Archive

Posts Tagged ‘John Williams’

JOHN WILLIAMS REVIEWS – 1960-1969

September 10, 2017 Leave a comment

In this latest installment of the new irregular series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we switch to Hollywood to look at the work of John Williams.

Williams attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and studied privately with the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, before being drafted into the U.S. Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for Air Force bands as part of his assignments. After his service, Williams moved back to New York, and studied both at the Juilliard School, and at the Eastman School of Music, while moonlighting as a jazz pianist.

After completing his studies, Williams worked in Hollywood, orchestrating and performing piano on film scores for composers such as Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith. Williams made his film music composing debut in 1959 on the film Daddy-O at the age of 27 – credited as Johnny Williams – and these first reviews look at sixteen subsequent film scores Williams that wrote between 1960 and 1969.

Not included here are the multitude of episodic TV scores he wrote during the period for shows and anthology series like Alcoa Premier, Playhouse 90, M-Squad, Wagon Train, Impact, The Virginian, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants, and others. Nor am I including the two scores where Williams adapted music by other people: Valley of the Dolls (1967), where Williams worked with music by André Previn and Dory Previn and for which he received his first Oscar nomination for Best Adaptation Score of a Musical Picture, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), where Williams adapted music by Leslie Bricusse, and for which he earned his second nomination in the same category. Read more…

Advertisements

SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE – Alexander Courage

August 3, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The original 1978 Superman film was a groundbreaking motion picture in many respects. It essentially introduced the concept of the contemporary comic book super hero to the movie world, it made a star out of its granite-jawed leading man Christopher Reeve, and it spawned one of the greatest scores in motion picture history, penned by the incomparable John Williams. However, as the 1980s progressed, each successive Superman sequel diminished in quality, until the franchise reached its nadir with 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Despite the presence of both Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman in the cast, and a potentially interesting environmentally aware plot involving nuclear energy, the film was an utter disaster. An increasingly shrinking budget put the film in a constant state of flux, and forced director Sidney J. Furie to shoot the film mostly in the English provincial town of Milton Keynes instead of New York. Special effects were left apparently half-finished, the script was constantly being re-written and footage re-shot, and the actors were disgruntled throughout. The terrible reviews of the film once it opened signaled the death knell of the franchise at that point, and Superman would not be seen on the silver screen again until 2006’s Superman Returns. Read more…

THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK – John Williams

June 22, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A raucous fantasy comedy based on the novel by John Updike, The Witches of Eastwick stars Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Cher, as three women in a small New England town suffering from broken relationships: fiery artist Alexandra (Cher) is a widow, shy and insecure teacher Jane (Sarandon) is a divorcee, and mousy writer Sukie (Pfeiffer) was abandoned by her husband, leaving her to raise six children alone. Despite them living in a town with a history of magic, none of the women realize that they have powers of witchcraft, until an unusual stranger named Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) arrives in town and begins courting each of them in turn; before long, the women are spending time at Daryl’s mansion, learning about their powers, and finally indulging the passionate, sexual sides of their personality after years of being unfulfilled and repressed. However, as Daryl’s behavior starts to get more and more unpredictable, the women begin to worry about his intentions, and whether his arrival in Eastwick was a good idea. Read more…

THE BFG – John Williams

July 6, 2016 4 comments

thebfgOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Roald Dahl’s The BFG has been one of the most beloved stories of British children’s literature since it was first published in 1982. It tells the story of a young girl named Sophie, who lives in an orphanage in London, and who one night sees a giant blowing something via a trumpet-like object into a bedroom window down the street from where she lives. Fearing that his existence will be revealed, the giant kidnaps Sophie and takes her far away to his home in Giant Country. However, rather than being a fearsome monster, the giant turns out to be a Big Friendly Giant – a “BFG” – and the two quickly become friends. Unfortunately, a dozen or so other giants also live in Giant Country, and these giants are fearsome cannibals who eat children and bully the BFG, who is the smallest of their kind. Having witnessed the cruelty of the giants first hand, Sophie convinces the BFG to help her hatch a plan to stop them and their child-chomping ways once and for all. The story was originally made into a much-loved animated film in 1989 featuring the voice of the great David Jason, and has now been given the Hollywood live-action treatment, with Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance in motion capture as the BFG, newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, and Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair. Read more…

SPACECAMP – John Williams

June 9, 2016 Leave a comment

spacecampTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Having enjoyed what will, in all probability, go down in history as the most successful creative period of any composer in film music history from 1975 through 1984, when he wrote the scores for Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, three Star Wars films, Superman, two Indiana Jones films, and E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial, among others, John Williams quite rightly decided to take a break. With the exception of a couple of episodes of the TV series Amazing Stories, he didn’t write anything in 1985, while in 1986 his only score was this one: the children’s adventure film SpaceCamp. Directed by TV veteran Harry Winer, the film followed the escapades of five brilliant teenagers (including Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, Kelly Preston, and Joaquin Phoenix) who enroll in NASA’s SpaceCamp program with a view to becoming astronauts when they grow up. After meeting their instructors (Kate Capshaw and Tom Skerritt), and a friendly robot named Jinx, the kids are allowed into the cockpit of the Space Shuttle Atlantis during a routine engine test; however, a malfunction occurs, launching the shuttle into space, and forcing the inexperienced children to work together to try to bring the shuttle safely back to Earth. Read more…

JAWS – John Williams

May 9, 2016 1 comment

jawsMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As we today look back to 1975, we recognize that Jaws was a transformative film, which forever altered how the film industry would operate. Jaws inaugurated what has become known in the modern lexicon as, the Summer Blockbuster. After 1975 studio executives would thereafter conceive and fund big summer action and adventure films, which would take the public by storm, and fill studio coffers. The film was adapted from a Peter Benchley novel, which was originally conceived with the title “Leviathan Rising”, but later discarded for Jaws. It is as simple a tale as they come, man against the beast. We find the summer vacation community Amity Island plagued by a series of shark attacks, which threaten the island’s livelihood. Rogue seafarer Quint (Robert Shaw) is hired to hunt down and kill the beast with all dispatch. Accompanying him would be landlubber Police Captain Brody (Roy Scheider) and, oceanographer Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). They wage war against this massive leviathan, which leads to Quint’s death, the loss of his boat, the Orca, and Hooper and Brody barely surviving. Well, the film was a massive commercial success, which spawned a franchise of sequels. It was also a critical success, earning four Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Film Score, winning three; best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Film Score. Read more…

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – John Williams

December 21, 2015 4 comments

theforceawakensOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM, YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER WAITING UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE DONE SO TO READ IT.

When John Williams first sat down to write the score for the original Star Wars over the winter of 1976, I doubt that even he could have imagined that he would still be writing music for those characters, and that universe, some 39 years later. There aren’t many film scores you can point to as being an actual turning point, a watershed moment in the history of the genre, but Star Wars was unquestionably one of those, and it went on to inspire a generation of filmmakers, composers, and fans. To say that The Force Awakens, the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise, is an eagerly awaited film would perhaps be one of the greatest understatements of all time – I don’t think I have ever seen a film with this much marketing, pre-release hype, and fevered anticipation – and, thankfully, it does not disappoint in any way. More than any installment in the prequels did, The Force Awakens feels like a proper Star Wars movie, a return to the fun and crowd-pleasing filmmaking of the original trio, and director J. J. Abrams should be congratulated for returning the franchise to its roots, and going some way to banishing the ghost of Jar Jar Binks forever. Read more…