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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL – Bernard Herrmann

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…

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER – Bernard Herrmann

July 18, 2016 Leave a 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

citizenkane100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Orson Welles recognized Herrmann’s talents and so when RKO Pictures signed him to a contract in 1941 he brought Herrmann along as his composer. Their first collaboration was “Citizen Kane” (1941), which earned Herrmann acclaim and his first Academy Award nomination for Best Score of a Dramatic Picture. The film is a masterpiece, set in the period of American industrialization. The brilliant screenplay by Herman Mankiewicz uses this backdrop to portray a great man’s rise and fall due to a misuse of power, which leaves him emotionally and physically isolated. Herrmann understood immediately the impetus of the film’s tragic narrative saying “it’s a picture about wealth and power… Kane, in my opinion was totally misunderstood.” Wells gave Herrmann unprecedented access and 12 weeks in which to write the score, which he used to create what I believe to be his Magnum Opus. Read more…

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER – Bernard Herrmann

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…

BATTLE OF NERETVA/THE NAKED AND THE DEAD – Bernard Herrmann

October 20, 2014 1 comment

battleofneretvaMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

BATTLE OF NERETVA

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…