Archive

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

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD – Mortimer Wilson

August 8, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1922 actor Douglas Fairbanks decided to move beyond his usual comedic films to take on the heroic role of Robin Hood. He enjoyed the role and was rewarded as the film ended up being a stunning commercial and critical success. Now emboldened, he decided to take on another swashbuckler hero based on the iconic epic ancient tale “The Thief of Bagdad”. This was a passion project and he used his own production company, Douglas Fairbanks Pictures, to finance production. He took personal charge of production, allocated an unprecedented $1.136 million budget, and also wrote the story on which the screenplay was based. Raoul Walsh was tasked with directing, and Achmed Abdullah and Lotta Woods were hired to write the screenplay. Fairbanks would star in the lead role as Ahmed, The Thief of Bagdad supported by Snitz Edwards as His Evil Associate, Charles Belcher as Iman The Holy Man and film narrator, Julianne Johnson as The Princess, Sojin Kamiyama as Cham Shang, and Anna May Wong as The Mongol Slave. Read more…

OBJECTIVE BURMA – Franz Waxman

August 1, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers Studios producer Jerry Wald wanted to make a WWII film, but one which was set in another theater of the war far remote from the Pacific where most of the battles were being waged. With that in mind, he came up with a story set in Burma near the Chinese border. He pitched his idea to studio executives and was given the green light to proceed with production empowered with a $1.592 million budget. Ranald MacDougall and Lester Cole were hired to write an original screenplay, and Raoul Walsh was tasked with directing. Wald had always envisioned the film as a vehicle for MGM’s star Errol Flynn, who after some coaxing signed on to play Captain Nelson. Joining him would be James Brown as Sergeant Treacy, Henry Hull as Mark Williams, William Hudson as Hollis, Anthony Caruso as Miggleori, and William Prince as Lieutenant Sid Jacobs. Read more…

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS – Roger Edens, Georgie Stoll, Conrad Salinger

July 25, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Author Sally Benson wrote a series of popular short stories in the New Yorker Magazine under the title “5135 Kensington,” which were based on her own real-life experience. She later expanded into a novel titled Meet Me In St. Louis, which was published in 1942. MGM believed the family novel would translate well to the big screen and so purchased the film rights. Arthur Freed was assigned production with a $1.885 million budget, Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finklehoff were hired to write the screenplay, and Vincent Minnelli was given the reins to direct. A fine cast was assembled, including Judy Garland as Esther Smith, Margaret O’Brien as “Tootie” Smith, Mary Astor as Mrs. Anna Smith, Leon Ames as Mr. Alonzo Smith, Lucille Bremer as Rose Smith, Tom Drake as John Truitt, and Marjorie Main as Katie. Read more…

WILSON – Alfred Newman

July 18, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox Studio Director Darryl F. Zanuck had long been an admirer of President Woodrow Wilson and for many years resolved to bring a biopic homage of his hero to the big screen. The film became a passion project, if not obsession, which led him to micromanage all aspects of its production. When finished it resulted in the greatest budget expenditure in the studio’s history, nearly $5 million. He personally took charge of production, hired Lamar Trotti to write the screenplay, and tasked Henry King to direct. He brought in an exceptional cast, which included, Alexander Knox as Woodrow Wilson, Charles Colburn as Professor Henry Holmes, Geraldine Fitzgerald as Edith Wilson, Thomas Mitchell as Joseph Tumulty, Ruth Nelson as Ellen Wilson, Cedric Hardwicke as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Vincent Price as William G. McAdoo, William Eythe as George Felton, and Mary Anderson as Eleanor Wilson. Read more…

RANDOM HARVEST – Herbert Stothart

June 27, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film arose in 1940 when MGM Head Story Editor Kenneth MacKenna was advised to evaluate renown novelist James Hilton’s latest book, “Random Harvest” for a possible film adaptation. The story resonated with MGM executives as the Battle of Britain raged and the studio purchased the film rights in November 1940 for $65,000. Sidney Franklin was placed in charge of production with a $1.21 million budget, Mervyn LeRoy was tasked with directing, and screenwriters Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel and Claudine West were hired to adapt the novel. A fine cast was assembled, which included Ronald Coleman as Charles Rainier (Smithy), Greer Garson as Paula Ridgeway/Margaret Hanson, Philip Dorn as Dr. Jonathan Benet, and Susan Peters as Kitty Chilcet. Read more…

THE BLACK SWAN – Alfred Newman

June 20, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the massive success of Warner Brothers The Sea Hawk in 1940, 20th Century Fox Studios decided to cash in on the 1932 Rafael Sabatini novel The Black Swan. Production chief Darryl F. Zanuck purchased the film rights as the perfect new adventure for the studio’s star actor Tyrone Power. Robert Bassler was placed in charge of production and provided a budget of $1.494 million. Henry King was tasked with directing, and Ben Hecht and Seton I. Miller hired to adapt the novel and write the screenplay. A stellar cast was assembled, which included Tyrone Power as Jaime Waring, Maureen O’Hara as Lady Margaret Denby, Laird Cregar as Henry Morgan, Thomas Mitchell as Tom Blue, George Sanders as Billy Leech, Anthony Quinn as Wogan and Edward Ashley as Roger Ingram. Read more…

BAMBI – Frank Churchill and Edward H. Plumb

June 13, 2022 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Walt Disney was in dire financial straits with his last two films, Pinocchio and Fantasia, both under-performing at the box office. He needed a hit to reverse the company’s sliding fortunes when he came across the 1923 novel “Bambi, A Life in The Woods” by Felix Salten. The novel offered violence, sexual conquest, betrayal, and blood-and-guts action by cutthroats and murderers, yet after sifting out all its unsavory elements, it spawned an idea of a family film that centered on a young fawn named Bambi. Disney purchased the film rights in 1937 and personally took charge of production with an $858,000 budget. He insisted that the voices of children be used to speak for the many forest animals instead of adults speaking as children. It would take a team of six writers led by Perce Pearce, three years, with countless revisions, to finally draft a screenplay that met Disney’s expectations. David Hand was tasked with direction, and the voice cast included Bobby Stewart as Baby Bambi, Donnie Dunagan as Young Bambi, Hardie Albright as Adolescent Bambi and John Sutherland as Young Adult Bambi. Joining them would be Peter Behn as Young Thumper, Tim Davis as Adolescent Thumper and Same Edwards as Young Adult Thumper, Paula Winslowe as Bambi’s Mother, Will Wright as Friend Owl, Cammie King as Young Faline and Ann Gillis as Young Adult Faline. Read more…

THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS – Bernard Herrmann

June 6, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Orson Welles had for some time desired to bring Booth Tarkington’s 1918 novel The Magnificent Ambersons to the big screen, a story that offered a wistful view of a dying American aristocracy. In order to gain RKO studio backing, he renegotiated his contract and granted the studio final cut rights. With their blessings, he oversaw production with a $854,000, which ballooned to over $1.18 million. He would also write the screenplay, and personally direct the film. A fine cast was assembled, which included Joseph Cotton as Eugene Morgan, Dolores Costello as Isabel Amberson Minafer, Anne Baxter as Lucy Morgan, Tim Holt as George Amberson Minafer, Agnes Moorhead as Fanny Minafer, and Orson Welles as the narrator. Read more…

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY – George M. Cohan, Ray Heindorf, and Heinz Roemheld

May 30, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1941 Warner Brothers Studios was seeking ideas for a new musical production. They finally conceived of a musical biopic film about the legendary American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and theatrical producer George M. Cohan. They secured Cohan’s blessing and studio executives Jack L. Warner and Hal B. Wallis would manage production with a $1.5 million budget. Robert Buckner and Edmund Joseph were hired to write the screenplay and Michael Curtiz took the reins to direct. The cast included James Cagney as George M. Cohan, Joan Leslie as Mary Cohan, Walter Huston as Jerry Cohan, Richard Whorf as Sam Harris, Rosemary DeCamo as Nellie Cohan, and Irene Manning as Fay Templeton. Read more…

THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON – Max Steiner

May 23, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1941 MGM commissioned a heroic script by Aeneas MacKenzie, Wally Kline and Lenore J. Coffee about the life of General George Armstrong Custer, which would allow the studio to showcase their box office megastar Errol Flynn. Hal B. Wallis and Robert Fellows were placed in control of production with a $1.358 million budget. Raoul Walsh was tasked with directing after Flynn vetoed the studio’s first choice of Michael Curtiz. Flynn would star as General George Armstrong Custer, and joining him would be Olivia de Havilland as Elizabeth Bacon Custer, Arthur Kennedy as Ned Sharp, Charley Grapewin as California Joe, Gene Lockhart as Samuel Bacon, and Anthony Quinn as Crazy Horse. Read more…

DUMBO – Oliver Wallace and Frank Churchill

May 16, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The children’s story of Dumbo, written by Helen Aberson-Mayer in 1939, was presented to studio executive Walt Disney, who was inspired and so tasked screenplay writers Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, to adapt it for the big screen. After suffering loses with Pinocchio and Fantasia in 1940 Disney managed production, but was tight-fisted with company financial resources and so only budgeted $813,000, which as expected expanded ultimately to $950,000. The screenplay was written by Joe Grant, Dick Huemer and Otto Englander, while Supervising Director was assigned to Ben Sharpsteen. The voice cast would consist of Edward Brophy as Timothy Q. Mouse, Verna Felton as the Elephant Matriarch, Cliff Edwards as Dandy Crow, Herman Bing as the Ringmaster, and Sterling Holloway as Mr. Stork. Read more…

DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT – Richard Addinsell

May 9, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1940 Great Britain was in the midst of WWII’s Blitz and the British production unit of RKO Radio Pictures conceived of a story of a classical concert pianist who joins the war effort to become a fighter pilot. Financial backing was secured, William Sistrom was assigned production, and Terrence Young (who would later go on to direct the James Bond films Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball) was hired to write an original screenplay, with contributions by Rodney Ackland and Brian Desmond Hurst. Hurst also was tasked with directing and assembled a cast which included Anton Walbrook as Stefan Radetzky, Sally Gray as Carole Peters Radecka, John Laurie as a British Commander. Guy Middleton as Shorty, Cecil Parker as Specialist, and Derrick De Marney as Mike Carroll. Read more…

THE SEA WOLF – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

May 2, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1940 Warner Brothers Studios decided to bring Jack London’s 1904 adventure drama novel The Sea Wolf to the big screen, only to realize that rival David O. Selznick owned the film rights. They were not deterred, negotiated purchase, and eventually paid Selznick $15,000 to obtain them. Hal B. Wallis was assigned production, provided a $1 million budget, and Robert Rossen was hired to adapt the novel and write the screenplay. Michael Curtiz was tasked with directing and a fine cast was assembled, including Edward G. Robinson as Wolf Larsen, Ida Lupino as Ruth Webster, John Garfield as George Leach, and Alexander Knox as Humphrey Van Weyden. Read more…

THE LETTER – Max Steiner

April 25, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1924 author W. Somerset Maugham wrote a short story titled “The Letter” based on a story he heard while traveling to Singapore. Impressed with its reception, Maugham adapted the story into a stage play, which resulted in 338 performances in London, and 107 on Broadway. Paramount purchased the film rights and produced a film in 1929, which underperformed. Warner Brothers believed they could do better, and so purchased the film rights from Paramount in 1938. Hal B. Wallis was assigned production and Howard E. Koch was hired to write the screenplay, and William Wyler was given the reins to direct. A fine cast was brought in, which included Bette Davis as Leslie Crosbie, Herbert Marshall as Robert Crosbie, James Stephenson as Howard Joyce, Frieda Inescort as Dorothy Joyce, and Gale Sondergaard as Mrs. Hammond. Of note is that Mrs. Hammond was changed from a Chinese wife to an Eurasian to satisfy the Hays Code, which prohibited miscegenation. Read more…

THE GREAT DICTATOR – Charles Chaplin and Meredith Willson

April 18, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of The Great Dictator film arose when renowned producer-director Alexander Korda pointed out to Charlie Chaplin that he bore a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler. Chaplin’s research revealed that they were born withing a week of each other, were approximately the same height and weight, and both emerged from poverty during their early life to achieve success. An additional stimulus to make the film came from German director Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 film Triumph of Will, which made a comic impression on Chaplin. The film would be Chaplin’s first all-talking all-sound film and he decided to finance it with his own production company, allocating a $2 million budget. He would also direct, write the screenplay, jointly compose the score, and star in the film. For his cast, Chaplin would play the Jewish barber and Adenoid Hynkel – the Great Dictator. Joining him would be Paulette Goddard as Hannah, Jack Oakie as, Henry Daniell as Benzino Napolini, Reginald Gardiner as Commander Schultz, Billy Gilbert as Herring, and Maurice Moscovich as Mr. Jaeckel. Read more…