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BEN-HUR – Miklós Rózsa

September 18, 2017 3 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As a new decade dawned, MGM studio executives began searching for a grand tale to bring to the screen. They decided in 1952 to cast their lot with a remake of their epic 1925 silent film, Ben-Hur. The film’s source material would again reference Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It would take six years before producer Sam Zimbalist could bring the project to fruition. It required twelve versions of the script, from four different writers, to finally satisfy the demands of director William Wyler. Casting was also challenging as over 5,000 people needed to be hired for minor roles and extras. The studio spared no expense, ultimately providing Wyler with an astounding $15 million budget. Charlton Heston secured the titular role of Judah Ben-Hur and was supported by a fine cast, which included Stephen Boyd as Messala, Jack Hawkins as Quintus Arius, Haya Harareet as Esther, Martha Scott as Miriam, Sam Jaffe as Simonides, Hugh Griffith as Sheik Ilderim, Cathy O’Donnell as Tirzah, Frank Thring as Pontius Pilate, and Finlay Currie as Balthazar narrator. Read more…

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EL CID – Miklós Rózsa

September 11, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Samuel Bronston had just finished his epic film King of Kings (1961) and decided that the time was finally right to realize his long desired ambition to bring the story of El Cid to the screen. Fredric Frank, a longtime collaborator with Cecil B. DeMille, had written a brilliant story and Bronson tasked him, Philip Yordan and Ben Barzman with writing the screenplay. Anthony Mann was given the director reigns and a stellar cast was hired. Charlton Heston was cast for the titular role and joined by Sophia Loren as Doña Chimene, Herbert Lom as Ibn Yussuf, Raf Vallone as Count García Ordóñez, Geneviève Page as Doña Urraca, John Fraser as King Alfonso VI, Michael Hordem as Don Diego, and Frank Thring as Emir Al-Kadir. Controversy among the two principle actors arose when Heston found out that Loren was being paid one million dollars more than him. He became furious and his disdain leaked out into his performance. You will notice that he consistently refuses to look at Loren, even during romantic moments, which detracted from his performance and the film’s narrative. Read more…

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S – Henry Mancini

September 4, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Hollywood producers Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd saw opportunity beckoning with Truman Capote’s controversial 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and convinced Paramount Studios to purchase the film rights. They hired George Axelrod to write a screenplay that “softened” Capote’s edgy narrative, and Blake Edwards was given the director reigns. Edwards assembled a fine cast, which included Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, George Peppard as Paul Varjak, Patricia Neal as Emily Eustace, Buddy Ebsen as Doc Golightly, Martin Balsam as O. J. Berman, and Mickey Rooney as Holly’s landlord Mr. Yunioshi. For the 1950’s, this truly sordid story broke all the sensibilities of the day – Holly was a foul-mouthed, bisexual, social-climbing and gold-digging prostitute, who has had an abortion and smokes marijuana! The fact that the story’s narrator was gay only added to the controversy. Jurow and Shepherd knew the story as written would never fly, so they chose not to make a modern and edgy social drama. They astutely recast the story’s narrative into a more conventional, and emotionally accessible direction – a romantic comedy. Well, Holly’s love affair with struggling writer Paul succeeded on all counts and won audience hearts worldwide. The film was also a critical success, earning five Academy Award Nominations, winning two for best Original Song and Best Score. Read more…

EXODUS – Ernest Gold

August 28, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1958 Otto Preminger and United Artists studio purchased the film rights to Leon Uris’s forthcoming novel, “Exodus”. Preminger, who would both produce and direct the film, felt that this was a story that needed to be told, and for him it became a passion project. He hired Dalton Trumbo who had been blacklisted as a communist by the infamous McCarthy Committee to write the screenplay. From day one he had Paul Newman in mind to play the lead role of Ari Ben Canaan. The stellar cast rounded off with Eva Marie Saint as Kitty Fremont, Ralph Richardson as General Sutherland, Peter Lawford as Major Caldwell, Lee Cobb as Barak Ben Canaan, Sal Mineo as Dov Landau, and John Derek as Taha. Read more…

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – Elmer Bernstein

August 21, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Yul Brynner had long explored the idea of an American retelling of Akira Kurosawa’s epic 1954 Japanese film The Seven Samurai. Brynner related; “I felt it was one of the great westerns of all time, only it was made by the Japanese, in the Japanese idiom. But the form, the whole design of it was the ideal western.” He worked with fellow actor Anthony Quinn to develop the concept, but when they had a falling out, he took over the reigns alone and presented his pitch to producer Walter Mirisch. Mirisch believed an Americana retelling of this epic story would resonate with the public, and so purchased film rights from Toho Studios and a distribution contract with United Artists. This was a passion project for Brynner, and he brought in friend John Sturges who acquainted himself well with Gunfight at the OK Corral in 1957, to both produce and direct the film. Read more…

THE ALAMO – Dimitri Tiomkin

August 14, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

This historical epic directed by and starring John Wayne focuses on the famous battle at the Alamo. In 1836, Generalisimo Santa Anna and his grand Mexican Army marched into Texas, then a province of Mexico, to break a rebellion by the locals. The Texans are not fully prepared to engage Santa Anna in battle, so in order to buy time for General Sam Houston and his troops, his subordinate, Colonel William Travis, devises a bold plan. He will fortify and garrison a small mission fort called the Alamo to forestall Santa Ana’s advance northward. The odds are near impossible as they are greatly outnumbered in men, cavalry and artillery. Yet Travis is resolute in his determination to stop Santa Anna at all costs. Heroes of American folklore, the legendary Jim Bowie as well as Davy Crockett and his Tennessee Volunteers support him. And so this small band of 187 men stand their ground in the face of Santa Ana’s army of 5,000 only to find that relief is not coming. Resigned to their fate these American heroes fight an unwinnable battle, one where they will be slaughtered to the man, but a battle that will serve as a rallying cry that will inspire their fellow Texans to fight for and win independence. The movie has a stellar cast that included John Wayne (Davey Crockett), Richard Widmark (Jim Bowie) and Laurence Harvey as Colonel William Travis. The film was a critical success earning six Oscar nominations, but a commercial failure as ticket sales failed to recoup the production costs. Read more…

PSYCHO – Bernard Herrmann

August 7, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

After the much-heralded success of North by Northwest in 1959, Alfred Hitchcock chose to change career paths and direct his first Horror genre film. His secretary found an obscure novel, Psycho by novelist Robert Bloch, and it was exactly for what Hitchcock was seeking. He purchased the film rights for a mere $9,500, and then bought as many copies of the book as possible as he was determined to keep it’s ending a secret. He however ran into headwinds immediately when Paramount studio executives were taken aback by the sordid nature of the story. Yet Hitchcock was determined and negotiated a small budget, agreed to shoot in black and white on the Universal lots, agreed to employ his television series crews, and asked that Paramount only manage the film’s distribution. In addition he offered to take 60% of the film profits in lieu of his customary salary of $250,000. Paramount agreed as they expected the film to lose money. Remarkably, and to Paramount’s chagrin, the film was enormously profitable. In the end, Hitchcock had the final laugh, earning an astounding $15 million! Read more…