, Pavel Kadochnikov as Vladimir Staritsky, Mikhail Zharov as Malyuta Skuratov, Amvrosi Buchma as Alexei Basamanov, Mikhail Kuznetsov as Fyodor Basamanov and Lyudmilia Tselikovskaya as Tsarina Anastasia. Read more…