Posts Tagged ‘Bernard Herrmann’

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND – Bernard Herrmann

August 3, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the commercial success of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Columbia Pictures signed producer Charles Schneer to a contract, in which they would distribute nine of his films. He and Ray Harryhausen were eager to launch their third collaboration and chose to adapt another Jules Verne novel, The Mysterious Island (1874). John Preeble, Daniel Uhlman and Crane Wilbur teamed up to write the screenplay, adding fantastic beasts to create drama for the story, which would allow Harryhausen to once again awe audiences with his stop-motion Dynamation photography. Veteran director Cy Endfield was tasked with directing and a fine cast was assembled including Michael Craig as Captain Cyrus Harding, Joan Greenwood as Lady Mary Fairchild, Michael Callan as Herbert Brown, Gary Merrill as Gideon Spilitt, Herbert Lom as Captain Nemo, Beth Rogan as Elena Fairchild, Percy Herbert as Sergeant Pencroft, and Dan Jackson as Corporal Neb Nugent. Read more…


July 27, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

After the critical and financial success of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad in 1958, Charles Schneer and Ray Harryhausen decided to further explore the fantasy genre drawing inspiration from a literary classic, Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels. Columbia Pictures would finance and distribute the film, with Schneer again producing. Harryhausen would again oversee the Dynamation stop-motion animation and special visual effects. Jack Sher was tasked with directing, and he would collaborate with screenwriter Arthur Ross to write the screenplay, which would be loosely based on Swift’s novel. For the cast, Kerwin Matthews would again play the titular role, supported by Jo Morrow as Gwendolyn, June Thorburn as Elizabeth, Basil Sydney as the Emperor of Liliput, Sheri Aberoni as Glumdalclitch, Lee Patterson as Reldresal, and Gregoire Aslan as King Brob. Read more…


July 20, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In the 1950s, a collaboration between producer Charles Schneer and special animation effects artist Ray Harryhausen resulted in a trio of very successful science fiction films; It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) and 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957). They decided that they wanted to explore a new genre, which had always fascinated Harryhausen – mythological fantasies. He had a story already envisioned for Sinbad the Sailor and Schneer decided to use his production company Morningside Productions partnering with Columbia Pictures to finance and distribute the film. Harryhausen would again create and manage the Dynamation special effects. Nathan Juran was tasked with directing, and he cast two young stars for the principle roles; studio contract player Kerwin Matthews as Sinbad, and Kathryn Grant as Princess Parisa. Joining them would be Richard Eyre as the Genie, Torin Thatcher as Sokurah, Alec Mango as the Caliph of Bagdad, and Harold Kasket as the Sultan. It would take Harryhausen eleven months to complete the filming of all the widescreen stop-motion animation scenes, which included the use of a flamethrower to simulate the dragon’s fiery breath. His iconic scene where Sinbad fights a skeleton continues to awe audiences to this day. Read more…

JANE EYRE – Bernard Herrmann

May 18, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1941 independent producer David O. Selznick hired director John Houseman to write the script for his next project, a retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, Jane Eyre; ultimately the screenplay was realized thanks to the collaboration of fellow director Robert Stevenson and writer Aldous Huxley. However, at this point of his career, Selznick was tired and seeking a respite from producing films. As such he sold production rights for Jane Eyre and several other films to William Goetz of 20th Century Fox. Kenneth MacGowan and Orson Welles were assigned to produce the film and Robert Stevenson was tasked with directing. Welles would star as Edward Rochester with Joan Fontaine as Jane Eyre. Joining them would be a fine cast which included Margaret O’Brien as Adele Verans, Peggy Ann Garner as young Jane Eyre, John Sutton as Dr. Rivers, Sara Allgood as Bessie, Agnes Moorhead as Mrs. Reed and Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns. Read more…

OBSESSION – Bernard Herrmann

April 9, 2018 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Brian De Palma had long admired Alfred Hitchcock’s masterwork Vertigo, and resolved to revisit its themes with a new rendering. He convinced Paramount studio executives of his vision for a retelling, and brought in trusted writer Paul Schrader to create a screenplay. Schrader’s crafted a fine original screenplay, titled Déjà Vu, but it was so voluminous that De Palma judged it to be unfilmable. As such he truncated the third act, which was set ten years in the future to achieve a more cogent and filmable storyline. Well, Schrader was outraged, refused to make the requested changes, and the two friends had a falling out, but development of the film continued regardless, ultimately resulting in Obsession. De Palma brought is a seasoned cast, which included Cliff Robertson as Michael Courtland, Geneviève Bujold as Elizabeth Courtland/Sandra Portinari, John Lithgow as Robert Lasalle, and Stocker Fontelieu as Dr. Ellman. Read more…

PSYCHO – Bernard Herrmann

August 7, 2017 1 comment


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…

NORTH BY NORTHWEST – Bernard Herrmann

July 24, 2017 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1958 Screenwriter Ernest Lehman approached Alfred Hitchcock with an offer to “make a Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures.” After brainstorming to find common ground, a plot coalesced around a case of mistaken identity, murder, romance and a cross-country chase, which ends dramatically atop Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock secured a stellar cast, which included Cary Grant as (Roger Thornhill), Eve Marie Saint as (Eve Kendall), James Mason as (Phillip Vandamm). The story concerns a Madison Avenue advertising man, Roger Thornhill, who finds himself thrust into the hidden world of spies and espionage when he is mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan. He is pursued and hunted by foreign spy Phillip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard who try to eliminate him. When Thornhill is framed for murder he is forced to flee from the police, boarding a 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago. On board he meets Eve Kendall, a beautiful blond who assists him to evade the authorities. Yet all is not as it seems as he discovers that Eve isn’t the innocent bystander but instead Vandamm’s lover. But in another twist Eve is revealed as a double agent and they fall in love. They then join forces and survive a harrowing dramatic escape from Vandamm on the face of Mt. Rushmore. The film is considered to be Hitchcock’s most stylish thriller and was both a critical and commercial success. Read more…

VERTIGO – Bernard Herrmann

July 3, 2017 3 comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Alfred Hitchcock had earlier taken notice of French authors Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac but was frustrated in a failed bid to secure film rights to one of their novels. When they published their next book in 1954, “D’entre les Morts” (From Among The Dead), Hitchcock would not be denied and resolutely purchased the film rights. He was jubilant and prepared to finance, produce and direct the film, which was now a passion project. Writing the screenplay however was problematic. Hitchcock rejected the efforts of Maxwell Anderson and then Alec Coppel before accepting the 3rd and final version by Samuel Taylor. For his cast he chose his favorite Vera Miles for the role of Madeleine, however she had to drop out after becoming pregnant. When his second choice Lana Turner demanded too much money, Hitchcock turned to Kim Novak. James Stewart was chosen for the lead role of John “Scottie” Ferguson, with Barbara Bel Geddes as Margaret and Tom Helmore as Gavin Elster. When all was said and done Hitchcock related that both Stewart and Novak were miscast and the cause of the film’s poor reception. Read more…


March 20, 2017 2 comments

thedaytheearthstoodstill100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Julian Blaustein had long sought to make a film that would serve as a metaphor for the dark pall of fear and suspicion, which had fallen over humanity following the onset of the Atomic Age. Unfortunately after reviewing over 200 scripts he was unable to find one that suited him. He managed to obtain backing from Fox Studio Executive Darryl F. Zanuck to hire screenwriter Edmund North to adapt the short story Farewell to the Master (1940) by Harry Bates. From the story Blaustein saw opportunity arise for thoughtful moral commentary against armed conflict. He also hoped that the story’s nuanced subliminal parallels between the alien visitor Klaatu and Jesus Christ would help drive home the message. Veteran director Robert Wise was brought in to manage the project, and a fine cast was selected, including; Michael Rennie as Klaatu, Patricia Neal as Helen Benson, Billy Gray as Bobby Benson, Hugh Marlowe as Tom Stephens and Sam Jaffe as Professor Jacob Barnhardt. 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…


July 18, 2016 1 comment

devilanddanilwebster100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

1941 would prove to be a banner year for Bernard Herrmann as he was honored with two Academy Award nominations. Having completed Citizen Kane, what many believe to be his Magnum Opus, RKO Studios tasked him with a new project The Devil and Daniel Webster for director William Dieterle. Note that the studio later changed the title to “All That Money Can Buy”. From both Herrmann’s and Dieterle’s perspectives, the collaboration was collegial, and in the end, The Devil and Daniel Webster triumphed over Citizen Kane, earning Herrmann his only Academy Award win. Herrmann’s entry into the realm of film score music atop two nominated scores and an Oscar win was an outstanding achievement. Herrmann would later relate that he believed Citizen Kane was a superior score in that it was more original and better integrated into the film’s narrative – your author agrees. Read more…

CITIZEN KANE – Bernard Herrmann

June 27, 2016 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

RKO Studio executives were impressed with Orson Welles success on Broadway as well as his historic ground-breaking 1938 radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds”. They perceived genius and offered him an unprecedented contract to direct a film of his creation, his own cast and crew, and most remarkably, final cut privileges. Welles conceived a searing quasi-biopic on an American magnate’s life and legacy, collaborating with Herman Mankiewicz to fashion what is now regarded as one of the finest screenplays in cinematic history. Welles was audacious in casting the film, selecting unknowns who had never before acted in motion pictures including; himself as Charles Foster Kane, Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland, Dorothy Comingore as Susan Kane, Everett Sloane as Ray Collins as Susan Alexander Kane, George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher, Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane, Paul Stewart as Raymond, Ruth Warrick as Emily Kane, Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter, and William Alland as Jerry Thompson. Read more…


January 20, 2016 Leave a comment

devilanddanilwebsterMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the success of Citizen Kane in 1941, RKO Studios launched a new project based on a short story “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benét. This Faustian tale centered on a New Hampshire farmer who sold his soul to the Devil for several years of prosperity, but then recants. When the Devil insists on payment Stone goes to trial, defended by famous orator, statesman and attorney Daniel Webster. The film offers both a celebration of the indomitable spirit of American independence as well as the dangers inherent in unchecked power. For the film, William Dieterle was hired to direct, and he assembled a fine cast, which included; Walter Houston (Mr. Scratch), James Craig (Jabez Stone), Anne Shirley (Mary Stone), and John Qualen (Miser Stevens). I would advise the reader to note that the studio later changed the title to “All That Money Can Buy”. The film was not a commercial success but garnered critical success, earning two Academy Award nominations, winning one for Herrmann for Best Score. Read more…

BERNARD HERRMANN – Fathers of Film Music, Part 7

December 1, 2014 1 comment

Bernard HerrmannArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 29 July 1911, New York, New York.
Died: 24 December 1975

“Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields. See how these names are feted by the waving grass, and by the streamers of white cloud, and whispers of wind in the listening sky… The names of those who in their lives fought for life, who wore at their hearts the fire’s center. ”

Herrmann carried this excerpt from a poem by Stephen Spender in his wallet his entire life. Within its words are found the burning nexus of this remarkable man.

Bernard Herrmann was born in New York City, the first of three children by Abraham and Ida Herrmann, one of many Jewish families that fled the Tsarist Russian pogroms of the 1880s. His father inculcated Bernard with a love and appreciation of the arts, taking him to the opera as well as having him tutored in the violin. His artistic gift manifested early when he won a composition prize at the age of thirteen. He decided early in life to concentrate on music and so after high school enrolled at New York University. Read more…


October 20, 2014 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy


Battle of Neretva is based on actual historical events and was made to celebrate the victory of Yugoslav partisans over the Nazis. In the beginning of 1943 Hitler issued a personal order for his generals to commence operation “Weiss”, which was designed to root out and destroy Yugoslav partisan units. Pushed by far more powerful enemy, the partisans reeled under the attack incurring many casualties, 4500 wounded and a typhus outbreak. As they retreated, they found themselves surrounded in Neretva valley. Only one bridge remained, with heavy enemy forces waiting on the other side, set to massacre the remaining fighters and fleeing non-combatants. Marshall Tito ordered the partisans to destroy the bridge apparently trapping his forces. The move surprised the Germans who responded by transferring their forces to the other side, predicting that Partisans would attempt the suicidal break through. But, during only one night, the partisans managed to build a provisional bridge near the destroyed one and cross to the other side, tricking the enemy. The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film but failed to win. Read more…