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Archive for the ‘Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century’ Category

OUR TOWN – Aaron Copland

September 20, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned producer Sol Lester was impressed by the run of 338 Broadway theatrical performances of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning play Our Town by Thornton Wilder. He believed its poignant story could be successfully adapted to the big screen and decided to oversee production with his company Sol Lester Productions. Screenwriters Harry Chandlee and Frank Craven were hired to collaborate with author Thornton Wilder in adapting the play, which presented challenges given that it was performed on a nearly empty stage, and the main character dies. To adapt the play, they made the creative decision to add indoor and outdoor scenery, narration, and the third Act was altered to have a dream sequence, which would allow the main character Emily to live. Sam Wood was tasked with directing and a fine cast was assembled, which included William Holden as George Gibbs, Martha Scott as Emily Webb, Thomas Mitchell as Dr. Frank Gibbs, and Fay Bainter as Mrs. Julia Gibbs. Read more…

SINBAD THE SAILOR – Roy Webb

September 6, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In March of 1944 RKO Studios producer William Pereira proposed to studio executives to follow-up on the success of their swashbuckler film The Spanish Main (1945) with a new effort in the genre. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who had just returned from a five-year WWII stint in the US Navy, would star in the titular role. Stephen Ames who produced “The Spanish Main” was assigned to produce the film, and he hired John Twist and George Worthing Yates to write an original screenplay based on the eighth voyage of Sinbad. A budget of $2.5 million dollars was provided and Richard Wallace was tasked with directing. A fine cast was assembled to join Fairbanks including Maureen O’Hara as Shireen, Walter Slezak as the villain Melik, Anthony Quinn as the Emir of Daibul, George Tobias as Abbu, and Mike Mazurki as Yusuf. The story draws inspiration from the 8th Voyage of Sinbad, which is set in the early 9th century C.E. and involves the search for the lost treasure of Alexander the Great. Sinbad secures a ship but must forge an uneasy alliance of convenience with villainous Melik who stole his map, memorized it, and then burnt it. After many adventures and overcoming Melik’s tracheary, Sinbad succeeds with his quest to secure the treasure, and wins the hand of the beautiful Shireen. The film was a modest success earning a profit of $300,000. critical success was tepid and it secured no Academy Award nominations. The film’s poor performance pretty much ended the viability of the swashbuckling genre. Read more…

THE HURRICANE – Alfred Newman

August 30, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Actor James Hall’s uncle James Norman Hall co-wrote the 1936 novel The Hurricane, which he felt would provide an exiting romantic adventure set in the South Seas. He sold director John Ford on the idea, and financial backing for production was provided by Samuel Goldwyn Productions. A massive $2.0 million budget was provided with $450,000 allocated to special effects specialist James Basevi, who spent $150,000 building a native village and lagoon, and $250,000 destroying it! Screenwriters Dudley Nichols and Oliver H. P. Garrett were hired to adapt Hall’s novel, and Ford assembled a stellar cast, which included Dorothy Lamour as Marama, John Hall as Terangi, Mary Astor as Madame Germaine De Laage, Raymond Massey as Governor Eugene De Laage, C. Aubrey Smith as Father Paul, John Carradine as the Warden, Thomas Mitchell as Dr. Kersaint, and Jerome Cowan as Captain Nagle. Read more…

THE LOST WEEKEND – Miklós Rózsa

August 23, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film arose as director Billy Wilder was directing his previous movie, Double Indemnity. His screenwriter Raymond Chandler was a recovering alcoholic, who returned to drinking during the stress of collaborating with Wilder. Wilder related that he made the film, in part, as an attempt to better understand Chandler. Wilder sold his story idea to Paramount executives who assigned production to Charles Brackett with a budget of $1.25 million. Brackett and Wilder collaborated in writing the screenplay, by adapting the novel The Lost Weekend by Charles R. Jackson. Notable was their excising of the novel’s homosexual overtones, which portrayed Don Birnam as a closeted homosexual. Wilder himself would direct and he assembled a fine cast, which included Ray Milland as Don Birnam, Jane Wyman as Helen St. James and Phillip Terry as Wick Brinam. Controversy arose from the liquor industry, which was willing to offer $5 million to kill the project as they feared it would reignite political efforts to restore prohibition. Most interesting is that Wilder later related that he would have accepted the offer and burned the negatives himself had they presented it to him personally. Groundbreaking is film’s uncompromising depiction of the pathos of personal destruction precipitated by alcoholism. Today the film is seen as catalyzing a paradigmal change in how Hollywood portrayed drunks, which up to this film had always been portrayed them comedically. Read more…

CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS – Franz Waxman

August 16, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1936 MGM Studios decided to adapt the Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 coming of age novel Captains Courageous to the big screen. They purchased the screen rights, and management of the project was assigned to producer Louis D. Lighton who was provided a budget of $1.65 million. Screenwriters John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly and Dale Van Every were hired to adapt the novel, and Victor Fleming was tasked with directing. For casting, of prime importance was finding the right boy to play the Harvey Cheyne role. The creative team hired Freddie Batholomew, an English-American actor who many regards as one of the greatest child actors in cinematic history. Joining him would be Spencer Tracy as Manuel Fidello, Lionel Barrymore as Captain Disko Troop, Melvyn Douglas as Frank Burton Cheyne, and Mickey Rooney as Dan Troop. Read more…

JUNGLE BOOK – Miklòs Ròzsa

August 9, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1938 producer-director Alexander Korda decided to cash in on the commercial success realized by films based on novels by the famous English writer Rudyard Kipling. He purchased the film rights to his 1894 classic Jungle Book, with production slated to commence in 1939. The onset of WWII and Nazi Blitz forced him due to safety concerns, to relocate his company to Hollywood, which pushed production back to 1941. His own company, Alexander Korda Films would produce he film and he secured financial backing from United Artist who provided a $300,000 budget, which included filming in technicolor. Alexander Korda would produce the film, his brother Zoltan was tasked with directing, while his other brother Vincent was production designer. Screenwriter Laurence Stallings was hired to create a script derived from the nine Mowgli stories and drew inspiration from five of them: “Mowgli’s Brothers”, “Tiger! Tiger!”, “How Fear Came”, “Letting in the Jungle”, and “The King’s Ankus”. A fine cast was hired, which included Sabu as Mowgli, Joseph Calleia as Buldeo, John Qualen as the barber, Frank Puglia as the pundit, and Rosemary DeCamp as Messua. Filming was challenging due to creative differences between Alexander who wanted a fantasy adventure, and Zoltan who wanted a more realistic story. In the end, Alexander’s vision prevailed. Read more…

A DOUBLE LIFE – Miklós Rózsa

August 2, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1946 producer Michael Kanin decided to collaborate with his brother Garson Kanin and his wife Ruth Gordon for his next project; a film noir with a Shakespearean twist. The husband-and-wife team crafted a fine screenplay and Michael Kanin used his own Kanin Productions company to fund the project, with Universal Studios agreeing to distribute the film. George Cukor was tasked with directing, and a fine cast was eventually assembled. Laurence Olivier was originally sought for the lead, but was unavailable, so a reluctant Ronald Colman was given the role of Anthony “Tony” John. He would be supported by a coach to refine his Shakespearean diction and delivery. Joining him would be Signe Hasso as Brita, Edmund O’Brien as Bill Friend, and Shelley Winters as Pat Kroll. Read more…

DIE NIBELUNGEN, PART II: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE – Gottfried Huppertz

July 26, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Austrian director and screenwriter Fritz Lang had long desired to bring a grand fantasy adventure film to the big screen. He eventually found inspiration in the epic 12th century Germanic poem Die Nibelungenlied. He collaborated with his wife Thea von Harbou in writing the screenplays for a two-part series that would be titled Die Nibelungen: Siegfried and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge. The German production company Decla-Bioscop agreed to produce and fund the film, with UFA overseeing distribution. For Lang this was a passion project, and he assembled one of the finest casts ever assembled, which included; Paul Richter as King Siegfried of Xanten, Margarete Schon as Kriemhild of Burgund, Hanna Ralph as Queen Brunhild of Isenland, Bernhard Goetzke as Volker of Alzey, Theodor Loos as King Gunther of Burgund, Rudolf Klein-Rogge as King Etzel, Rudolf Rittner as Margave Rüdiger of Bechlam, Hans Adalbert Schelettow as Hagen of Tronje, Georg August Koch as Hildebtandt, Georg John as Mime the Goldsmith/Albert the Dwarf/Blaodel, Getrud Arnold as Queen Ute of Burgund, Hans Carl Müller as Gerenot of Burgund, Erwin Biswanger as Giselher of Burgund, Fritz Alberti as Dietrich of Bern, and Annie Röttegen as Dietlind of Bechlam. Read more…

DIE NIBELUNGEN, PART I: SIEGFRIED – Gottfried Huppertz

July 19, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Austrian director and screenwriter Fritz Lang had long desired to bring a grand fantasy adventure film to the big screen. He eventually found inspiration in the epic 12th century Germanic poem Die Nibelungenlied. He collaborated with his wife Thea von Harbou in writing the screenplays for a two-part series that would be titled Die Nibelungen: Siegfried and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge. The German production company Decla-Bioscop agreed to produce and fund the film, with UFA overseeing distribution. For Lang this was a passion project, and he assembled one of the finest casts ever assembled, which included; Paul Richter as King Siegfried of Xanten, Margarete Schon as Kriemhild of Burgund, Hanna Ralph as Queen Brunhild of Isenland, Bernhard Goetzke as Volker of Alzey, Theodor Loos as King Gunther of Burgund, Rudolf Klein-Rogge as King Etzel, Rudolf Rittner as Margave Rüdiger of Bechlam, Hans Adalbert Schelettow as Hagen of Tronje, Georg August Koch as Hildebtandt, Georg John as Mime the Goldsmith/Albert the Dwarf/Blaodel, Getrud Arnold as Queen Ute of Burgund, Hans Carl Müller as Gerenot of Burgund, Erwin Biswanger as Giselher of Burgund, Fritz Alberti as Dietrich of Bern, and Annie Röttegen as Dietlind of Bechlam. Read more…

BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN – Edmund Meisel

July 12, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1925 the Soviet Central Executive Committee directed the People’s Commissariat for Education to organize a celebration to commemorate the 20th anniversary the first Russian Revolution of 1905. A patriotic film that revealed the corruptness of the former Tsarist regime while espousing the ideals of Socialism was envisioned to be integral to the celebration. As such Nina Agadzhanova was tasked with writing the screenplay, Sergei Eisenstein was assigned to direct, and Mosfilm would oversee its production. Agadshanova’s original script explored a broad narrative comprising several topics, which covered the totality of the uprising, however Eisenstein significantly narrowed the scope of the film, focusing its narrative on the now legendary mutiny aboard the battleship Potemkin. The film would star Aleksandr Antonov as Grigory Vakulinchuk, Vladimir Barksy as Captain Evegeny Golilov, and Grigori Aleksandrov as Chief Officer Giliarovsky. Read more…

RAPSODIA SATANICA – Pietro Mascagni

July 5, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Italian playwright, screenwriter and film director Nino Oxilia found inspiration for his next film in legendary character Faust, for which he would provide a twist – retelling the story with Faust cast as a woman. He chose to utilize poems by Fausto Maria Martini who was a member of ‘Crepusscolari”, the ‘Poets of Twilight’. The works of these artists were tragedies, which spoke of the decline of the shallow bourgeois culture. Oxilia purchased the film rights, and Società Italiana Cines agreed to produce and fund the film with a budget that allowed Oxilia to realize his vision. Oxilia spared no expense for his passion project, hiring the leading actress of her generation, prima diva Lyda Borelli who was beloved by Italians, to star in the film. He tasked poet Fausto Maria Martini to provide the film’s closed captions, used elaborate costumes and jewelry, and lastly, added color, both tinted and toned, as well as stenciling to create film imagery that expanded beyond the limited confines of black and white. Read more…

SALAMMBÔ – Florent Schmitt

June 28, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1924 French film producer Louis Aubert and director Pierre Maradon were researching a story for their next film. They were greatly impressed by the historical novel Salammbô by Gustave Flaubert and decided to bring its sprawling story to the big screen. Arnold Pressburger was given the reins to produce the film with Aubert’s production company Gaumont-Franco Film-Aubert funding the project. Gustave Flaubert was hired to adapt his novel and write the screenplay. Maradon was tasked with directing and selected a cast including Jean de Balzac as Salammbô, Rolla Norman as Mâtho, as Victor Vina as Hamilcar Barca, Raphaël Lievin as Havas, Henri Baudin as Spendius, and Adolf Weisse as Scharabaim. Read more…

RAINTREE COUNTY – Johnny Green

June 21, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As part of its new talent development program, MGM Studios awarded its distinguished Novel Award to author Ross Lockridge Jr. for his 1947 novel Raintree County. So impressed were they with the book, that they soon purchased the film rights for $150,000. Production was delayed by unforeseen issues, including the suicide of Lockridge and his very costly film rights demands, which delayed the project for eight years. Finally in 1955, David Lewis was tasked with producing the film with a budget of $5.5 million. Edward Dmytryk was selected to direct, and Millard Kaufman was hired to adapt Lockridge’s novel and write the screenplay. A stellar cast was hired with Montgomery Clift as John Witckliff Shawnessey, Elizabeth Taylor as Susanna Drake, Eva Marie Saint and Nell Gaither, Lee Marvin as Orville ‘Flash’ Perkins, Nigel Patrick as Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles, Rod Taylor as Garwood B. Jones, and Agnes Moorehead as Ellen Shawnessey. Read more…

LIEUTENANT KIJÉ – Sergei Prokofiev

June 14, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1932 the People’s Commissariat for Education approved director Aleksandr Faintsimmer’s latest request to proceed with a film based on screenwriter Yuri Tynyanov’s story of Lieutenant Kijé. The Commissariat believed that its barbed, sardonic humor of Russia’s former Tsar Paul I would denigrate the idiocy and incompetence of the Tsars, while reinforcing the superiority of the new socialist order. The Belgoskino production company located in Belarus would produce the film, and Arkadi Koltsaty was hired to manage the cinematography. A fine cast was assembled which included Mikhail Yanshin as Tsar Pavel I, Boris Gorin-Goryainov as Count von Pahlen, Nina Shaternikova as Princess Gagagrina, and Erast Garin as Adjudant Kobulov. Read more…

THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY – Dimitri Tiomkin

June 7, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1952 John Wayne partnered with producer Robert Fellows to create Wayne-Fellows Productions. Director William Wellman pitched an aviation suspense drama titled “The High and the Mighty” written by Ernest Gann to Wayne who immediately purchased the film rights and Gann’s services writing the screenplay for $55,000. Wellman was tasked with directing and provided a budget of $1.47 million. A cast was assembled with Spenser Tracy offered the lead role, but he withdrew just before filming unwilling to suffer Wellman’s authoritarianism. As such, Wayne stepped in and took the role of First Officer Dan Roman to save the project. Today his performance is believed by critics to be one of the finest of his career. Joining him were; Claire Trevor as May Holst, Laraine Day as Lydia Rice, Robert Stack as Captain John Sullivan, Jan Sterling as Sally McKee and Sidney Blackmer as Humphrey Agnew. Read more…