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

HAMLET – William Walton

November 29, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer, director, and actor Laurence Olivier had achieved critical acclaim and commercial success with his film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play Henry V in 1944. He decided to adapt another of the Bard’s plays and chose Hamlet for his second film. He would produce, direct and star in the film and secured the necessary financing from the British production company Two Cities, who provided a budget of £527,530. For the cast, joining him as Hamlet, would be Basil Sydney as Claudius, Eileen Herlie as Gertrude, Norman Wooland as Horatio, Felix Aylmer as Polonius, Terrence Morgan as Laertes, and Jean Simmons as Ophelia. Olivier also provided the voice of the ghost King. Read more…

PEYTON PLACE – Franz Waxman

November 22, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox producer Jerry Wald observed the enormous popularity of the novel Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, which sold 60,000 copies in the first ten days and soared to the top of the New York Times best sellers list, where it would remain for over a year. He convinced studio executives to back a film adaptation and purchased the film rights for $250,000. John Michael Hays was hired to adapt the novel, which ended up causing great controversy with the author. The story offers a sordid tale of moral hypocrisy and turpitude, which features scandals, murder, suicide, and incest. Hays was forced to sanitize the novel’s most lurid elements due to content restrictions imposed by the notorious Hayes Code. This “sanitation” enraged Metalious who would publicly deride the film, while taking her $400,000 share of the profits. Mark Robson was tasked with directing and provided a budget of $2.0 million. An excellent cast was assembled, which included Lana Turner as Constance MacKenzie, Diane Varsi as Allison MacKenzie, Hope Kange as Selena Cross, Arthur Kennedy as Lucas Cross, Lee Philips as Michael Rossi, Lloyd Nolan as Dr. Matthew Swain, Russ Tamblyn as Norman Page and Terry Moore as Betty Anderson. Read more…

THE SILVER CHALICE – Franz Waxman

November 15, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers studio executives decided that following the stunning commercial success of MGM’s “Quo Vadis” in 1951 and 20th Century Fox’s “The Robe” in 1953, that they would cash in on the popular religious epic genre. To that end they purchased the film rights to the popular 1952 novel “The Silver Chalice” by Thomas B. Costain. Lesser Samuels was hired to adapt the novel and write the screenplay. Victor Saville was tasked with production and directing the film with a budget of $4.5 million. Saville made the artistic decision to eschew traditional realism for the film’s visual design, instead embracing stage design with an Art Deco style by renown operatic stage designer Rolfe Gerard. It was an audacious decision, which in the end was not received well by critics or the public. A fine cast was hired, which included Virginia Mayo as Helena, Pier Angeli as Deborra, Jack Palance as Simon Magus, Joseph Wiseman as Mijamin, and Alexander Scourby as Luke. Read more…

THE RAINMAKER – Alex North

November 8, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Hal B. Wallis took notice of the success of “The Rainmaker” play by N. Richard Nash, which had a 125-performance run on Broadway. He believed that its story would translate well to the big screen and so entered a bidding war with RKO Pictures in which he outbid them and secured the film rights for $300,000. Paramount Pictures agreed to finance and distribute the film, and N. Richard Nash was hired to adapt his play. Joseph Anthony was tasked with directing and a stellar cast was assembled, which included; Burt Lancaster as Bill Starbuck, Katherine Hepburn as Lizzie Curry, Wendell Corey as Deputy Sheriff J. S. File, Lloyd Bridges as Noah Curry, Cameron Prud’Homme as patriarch H.C. “Pop” Curry, and Earl Holliman as Jim Curry. Hepburn, who was forty-nine, was terribly miscast as the young Curry daughter Lizzie who was supposed to be in her late twenties. Despite this, she turned in a stellar performance that earned her an Academy Award nomination. Read more…

GIANT – Dimitri Tiomkin

November 1, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned author Edna Ferber sought to have her 1952 novel “Giant” brought to the big screen. She found willing partners in producer Henry Ginsberg and director George Stevens, and they formed Giant Productions to produce the film. They sold their film idea to Warner Brothers Studios who provided a budget of $2.0 million and agreed distribute. Stevens collaborated with screenwriters Ivan Moffat and Fred Guiol to write the screenplay, with some edits by author Ferber. Stevens took the reins to direct the film and assembled a magnificent cast including Elizabeth Taylor as Leslie Lynnton Benedict, Rock Hudson as Jordan “Bick” Benedict Jr., James Dean as Jett Rink, Carroll Baker as Luz Benedict II, Jane Withers as Vashti Hake Snythe, Chill Willis as Uncle Bawley, Mercedes McCambridge as Luz Benedict, Sal Mineo as Nagel Obregón, Dennis Hooper as Jordon “Jordy” Benedict II, Elsa Cárdenas as Juana Villalobos Benedict, and Earl Holliman as Robert “Bob” Dace. Read more…

ABOVE AND BEYOND – Hugo Friedhofer

October 18, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Hollywood screenwriter Beirne Lay Jr., a retired USAF bombardier, gained fame after the war for his screenplay to the 1949 film 12 O’Clock High. In 1951 he conceived a new screenplay for a WWII story he felt needed to be told. To that end he met with Air Force General Curtis LeMay, commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). He suggested a new film that would explore the experiences of Colonel Paul Tibbets, the commander of the historic 509th Composite Group, which was responsible for dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima during WWII. LeMay fully supported this, gave his consent, and Lay provided his outline to screenwriters Melvin Frank and Norman Panama who collaborated with USAF technical advisors Lt. Colonel Charles F.H. Begg, Major Norman W. Ray and Major James B. Bean to write the screenplay. With USAF backing Frank and Panama impressed MGM studio executives with their story, and they were given reins to produce the film with a budget of $1.4 million. Frank and Panama would also take on co-director duties and a fine cast was hired, including Robert Taylor as Tibbets, Eleanor Tibbets as Lucy Tibbets, and James Whitmore as Major Bill Uanna. Read more…

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE – Roy Webb

October 11, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned producer David O. Selznick saw opportunity for a riveting, suspenseful murder thriller film based on the 1933 novel Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White. He purchased the film rights, and envisioned Ingrid Bergman in the lead role. His plans for production however never came to fruition as he was forced to sell the film rights to RKO Pictures in 1946 to cover the massive cost overruns of his passion project, Duel In The Sun. RKO executives gave the green light to proceed with Dore Schary placed in charge of production, and provided a modest budget of $750,000. Robert Siodmak was tasked with directing, and screenwriter Mel Dinelli was hired to adapt the novel, which resulted in a change in the film’s title, as well as shifting its setting from England to New England. A fine cast was assembled, which included Dorothy McGuire as Helen, George Brent as Professor Albert Warren, Ethel Barrymore as Mrs. Warren, Kent Smith as Dr. Arthur Parry, and Gordon Oliver as Steven Warren. Read more…

SAMSON AND DELILAH – Victor Young

October 4, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film began in 1934 when Paramount Studios announced that it would follow-up its lavish 1934 production of Cleopatra with the biblical romance tale of Samson and Delilah. Film rights to the libretto of the 1877 opera Samson and Delila by Camille Saint-Saëns was purchased. It would however take twelve years for renowned producer-director Cecil B. DeMille to finally get the project off the ground. He secured a budget of $3.0 million and hired Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Fredric M. Frank, and Harold Lamb to write the screenplay drawing upon biblical references as well as the 1926 novel Samson the Nazarite by Ze’ve Jabotinsky. DeMille would also direct and after some casting drama finally secured Victor Mature to star as Samson. Joining him would be a fine cast, including Hedy Lamarr as Delilah, George Sanders as The Saran of Gaza, Angela Lansbury as Semadar, and Henry Wilcoxon as Ahtur. Read more…

OF MICE AND MEN – Aaron Copland

September 27, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1938 producer Lewis Milestone saw opportunity after witnessing John Steinbeck’s play Of Mice and Men achieve a milestone of 207 Broadway theatrical performances, and win the prestigious New York Drama Critics’ Circle award in 1938. He convinced Hal Roach Studios and United Artists Studios to fund and distribute the film. Milestone would also direct the and tasked screenwriter Eugene Solow in adapting the play and original novella for the big screen. A fine cast was assembled, which included Burgess Meredith as George, Betty Field as Mae, Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie, Charles Bickford as Slim, Noah Beery Jr. as Whit, and Bob Steele as Curley. Read more…

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…