Posts Tagged ‘Max Steiner’

NOW VOYAGER – Max Steiner

May 24, 2021 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1942 producer Hal B. Wallis signed a four-year contract with Warner Brothers Studios tasking him to produce four films a year. He decided that adapting Olive Higgins Prouty’s 1941 novel Now Voyager to the big screen would serve as his inaugural effort. Screen rights were purchased, Casey Robinson was hired to write the screenplay, and a budget of $877,000 was provided. Irving Rapper was given the reins to direct the film, and a stellar cast was assembled, which included Bette Davis as Charlotte Vale, Paul Henreid as Jerry Duvaux Durrance, Claude Rains a Dr. Jaquith, Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Windle Vale, Ilka Chase as Lisa Vale and Janis Wilson as Tina Durrance. Read more…


May 3, 2021 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In late 1931 legendary David O. Selznick became RKO Studio’s Production Chief. He decided that his inaugural film would be the melodrama “Night Bell”, which would be adapted from the story of the same name by Fannie Hurst. He first changed the film title to “Symphony of Six Million” – a reference to the population of New York City – and then rejected the first screenplay, demanding that it reclaim the cultural sensibilities offered in the original story. He wanted his film to offer a mirror to the life of Jewish immigrants in America and the challenges created by the cultural assimilation of their children. Selznick and Pandro S. Berman would produce the film, Gregory La Cava was hired to direct, and a budget of $270,000 was provided. The cast would include Ricardo Cortez as Dr. Felix Klauber, and his family, Gregory Ratoff as his father Meyer Klauber, Anna Appel as his mother Hannah Klauber, Noel Madison as his brother Magnus Klauber, and Lita Chevret as his sister Birdie Klauber. Irene Dunne would play love interest Jessica, and John St. Polis his colleague Dr. Schifflen. Read more…

THE INFORMER – Max Steiner

April 26, 2021 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director John Ford came across a 1925 novel, The Informer by Liam O’Flaherty, which explored the dark underside of the Irish War of Independence. He felt that the story provided suspense, drama, betrayal, and tragedy, which would translate well to the big screen. RKO Studios however was reticent to proceed with the project due to its depressing subject matter and unsympathetic lead, but they relented following Ford’s great success with his prior film The Lost Patrol, which earned their trust and permission to proceed with a budget of $250,000. Dudley Nichols was hired to write the screenplay and a fine cast was assembled which included Victor McLaglen as Gypo Nolan, Heather Angel as Mary McPhillip, Preston Foster as Dan Gallagher, Margot Grahame as Katie Madden, Wallace Ford as Frankie McPhillip, and Una O’Connor as Mrs. McPhillip. Read more…

DARK VICTORY – Max Steiner

February 1, 2021 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Actress Bette Davis discovered the play “Dark Victory” and was determined to play Judith Traherne in a big screen production. She convinced Warner Brothers producers Hal Wallis and David Lewis, as well as Director Edmund Goulding to take on the project. Yet they did not have the film rights, which they had to purchase from David O. Selznick for $50,000. The film would be based on the 1934 play “Dark Victory” by George Emerson Brewer Jr. and Bertram Bloch, with Casey Robinson hired to write the screenplay. A budget of $1 million was provided and a truly stellar cast assembled. Joining Davis would be George Brent as Dr. Frederick Steele, Humphrey Bogart as Michael O’Leary, Geraldine Fitzgerald as Ann King, Henry Travers as Dr. Parsons, Ronald Reagan as Alex Hamm and Cora Witherspoon as Carrie Spottswood. Read more…

SHE – Max Steiner

October 5, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

RKO studio executives were fascinated by the film prospects presented by of Henry Rider Haggard’s 1887 novel She. The tale offered a broad canvass, which featured adventure, mystery, love, magic and immortality. They purchased the screen rights in 1932 and in 1933 assigned the project to Merian Cooper, who had just assumed his new position as Vice President of Production for RKO. He brought in Dudley Nichols and Ruth Rose to write the screenplay, and they ended up creating a story, which drew upon plot elements from all four novels of the series. Cooper had a grand vision and with a $1 million budget purchased lavish costumes and fashioned magnificent architecture sets for the city of Kor in the Art Deco design, and assigned Lansing C. Holden and Irving Pichel as directors to bring it all to life. Yet they were undone when the budget was slashed and they were forced to abandon technicolor and instead shoot in black and white. For the cast Cooper recruited opera singer Helen Gahagan for the titular role. Joining her would be Randolph Scott as John Vincey and Leo Vincey, Nigel Bruce as Professor Horace Holly, Helen Mack as Tanya Dugmore, and Gustav von Seyffertitz as Governor Billali. Read more…


July 13, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

RKO Radio Pictures executives saw the popularity of the 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, which was published by Collier’s Magazine and decided that it should be adapted to the big screen. They purchased the film rights, and assigned Merian Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack, and David O. Selznick to produce. The team of Irving Pichel and Ernest Schoedsack would direct the film with a budget of $220,000. James Ashmore Creelman was hired to write the screenplay, and a fine cast was assembled, which included Joel McCrea as Robert Rainsford, Fay Wray as Eve Trowbridge, Leslie Banks as Count Zaroff, Robert Armstrong as Ivan, Steve Clemente as Tartar, Dutch Hendrian as Servant, and William Davidson as the Captain. The story is set in 1932 off the western coast of South America. Renowned big game hunter and author Bob Rainsforth is enjoying a cruise on a luxury yacht through a channel in the remote Tierra Del Fuego. The Captain raises concerns when the channel lights vary from his charts but is ordered to proceed by the yacht’s owner. The yacht runs aground upon a shoal, sinks, and explodes, with Rainsforth the only survivor. Read more…


March 25, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers Studio executives saw the success of Paramount Studio’s Lives of a Bengal Lancer in 1935 and decided to cash in on the British Empire Adventure Tales genre. It was decided that their vehicle would be a retelling of the epic charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. Screenplay writer Michael Jacoby’s script for the story found favor with the studio and was purchased, although Rowland Leigh was brought in to make some edits. Samuel Bischoff and Hal Wallis were given the reigns to produce the film with a generous $1.33 million budget. Michael Curtiz was tasked with directing and a stellar cast was assembled, including Errol Flynn as Major Geoffrey Vickers, Olivia de Havilland as Elsa Campbell, Patric Knowles as Captain Perry Vickers, Henry Stephensen as Sir Charles Macefield, Nigel Bruce as Sir Benjamin Warrenton, Donald Crisp as Colonel Campbell, David Niven as Captain Randall, Robert Barrat as Count Igor Volonoff, and C. Henry Gordon as Surat Khan. Read more…


July 17, 2017 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Stanley Kramer of Columbia Pictures found inspiration for a compelling military drama within the pages of Herman Wouk’s 1951 novel, “The Caine Mutiny”. He purchased the film rights and tasked Edward Dmytryk with directing, and Wouk to write the screenplay. All did not begin well as controversy arose regarding the script. Dmytryk was dissatisfied with Wouk’s effort, which would have required a ten-hour film, so he relieved him and hired veteran writer Stanley Roberts. While Roberts was successful in his mission, he resigned when further cuts were ordered to keep the film’s running time under two hours. As such Michael Blankfort was brought in and cut 50 pages from the script, to achieve its final incarnation. More problems arose, as the navy was initially resistant to support the film due to its narrative of an unhinged Captain and mutiny aboard a US naval vessel. The final script however won over Naval command and ship resources were dedicated to the film. There was more controversy to come as casting also got off on the wrong foot. Columbia President Harry Cohn leveraged Humphrey Bogart’s desire for the lead role of Captain Queeg to reduce his customary $200,000 salary, which caused the actor great consternation and bitterness. In the end he accepted the role and provided one of the finest acting performances of his career. He would be supported by a fine cast, which included; Jose Ferrer as Lieutenant Barney Greenwald, Van Johnson as Lieutenant Steve Maryk, Fred McMurray as Lieutenant Tom Keefer, Robert Francis as Ensign Willie Keith, Tom Tully as Lieutenant Commander William De Vriess, May Wynn as May Wynn, and E. G. Marshall as Prosecutor Lieutenant Commander John Challee. Read more…


June 19, 2017 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned director John Ford had long been recognized as a master of the Western genre with successes, which included Stagecoach (1939), My Darling Clementine (1946), Fort Apache (1948) and Wagon Master (1950). He came upon a novel The Searchers (1954) by Alan Le May that he believed offered a powerful narrative, which needed to be brought to the big screen. Warner Brothers Studio approved the project, purchased the film rights and tasked Ford with bringing his vision to fruition. Frank Nugent was hired to write the screenplay and Ford assembled a stellar cast, which included; John Wayne as Ethan Edwards, Jeffrey Hunter as Martin Pawley, Vera Miles as Laurie Jorgensen, Ward Bond as Reverend Captain Samuel Clayton, Natalie Woods as Debbie Edwards and Henry Brandon as Scar. The story was set in Texas and inspired by a real life event, the 1836 kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker by Comanche Indians. She would spend twenty-four years of her life among them, bearing and raising three sons with her Comanche husband. Read more…


December 5, 2016 2 comments

treasureofthesierramadreMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Writer-Director John Huston saw an opportunity with the novel Treasure of Sierra Madre (1935) by B. Traven to bring a timeless tale to the big screen. He convinced Warner Brothers studio executives of his vision and purchased the film rights for $6,500 from the reclusive author. He himself wrote the screenplay and he secured a first class cast for the project, which included; Humphrey Bogart as Fred Dobbs, Walter Huston as Howard, Tim Holt as Bob Curtin, Bruce Bennett as James Cody, Barton MacLane as Pat McCormick, Alfonso Bedoya as Gold Hat, and Arturo Soto Rangel as El Presidente. The theme of the story is as old as time itself – a study in human greed explored through the lives of three gold prospectors. Read more…

CASABLANCA – Max Steiner

August 8, 2016 2 comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In January of 1942 story editor Irene Diamond became enamored with the unproduced stage play “Everybody Comes to Ricks” by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. She convinced Warner Brothers producer Hal B. Wallis to purchase the film rights, and brothers Julius and Philip Epstein were brought in to write the screenplay. Wallis was unable to secure William Wyler to direct, and so turned to his friend Michael Curtiz to manage the project. They brought in one of the most notable casts of the day with Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund, Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo, Claude Reins as Captain Louis Renault, Conrad Veidt as Major Henrich Strasser, Sydney Greenstreet as Signor Ferrari, Peter Lorre as Signor Ugarte and Dooley Wilson as Sam. Read more…


November 30, 2015 2 comments

gonewiththewind100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone With The Wind caught legendary producer David O. Selznick’s eye and he saw destiny in the making. At his bidding MGM purchased the film rights for an unprecedented $50,000. This was a passion project for Selznick and no expense would defer him from realizing his vision. Screenwriter Sidney Howard was hired to do the impossible – adapt the massive 1,037-page story to the big screen. Victor Fleming was tasked with directing and a cast that has become legend were hired including Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara, Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes, Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton, Thomas Mitchell as Gerald O’Hara, Barbara O’Neil as Ellen O’Hara and Hattie McDaniel as Mammy. No movie to this date provided such a grand and epic sweep, and in the end six hours of film were shot, which featured thousands of actors. Set in the Antebellum era of the American South circa 1860, it tells a story of Scarlet O’Hara, daughter of Gerald O’Hara a wealthy cotton plantation owner. We bear witness to her many loves, her willfulness, indomitable spirit, and lastly her capacity to persevere and achieve her goals, no matter the cost. Her story unfolds at the O’Hara family plantation estate Tara on the eve of the American Civil War. The war unleashes a brutal clash of cultures, which results in desolation and ruin for the South, the ending of a way of life, and the pillaging of Tara, all swept away in its unforgiving and destructive torrents. Selznick’s vision was achieved as the film was an astounding commercial success earning $32 million or thirteen times its production cost of $3.85 million. It also received universal praise from critics and was rewarded with an unprecedented thirteen Academy Award nominations, earning eight wins including; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Art Direction. The film has a significant legacy, ranked fourth by the American Film Institutes 100 Greatest Movies list. Read more…

KING KONG – Max Steiner

October 12, 2015 1 comment

kingkongsteiner100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director and screenwriter Merian Cooper awoke one night from a nightmare of a giant gorilla terrorizing New York City. The nightmare served as the catalyst for conceiving a film, which would pit the giant gorilla against a Komodo dragon and other beasts. He pitched his idea to R.K.O. executive David Selznick who saw opportunity to lift the struggling studio out of debt and tasked Cooper with both producing and directing the film. To save money he would use stop-motion animation, as well as the huge jungle stage that had been built for The Most Dangerous Ground (1932) rather than shooting on location. A screenplay was crafted by Cooper, James Creelman and Ruth Rose, which secured Selznick’s blessing. The cast would include Fay Wray as Ann Darrow, Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham, Bruce Cabot as John Driscoll, Frank Reicher as Captain Englehorn, and Noble Johnson as the native chief. The story offers a classic “Beauty and the Beast” tale, which takes place in 1932 and is set in New York City. Famed filmmaker Carl Denham has conceived his most audacious film yet, which will be shot on an isle of legend – the uncharted Skull Island where resides an enormous best of unfathomable power. He finds Ann Darrow, a young actress down on her luck and offers her a role of a lifetime, starring in his new film to be shot on an exotic South Seas island. She jumps at the opportunity and they set sail on the Venture for Skull Island. Read more…


May 25, 2015 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Legendary producer David O. Selznick wanted to make a film, which demonstrated his patriotic support for the war effort. However, he was adamant that he did not want to make a traditional war movie. As such he personally adapted the screenplay from the 1943 novel “Since You Went Away: Letters to a Soldier from His Wife” by Margaret Buell Wilder. Selznick hired veteran director John Cromwell with whom he had collaborated on nine prior films, and then assembled a quality cast including; Claudette Colbert (Mrs. Anne Hilton), Jennifer Jones (Jane Deborah Hilton), Joseph Cotton (Lieutenant Commander Tony Willett), Shirley Temple (Bridget ‘Brig’ Hilton), Monty Woolley (Colonel William G. Smollett) and Lionel Barrymore as Clergyman. The movie is set in a typical American town located near a military base, where people with loved ones serving in the armed forces struggle to cope with their absence. The main storyline concerns Anne, a housewife whose husband is fighting overseas. She struggles with his absence as she tries to meet the challenges of youthful romance from their two daughters who are growing into womanhood. The film overflows with sentimentality against the somber backdrop of families coping with grief, loneliness or fear for the future. I believe Selznick achieved his ambition, as the film was both a commercial and critical success, earning nine Academy Award nominations, winning one for Best Score. Read more…

MAX STEINER – Fathers of Film Music, Part 1

April 1, 2014 19 comments

Max SteinerArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 10 May 1888, Vienna, Austria.
Died: 28 December 1971

Maximilian Raoul Walter Steiner stands as one of the greatest film score composers of all time, and has earned the great honor of being referred to as “the father of film music”. He was born in the late 19th century in Vienna, capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Steiner was the only child of a wealthy Jewish theatrical family whose upbringing nurtured his nascent talent for music. It suffices to say that his innate musical gifts were nothing short of remarkable and he quickly gained renown as a child prodigy, conducting his first operetta at twelve years of age. As such, his parents wisely sent him to the venerable Imperial Academy of Music in Vienna where he was privately tutored by Robert Fuchs and Gustav Mahler with courses in composition, orchestral instruments, counterpoint and harmony. Most remarkable was his completion of a four-year course in only one year, an achievement for which he was awarded a gold medal by the academy. Read more…