Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

CHRISTMAS in High Fidelity






CHRISTMAS should always be in High Fidelity.... (but on my copy Under Western Skies is not in Living Stereo.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

RIP Arnold Stang 1918-2009



Arnold Stang (1918-2009) -

Uniquely distinctive actor and voice of radio, screen, and television.

He early radio work included the wonderful Saturday morning children's show Let's Pretend. He said radio was his favorite medium because "listeners could contribute so much from their own imagination."

On TV he was the voice to Top Cat (according to the LA Times). But someone commented that he was actually the voice of Top Cat's sidekick.


One of his best-known film roles is opposite Frank Sinatra in Preminger's THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bronislau KAPER: GREEN MANSIONS

  

GREEN MANSIONS: Composers: Bronislau Kaper, Special Music Created by Heitor Villa-Lobos Orchestrations: Robert Franklyn, Sidney Cutner, Leo Arnaud– Film Score Monthly vol 8, no 3, TT: 79.53, 21 tracks (stereo)

Producer: Lukas Kendall Performed: MGM Studio Orchestra Conductor: Charles Wolcott


Verdict: Lush symphonic fantasy.

by Ross Care

Green Mansions is a 1959 MGM CinemaScope film based on the 1904 novel by British writer, W. H. Hudson. The classic fantasy concerns Rima (Audrey Hepburn), a mysterious “bird-girl” living in the unexplored depths of the Amazon forest (the “green mansions” of the title), and her ill-fated romance with Abel (Tony Perkins), a South American political refugee. These two leads are certainly photogenic, and the film has its moments, but some elusive literary properties just do not translate to a visual medium. Though director Mel Ferrer removed most of its overtly fantastic elements, Green Mansions remained one of them and was a commercial and artistic disappointment at the time of its release.

Today the film is best remembered for a lavish symphonic score with a controversial compositional  history. Brazilian classical composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, was originally signed to do the music but, due to a series of circumstances well documented in the liner notes, MGM’s Bronislau Kaper, himself a classically trained musician well-versed in concert techniques, was also brought in. Kaper both adapted and augmented the Villa-Lobos music and created a title song that is judiciously used in the underscoring.

Villa-Lobos rearranged his music as Forest of the Amazon; his last great concert work for orchestra with soprano and chorus, and recorded it for United Artists Records. (It was recently redone with Renee Fleming as soloist). 

This, however, is the first recording of the original film soundtrack. A 5.24 “Main Title/Chase/River Boat” sets the tone and modus operandi of the entire score. An exotically mysterious Villa-Lobos opening (including dramatic statements of his “Rima” motif) is intercut with a brief phrase of Kaper’s title song that will also serve as the film’s love theme. Kaper’s wild “Chase” seems influenced by the “Dance of the Earth” from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, as do other minor bits of his work.

The restrained title song is more in the mode of a folk song than Kaper’s other great pop standards (“Invitation,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Hi Lili, Hi Lo”). Tony Perkins, who had a moderately successful (but today mostly forgotten) secondary career as a singer and recording artist in the ‘50s, performs it in a substantial sequence in the film, but his version is not included here. Orchestrally the song’s refrain (“Tell me, Rima, where are the meadows of June?”) is heard at various points in the score, notably the opening, of “It’s Gold” and “Is It You?” 

Villa-Lobos created the ethereal Rima theme, magically orchestrated in “At the Pool/First Visit” (the latter, however, submerged under real birdcalls in the film). The 79.53 score is allowed much time to develop, and builds to a series of profoundly moving final cues in which poignant new Villa-Lobos themes underscore revelations of Rima’s past and her tragic demise.

Green Mansions is (aside from its tumultuous, somewhat schizoid “End Title”) no conventional Hollywood offering of the period. It’s a sumptuous, expansively symphonic score that captures the magic and menace of an otherworldly, ultimately lost Eden with a power and mystery sorely missing from the often unpleasantly literal film itself. 

The sound is remixed in stereo from original 3-track recordings and beautifully showcases the impressionistic, opulently Ravel-ian orchestrations. 

Charles Wolcott, a Disney studio veteran who became a part of the MGM musical staff, conducts, and also had the delicate executive job of liaison between. Villa-Lobos and Kaper while the score was being finalized.

Bill Whitaker and Jeff Bond’s notes discuss the film’s history and the score’s involved Kaper/Villa-Lobos issues, as well as providing a cue-by-cue description of the mostly seamless meshing of the two composers’ contributions. Kudos to FSM for making this magnificent score finally available in such a complete and definitive version.

Friday, December 18, 2009

RIP: Jennifer Jones 1919-2009

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

SNOW in Southern CALIFORNIA



After the Monday, December 7, 2009 winter storm that passed over southern California. A fresh mountain snowfall provides a background to persisting autumn color. This view from route 150 between Santa Paula and Ojai, Tuesday morning. Click on photo for big screen CinemaScope view.

Photo COPYRIGHT 2009 by Ross Care

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Leigh HARLINE: 7 FACES OF DR. LAO Revisited


Left Composer Leigh HARLINE

 Orchestrations: Leigh Harline, Gus Levene – Film Score Monthly vol. 9, #11, TT: 59.55, 33 tracks (stereo)  1-24 score, 25-33 bonus


Produced: Lukas Kendall, George Feltenstein
Performed: MGM Studio Orchestra, Conductor: Leigh Harline

Verdict: Phantasmagorial fantasy score! 

by Ross Care

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) is among the last of the famous late period George Pal sci fi/fantasy features which commenced in 1950 with the classic Destination Moon. Lao is based on the 1935 novel, “The Circus of Dr. Lao” by Charles G. Finney. As the CD notes explain “the film tells the story of a mysterious visitor from the Far East (Tony Randall) who arrives at an undernourished town in the Old West and sets up a magical circus of bizarre attractions.”

How the good doctor and his creatures influence the hearts and minds of the various citizens and how he eventually saves the town from itself is the core of the film’s offbeat plot line.

Leigh Harline had worked with Pal providing the background score for the spectacular Cinerama production, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, in 1962, though Bob (a.k.a Robert) Merrill, a Tin Pan Alley and later Broadway (Take Me Along, New Girl in Town) songwriter, provided the songs and main theme.

Fortunately Harline had Dr. Lao all to himself and the resulting score proved a climax to Harline’s long Hollywood career that commenced at the Disney Studio in the 1930s. (His amazing Pinocchio score  won two Oscars). Leaving Disney’s Harline moved through the various dream factories of the studio era (including RKO and Fox) as composer and music director to conclude with several scores for MGM in the early ‘60s.



Harline’s Dr. Lao score is a melodic amalgam of American western and far eastern (Asian) themes and sonics, plus various motifs and cues for the fantastic creatures in Lao’s show. The main theme (“Main Title”) is a warmly lively tune that represents the doctor himself, and is reprised in various guises throughout the score.

A gently archaic sequence depicts Merlin the Magician (“The Magic Act”), and an exotic theme in soprano sax vividly conjures up the grotesque snake-haired “Medusa”. The score’s best track is “Pan’s Dance,” a magical backup for the choreographed sequence in which Pan, the God of Joy (and Sex), vividly awakens the erotic fantasies of the town’s attractive but emotionally repressed schoolmarm (Barbara Eden).

This virtual suite of character motifs is intercut with Harline’s original dramatic underscore (“Dr. Lao-Hero,” “Death of the Press”) and an assortment of circus source music cues (“Hurry, Hurry, Hurry,” etc.) All display Harline’s prolific melodic gifts as well as his keen ear for the appropriately atmospheric orchestral sound. (The climactic Loch Ness Monster sequence is underscored with an amazing multi-track of studio-manipulated bagpipes and percussion).

In keeping with the magical, almost claustrophobic intimacy of Lau's circus environment Harline scores for a relatively small instrumental ensemble. Both the many solo lines and the briefer big moments are beautifully captured in Michael McDonald's stereo remix and Doug Schwartz's digital mastering.

The remix also spotlights the incredible Hollywood musicianship of the late studio era. There is especially effective writing for solo and dual harps ("Ah, Love") throughout the orchestration.

Due to its integration into theme park scores Harline’s melody for what has become the Disney anthem, “When You Wish Upon A Star” (from Pinocchio), is heard by millions of people on a daily basis, though most would be hard pressed to name the composer.

Pinocchio (1940) and Lau bookend Leigh Harline's prolific and previously rather unsung Hollywood career. But thanks to CD Harline’s excellent post-Disney work is finally getting a hearing, including releases of such Fox scores as House of Bamboo, The Enemy Below on Intrada,  Broken Lance from FSM.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao is given a premiere release and a definitive revival in this terrific FSM stereo restoration. 18-page booklet includes color photos from the film and notes by Jeff Bond, Lukas Kendall, and yours truly.

Nine bonus tracks are featured, including brilliant piano versions of “Pan’s Dance," the last one featuring a virtuoso performance from an uncredited voice apparently counting out the bars for the actors as they filmed the scene!

+++++++++++++

Many of Harline’s early (and uncredited) scores for Disney shorts may also be heard on the recent Disney Treasures Silly Symphonies DVD sets.










No credits other than Disney's are seen on these shorts. Harline's scores include Music Land, The Goddess of Spring, and The Old Mill, among many others.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

MGM Musical: ATHENA

Cover Image

MGM Musical Score:ATHENA: Songs: Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane, Underscoring: Georgie Stoll, Robert Van Epps, Andre Previn, Jacob Gade Arrangements/Orchestrations:  Georgie Stoll, Robert Van Epps Al Sendrey, Conrad Salinger, Wally Heglin
Rhino Handmade RHM 27768,  33 tracks (stereo) 
Producer: George Feltenstein, Performed: MGM Soloists, Studio Orchestra & Chorus, Conductor: Georgie Stoll

Verdict: Heavenly  

by Ross Care

    Athena, a 1954 musical about an eccentric  family of California health enthusiasts, is primarily distinguished by its score of songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. The song writing team first gained fame with their collegiate Broadway musical, Best Foot Forward. They were soon signed by MGM who produced the film version of Best Foot, and where they contributed several original songs to the eclectic score of one of the studio’s biggest hits of the mid-1940s, Meet Me In St. Louis. After St. Louis the team went their various ways but reunited to produce Athena, their most extensive score.

Hyped as “The musical with young ideas,” Athena showcases the talents of MGM’s young ‘50s stars, Jane Powell, crooner Vic Damone, Debbie Reynolds, and Edmund Purdom, the latter a new British leading man best (or worst known) for lip-synching the voice of Mario Lanza in MGM’s nonetheless touching CinemaScope remake of The Student Prince.   

Athena itself is a modestly entertaining affair with a witty, satiric screenplay shot in classic ‘50s Technicolor  with an appealing cast. The score itself was first released  in a truncated version on Mercury,  (Damone’s home label), the soon-out-of-print 10-inch LP becoming a sought after collector’s  item. The 2001 Rhino Handmade release is the first complete release of this appealing score and with 33 tracks (including songs, outtakes, demos, and underscoring) the CD is one of Rhino’s most elaborate productions.

Athena LP Front.jpg


The score opens with a lyrical main title for chorus and orchestra, the ethereal melody of which is beautifully developed in ensuing underscore cues. The songs range from energetic up-tempo numbers, the operetta-like  waltz, “Vocalize,” and the jazzy duet, “Imagine,” to one of the most under-rated  ballads in the vast MGM catalog, the haunting “Love Can Change the Stars,” sung by Powell. Damone performs another moody ballad, “Venezia,” and the film’s opening, “The Girl Next Door,” a slight variation on the durable standard from Meet Me In St. Louis.

Athena LP Back.jpg

Damone also handles an outtake, “Faster Than Sound,” an elaborate  up-tempo tune cut from the film but which ended up in Martin’s  High Spirits, the Broadway musical based on Noel Coward’s Blythe Spirit.

Other bonus tracks include seven demos sung by Blane with Martin at the piano, a virtual mini-album that demonstrates the team’s considerable performing talents. (Visually the team can also be seen performing a “soundie” on the recent 2-disc DVD of Meet Me In St. Louis).

Though Athena was not shot in CinemaScope the score was nonetheless recorded in authentic stereo, the sound brilliantly showcasing the jazz soloists in numbers like “Imagine” and the lush MGM orchestral sound in the rest of the songs and underscore.

Athena is one of Rhino Handmade’s finest releases and provides a welcome and complete restoration of one of the most appealing and under-rated  classic MGM musical scores.

Bravo!                   

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hugo FRIEDHOFER: BOY ON A DOLPHIN

BoyDolphin.gif
Intrada Special Collection, Volume 78, released 2008. TT: 54.18, 19 tracks (stereo) Producers: Nick Redman & Douglass Fake; Performed: 20th Century-Fox Studio Orchestra and Chorus, Conductor: Lionel Newman; Orchestrations: Edward Powell

Verdict: Mediterranean magic!

by Ross Care

BOY ON A DOLPHIN (1957) is one of those great 20th Century-Fox “dramalogues” of the 1950s, i.e., escapist narrative films emphasizing international locations lushly shot in Fox’s new wide screen/stereophonic sound process, CinemaScope. DOLPHIN showcases Greece and deals with the search for a priceless antiquity, the shipwrecked golden statue of the title that is accidentally discovered by Phaedra, a buxom Greek sponge diver (Sophia Loren), in the waters around the island of Hydra. A dedicated archeologist (Alan Ladd) and an illegal collector (Clifton Webb) both vie for the statue and who gets it provides the intrigue in director Jean Negulesco’s entertaining and strikingly photographed film.

Hugo Friedhofer’s score is a fusion of a title song, exotic folk influences, and the composer’s own brand of gorgeous orchestral impressionism. In his notes to the original (mono only) Decca LP Friedhofer comments: “Southern Europe, and particularly the Mediterranean area, is hardly an arctic wilderness. If I have been as successful with the delineation of the aural image, as (cinematographer Milton Krasner) has been with the visual, anyone so inclined can call it ‘’lush,’ if they want to. As a matter of fact I hope they will.”

And lush it is, in the best sense of the word. The film opens with a brief visual/musical tour of the Greek islands underscored solely with a droning folk-like cue that emphasizes a huge woodwind section. The ensuing credits feature an intimate title song (later also heard in a kicky “lounge” version: “The Café”). Though not mentioned in the liner notes, according to the film’s credits this is based on a Greek song, "Tinafto," with music by Takis Morakis and Greek words by J. Fermanoglou. (Roughly translated the title means “what is this they call love?”) Friedhofer is credited with adapting the music and Paul Francis Webster with providing new lyrics. (Strangely enough, the film version was also recorded by Tony Perkins on one of his RCA LPs during his brief 1950s stint as a pop vocalist).

Whatever its origins the melody is a haunting one and is freely developed in the underscoring. At the conclusion of the credits (track 1) Friedhofer’s brief vacillating “sea” motif is first heard as Loren rises from the watery depths to emerge (like an earthy Venus) with one of the most striking wet looks prior to Jacqueline Bisset in THE DEEP! For the mainland sequences there is a recurring theme in 7/8, a distinctive Greek/Bulgarian folk meter also used by Bartok (“Instructions”), and other ethnic-derived cues (“Street Music”). The “Acropolis” and Meteora monastery (“On The Road”) episodes feature two of the most epic cues, the latter with an orchestral build of almost Bond-ian brass.

But Friedhofer’s most charismatic cues are for the several underwater sequences, liquid symphonic impressionism embellished with rippling harps and woodwinds and a seductive siren-song vocalise. (“Phaedra Finds the Boy” with its beautiful coda-conclusion, the 6.20 “Nocturnal Sea”).  As rendered by the superb 20th Century-Fox orchestra under Lionel Newman (in beautifully spacious stereo) and overlaid with the ethereally pure soprano of Marni Nixon these are simply some of the most magical cues ever created for a mainstream Hollywood film of any era.

Booklet includes lively, informative notes by Julie Kirgo and (as noted) a reprint of Friedhofer’s original LP comments.

Elmer BERNSTEIN: SUMMER and SMOKE


Orchestrations: Leo Shuken, Jack Hayes – BMG reissue of RCA VICTOR LP, 12 tracks (stereo) Producer: Dick Peirce, Performed: Paramount Studio Orchestra , Conductor: Elmer Bernstein

 Verdict: Sensitive, sensual Bernstein

by Ross Care

As a film composer the prolific Elmer Bernstein went through more “periods” than Picasso. He may be best known for his jazz and western scores, so it’s sometimes overlooked that during the 1950s and ‘60s Bernstein scored some of the most prestigious  projects in Hollywood.

Among these were scores for a number of literary and Broadway adaptations, including the 1961 film of Tennessee Williams’ Broadway drama, SUMMER AND SMOKE. The American playwright’s works inspired a number of film scores during this era, notably Alex North’s landmark  A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE in 1951.

While in a different musical mode Bernstein’s SUMMER AND SMOKE emphatically ranks with North’s STREETCAR  as a definitive musical evocation of the unique Williams mythos. SUMMER is Williams’ only period play, set in a small delta town in (circa) WWI era Mississippi, and deals with the conflicted relationship between Alma, a repressed minister’s daughter, and Johnny, the bad boy next door. Thus Bernstein is dealing with both the period background and the sacred/profane conflict that is the core of script and screenplay.

The period (and emotional) setting precludes the use of jazz techniques, resulting in (aside from solo guitar interludes) a purely orchestral mode, primarily for strings, varied woodwinds, and harp. The period mode does not, however, limit Bernstein, and the modern sensibility of the play is suggested  in the score’s sometimes Bartokian embellishments (“Summer Thoughts”), and the quirky treatment of traditional waltz rhythms. (“Two Lonely Women,” “Alma’s Dilemma”)

The spiritual/sensual dichotomy is immediately announced (as in Bernstein’s DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS) in the Main Title’s severe chordal introduction to the swirlingly romantic main theme, the latter also providing material for much of the score.  On a broader scale the same idea is contrasted by the Alma/John orchestral cues vs. the subtly erotic guitar tracks for John’s dalliance with a seductive Latina (“Rosa,” “Rosa’s Dance”).

The 1999 BMG release is an exact  reissue of the original  RCA Victor LP. It features much, though not all of the music in the film, but is a beautifully recorded Living Stereo representation of the score as a whole. (One of the most attractive cues is a full version of the lilting, yet bittersweet “Glorious Hill Waltz” which is only heard as background source music in the film).

The subtle delicacy and detail of the orchestrations were made for CD, though my copy is plagued by an annoying hum on some of the quieter passages.

In the original LP notes Bernstein himself describes his score: “… we hear the music of loneliness, the sounds of our secret thoughts, whispers of our hidden desires and unspoken hopes, in a musical mystique suggesting at times foreverness and eternity.”

I personally consider this Bernstein’s masterpiece, and the film, directed by Peter Glenville who directed the London stage production, is certainly one of the composer's best.

Ross Care

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Elmer Bernstein: SOME CAME RUNNING


SOME CAME RUNNING: Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Film Score Monthly vol. 10, #1, TT: 78.48, (score: 52.40, bonus tracks: 26.01) 43 tracks; (stereo ,  some bonus tracks in mono)

Producer: Lukas Kendall Production Executive: George Feltenstein Performed: MGM Studio Orchestra Conductor: Elmer Bernstein, Orchestrations: Leo Shuken & Jack Hayes

Verdict: One of the Bernstein's Best

by Ross Care

Following on the epic heels of Raintree County is this definitive FSM score reconstruction from another MGM blockbuster based on another big American novel. Some Came Running was author James Jones’ follow-up to his best-selling first novel which was turned in one of the major films of the 1950s, From Here to Eternity.

MGM purchased the rights to Jones’ second novel before it was even published and, though I’ve never been able to wade through the massively intimidating tome, the general consensus seems to be that the film is a vast improvement. As opposed to Eternity (which features a minimal score by Columbia’s George Duning and a couple of Army songs) for Some Came Running MGM hired free-lancer Elmer Bernstein who created one of his seminal scores of the decade for director Vincente Minnelli’s 1958 film version.

The plot revolves around Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra), discharged G.I, aspiring writer, and “volatile non-conformist” (as the original Capitol LP liner notes describe him) who returns from W.W.II to shake-up everyone in his stogy mid-western hometown. Bernstein’s score is bookended by several tumultuous orchestral cues, the “Prelude” (Main Title), and three climactic tracks, “Pursuit, Parts 1 and 2, and “Denouement,” which make up the film’s finale, an almost psychedelic chase through a garishly-lit street carnival. The string-driven music is both ominous and dynamic and is accented by raucously trilling woodwinds, virtuoso brass passages, and Bernstein’s characteristic use of percussive Bartok-ian piano.

“Denouement” brings all the elements (including a nod to Stravinsky) to the boiling point in a furious toccata that climaxes one of the best fusions of music and visuals in ‘50s CinemaScope cinema. These three remarkable cues are edited into one track, “Pursuit,” on Bernstein’s Capitol rerecording of the score. There are cuts in the LP version but hearing all three fused as one relentless sequence is also amazing.


Original Capitol LP jacket (British pressing?)

In a contrasting nature are themes for the two polar-opposite women in Hirsh’s story. Gwen (Martha Hyer), the cool blond schoolteacher who at first expresses interest only in Hirsh’s literary talents, is represented by a lyrically intense melody suggestive of banked fires (“Gwen’s Theme/Metamorphosis”). The childlike Ginny (Shirley MacLaine), the dim but good-hearted floozy Dave unwittingly brings with him from Chicago, is portrayed by a naively wistful jazz theme (“Fifty Dollars”).

The Gwen/Ginny themes are a musical objective/correlative of the virgin/whore theme beloved of macho writers such as Jones (and so many others), but Bernstein (and Minnelli/MacLaine) do a spin on this cliché by transforming the character of the self-sacrificing Ginny and her jazz into some of the most poignant moments and music in the film (“Ginny,” “The Noblest Act’). It’s the “whore with heart of gold,” of course, but Bernstein’s music, including poignant orchestral transformations of Ginny’s jazz theme, makes it real and touching. Her theme also returns in an ominous guise in “Denouement,” and in an elegiac statement in the penultimate “Shock;” the two feminine themes fuse in the final “Catharsis.”

Some Came Running deals frankly with issues of sex, class, and morality in small town America, and is also a brilliant example of the “new Hollywood” score of the declining studio era. Along with the “big” tracks Bernstein’s innovative orchestral underscoring sometimes invokes an intimate “less is more” sound, as in the passage of intense chamber strings midway through “Dave’s Double Life” and the solo violin in one of Gwen’s variations. Dave’s own music is a wired theme no doubt inspired by Alex North’s jazz combo sound for Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Special note: the varied jazz sequences, many submerged as background source music in the film, are here revealed to be among Bernstein’s coolest!

With this wealth of melodic material one wonders why MGM felt the need to insert the Van Heusen/Cahn song, “To Love and Be Loved,” into the film, other than the fact that the writers were often associated with Sinatra. It’s used a bit in the underscore but does not really intrude. Fellow Rat Packer/Capitol-crooner-turned-dramatic star, Dean Martin, also co-stars.


Bonus cues include a deleted prologue with a lost orchestral cue, “Crocked,” and an assortment of source vocals, including one in which a blotto Ginny/MacLaine drunkenly sings along.

Eight cues of manic Bernstein carnival music, one based on the ironically patriotic “View from Parkman” cue, are also included, providing (if more is needed) additional proof of the composer’s incredible range and versatility in this, one of his most vivid and archetypal scores.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oliver Wallace, Sammy Fain: PETER PAN Soundtrack

 

 Disney's PETER PAN 
Also first seen at the Senate Theater, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1953.

Online Walt Disney Records Soundtrack Review LINK:




Wednesday, October 7, 2009

CINEMAS of the World



The Senate Theater, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA. 
Now demolished.
During the studio era the Senate showed the releases of Universal International, RKO, and other smaller studios. It was the smallest of the downtown theaters, located on Market Square in Pennsylvania's capitol city.
This is a photo of the mysterious ELECTRIC EYE which automatically opened the beautiful mirrored doors through which one passed into a small vestibule with posters of coming attractions and thence to a modest lobby at the rear of the theater.
Appropriately, due to the futuristic ELECTRIC EYE, this was where I first saw  
THIS ISLAND EARTH.
PHOTO COPYRIGHT 2009 by Ross CARE

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stein, Mancini, Salter et al:

This Island Earth
This Island Earth

Music from THIS ISLAND EARTH (and Other Alien Invasion Films): Composers: Herman Stein, Ron Goodwin, Henry Mancini, et al

Monstrous Movie Music  - MMM-1954, TT: 60.12, 47 tracks (stereo)    

Verdict: Out of This World!

Producer: David Schecter, Kathleen Mayne, - Performed: Radio Symphony Orchestra of Slovakia, - Score Reconstructions: Kathleen Mayne – Conductors: Masatoshi Mitsumoto, Kathleen Mayne

by Ross Care

This 2006 Monstrous Movie Music release is a continuation of David Schecter’s on-going exploration of the outer limits of classic (and not so classic) genre scoring. The key score in this excellent compilation of world premiere recordings is Universal International’s THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955), one of the studio’s more elaborate sci fi features.

As Schecter’s notes explain, UI was a low-budget film factory in the 1950s, its scores produced in an assembly line, sometimes cut-and-paste (cue recycling) process in which the collective composers often remained anonymous. Ironically, UI still managed to evolve one of the most unique sounds of the studio era. The all-original THIS ISLAND EARTH is primarily the work of Herman Stein, assisted by UI horror veteran, Hans Salter, and new kid on the block, Henry Mancini who commenced his celebrated career scoring programmers at UI.

The score itself is simply one of the very best of the period. It’s heard here complete with 27 cues that aurally outline the film’s screenplay about earth scientists abducted by aliens to help fight an interplanetary war. The music is characterized by a duality representing earth and its humans by a noble, warmly symmetrical tonal sound, and the aliens and their influences by brief but weirdly evocative, harmonically askew cues. Though little time is actually spent in outer space and much of the film looks like a Technicolor Douglas Sirk melodrama, Stein’s other worldly score definitely keeps the alien ambiance firmly in the foreground of any viewer’s consciousness.



This Island Earth (1955) Poster

An early electronic keyboard, the Novachord, plus harp, celeste, marimba, bass marimba, and vibraphone, add to the alien mood, but the skillful use of exotic motifs, mild dissonance (including tone clusters), and economic but evocative orchestral effects are the key elements in the score’s impact. Especially effective: “Robot Plane,” with its almost new age harp arpeggios under string harmonics and tremolo, and “Exeter’s Mansion,” a kind of extraterrestrial pastoral that drifts though a gorgeous series of shifting modulations and anticipates Herrmann’s ethereal FAHRENHEIT 451 sound. Printed musical examples are provided, including Stein’s chromatic “Metaluna” motif that is heard throughout the score, often on the Theremin-like Novachord.

The compilation includes eight cues from Ron Goodwin’s THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, and two brief main titles, Walter Greene’s manic genre-lite toccata for Roger Corman’s WAR OF THE SATELLITES and Daniele Amfitheatrof’s recycled 1942 cue for EARTH VS. THE FLYING
                                                         
SAUCERS, an early Ray Harryhausen production that is tracked with other previously existing cues ranging from George Duning to Miklos Rozsa. 

Attractive packaging and artwork (including an especially colorful CD label), embellish a 39-page booklet chock full of everything from author John Wyndham’s full name to photos of the composers (and Schecter’s adorable dog). I’ve always been intrigued by the lesser-known scores and composers of the UI music department and by other low budget, mostly tracked/library cue scores such as the early Harryhausens and other genre efforts from Columbia, and Schecter’s knowledge of the territory is enlightening, meticulous and encyclopedic.

Indeed together with the first two Monstrous Music releases Schecter’s notes provide an exhaustive, but often droll and never academic chronicle of this generally uncharted but vital macro-phase of classic era scoring. And his documentation is well backed up by the excellent performances of the scores themselves, all of which should be of interest to fans of both genre scoring and Golden Age orchestral film music in general.

CINEMAS of the World



Somewhere in Yorkshire, England.
One of a series. 
Photo: COPYRIGHT 2009 by Ross Care

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bronislau Kaper: LILI



Orchestrations: Robert Franklyn, Skip Martin – Film Score Monthly vol. 8, no. 15, TT: 72.21,  22 tracks (mono)

Producer: Lukas Kendall Performed: MGM Orchestra and Stars, Conductor: Hans Sommer

by Ross Care

Climaxing with its monumental 3-disc set of Mutiny on the Bounty, Film Score Monthly has single handedly brought about a revival of the film music of the talented, versatile (and until now relatively lesser known) Bronislau Kaper, a composer discovered in  the 1930s by the beloved (by some) father of MGM himself, Louis B. Mayer. On a European tour Mayer heard Kaper’s melodic songs and signed the composer on the spot. While amply fulfilling LB’s faith in his song (and hit) writing potential during the ‘30s and ‘40s, Kaper also developed into a composer of major symphonic scores as well.

One film, Green Dolphin Street (1947), covered both bases: its epic symphonic score also produced one of the great melodies and popular jazz standards of the era, “Green Dolphin Street,” a song covered by a variety of artists including Miles Davis and Nancy Wilson over the ‘40s and ‘50s.


 PHOTO: Leslie Caron appears at the American CINEMATHEQUE screening at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.

Kaper returned to his songwriter roots in 1953 when he chose to score an intimate “quasi musical” entitled Lili over the epic Plymouth Adventure. Lukas Kendall’s liner description of Lili is an apt one, for the film includes only one song, “Hi –Lili, Hi-Lo.” It’s an unforgettable one, however, and beautifully serves as the haunting theme for the film’s bittersweet romance, the story of an orphaned French waif’s discovery of Life and Love in a touring provincial carnival. Kaper’s theme song, a simple, haunting Continental waltz with lyrics by screenwriter, Helen Deutsch, became one of the most popular movie themes of the decade.

The film’s carnival setting provides a pleasant blur between source music and traditional underscoring. Kaper provides a colorful kaleidoscope of melodies, ranging from energetic and witty background music for the various acts to bittersweet waltzes. (The cue “Magic Act” includes both). Many of the actual film’s 12 tracks heard here are in this intimate  mode. Some are scored for solo accordion while even the ensemble pieces are intimate enough to forego the impression that the carnival is touring with the Paris Philharmonic.

Orchestral sound does come to the fore in the two dream ballets, the sophisticated “Adoration,” a glittering set piece with a new theme that was recycled in later MGM films, and a jazzy, big-band interlude (for the carnival sexpot,  Zsa-Zsa Gabor), and “Lili and the Puppets,” based on the film’s main theme. A more traditional underscoring mode is heard in the very dramatic “Ladderpole,” when the despairing Lili contemplates suicide near the opening of the film, and in “Curtain Down” and “Lili Leaves Paul” near the end when complications arise in the story’s central relationship. The latter cue leads into the second ballet that alternates both modes, but climaxes in a deliriously romantic orchestral epiphany.

The Lili’s lyrical Continental mode also reminds me of Nino Rota’s use of similar melodies in Fellini films such as La Strada. Indeed the “Magic Waltz” seems suggestive of Rota’s later “E Poi” in La Dolce Vita. Bonus material (tracks 13/22) includes alternate takes, piano rehearsal   cues, and an interrupted stereo cut of Caron and Mel Ferrer’s version of the title tune (which reached #30 on the Hit Parade in 1953).

The attractive booklet with color scenes from the beautifully designed film includes a photo of the original extended-play 45rpm soundtrack, which included the only four original tracks issued at the film’s original release.

- Ross Care

Friday, September 11, 2009

Alex North: THE LONG, HOT SUMMER; SANCTUARY




THE LONG, HOT SUMMER; SANCTUARY:  Composer: Alex NORTH

Orchestrations: Note: Not Credited, Edward Powell  ? – Varese Sarabande Limited Collectors’ Editions, 29 tracks (mostly stereo)

Producer: Nick Redman, Robert Townson, Performed: 20th Century-Fox Studio Orchestra , Jimmy Rodgers, Julie London, vocals Conductors: Lionel Newman, Alex North

by Ross Care

THE LONG, HOT SUMMER and SANCTUARY are two parts of a trilogy of 1950s 20th Century-Fox films (very loosely) based on the novels of William Faulkner. All three are scored by Alex North who, thanks to his groundbreaking score for the film of Tennessee Williams’ A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE in 1951, had developed a reputation for scoring properties that were both literary and erotic. Many also had southern backgrounds well suited to North’s innovative fusion of 20th century orchestral and classic jazz techniques. Collectively North’s southern scores (including these two and STREETCAR) also constitute some of the sexiest music ever composed in Hollywood, and strongly influenced other new ‘50s composers such as Elmer Bernstein and Kenyon Hopkins.

Like THE SOUND AND THE FURY (which completes the trio) the film of LONG, HOT SUMMER is actually more Tennessee Williams than Faulkner. (North’s score for SOUND is the only element that really evokes the Faulkner ambiance in that film). The sharply-scripted, highly entertaining SUMMER seems specifically influenced by Williams’ CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, and the Orson Welles character, gruff town boss Will Varner, is an overtly Big Daddy-like figure.

North’s music is essentially lyrical, and a title song provides the thematic basis for much of the score. As sung by Jimmy (“Kisses Sweeter Than Wine”) Rodgers it’s both lyrical and intense, and its melody is associated with the developing relationship between Ben Quick, a drifter bucking a reputation as a notorious barn burner (Paul Newman), Varner’s repressed but self-aware daughter, Clara (Joanne Woodward).

The long, expansive melody reappears in several beautifully rearranged cues, (“Easy Living” “Respect”) peaking in” Ashamed,” a transcendent 5.54 cue for massed strings with dreamy vibes and bells.


Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman as Clara and Ben

Jazz elements represent the film’s other earthier couple, Tony Franciosa and Lee Remick, who play “Jody” and “Eula,” Varner’s put-upon son and nubile daughter-in-law. Eula’s theme is actually a fusion of jazz and ‘50s rock that was turned into a song, “Hey, Eula,” which is not heard in the film or on the disc. North’s cues for the troubled Jody are among the more serious in the score, suggesting the heavier, more intense mode of STREETCAR.


SANCTUARY 

Remick stars as Temple Drake in Tony Richardson’s film of one of Faulkner’s more sordid novels. Befitting the story the sound is darker than the composer’s other two Faulkner scores. Nobody could musically move from the delicate, almost neurotically tender to the raunchy, sometimes ominous low-down like North. SANCTUARY, another tale of a southern lady’s fall from grace, provides ample opportunities for this defining North trait, notably in the extended “I Remember Sanctuary” and “Little Girl” cues.

The score is also built around a bluesy title song that is not heard in the film, though this disc features a mono version of it coolly sung by Julie London. (Rodger’s  SUMMER title track is also mono only). LONG, HOT SUMMER was released as a Roulette LP, but the score for SANCTUARY was never recorded, making this a rare and impressive North premiere. North of course had a remarkably wide range as a composer, but I consider these early southern scores, from STREETCAR to the now finally available SANCTUARY, to be among his most essential work.

I frequently hear that North is “difficult” for some listeners, but for an introduction to his unique work I suggest this disc, especially the lyrical LONG, HOT SUMMER, which is as easy to take as a southern breeze on a sultry day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

George Duning: BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE

 George Duning
BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE & 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS: Composer: George Duning

Film Score Monthly vol. 9, #1,  27 tracks (stereo) 

Producer: Lukas Kendall Performed: Columbia Orchestra, Jud Conlon Singers, Conductor: George Duning, Morris Stoloff, Orchestrations: Arthur Morton

by Ross Care

In 1958 Columbia filmed a unique Broadway comedy, Bell, Book and Candle, a romantic fantasy that explored the comedic (and amorous) possibilities of witchcraft in modern Manhattan, and what happens when a beautiful young practitioner, Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak) falls in love with a normal mortal (James Stewart).

The film also moved the setting to Greenwich Village and loosely linked witches (of both sexes) with beatniks, and so Jack Lemmon plays Gillian’s brother, Nicky, as a bongo-playing warlock. Thus much of the action revolves around a Village coffee house/jazz club, the Zodiac, and offers composer George Duning the chance to concoct one of his best jazz-inflected comedy/romance scores with atmospheric mystical/fantasy touches.

Many Hollywood studios had formed record subsidiaries in the ‘50s and Columbia Pictures released a soundtrack LP of the score on their ColPix label. The LP became a kind of cult hit on its own and was later reissued in stereo by Citadal. This recent FSM release is remixed from the original three-track album masters, and includes another Duning/Colpix release, the soundtrack from the animated feature, 1001 Arabian Nights.

Both scores retain their jazzy charm but Bell, Book and Candle is an especially welcome re-issue. Duning’s score is based on a memorable jazzy/magical theme (in AABA song form) that is first heard in the Main Title and developed throughout. (The visual credits are cleverly done with the pieces of primitive art in Gillian’s gallery representing each individual credit, including a tom tom for Duning’s as composer). The music continues unbroken into the opening scene, and conveys that Gillian is no ordinary lovesick mortal by its statement of the main theme in low, mysterious flute.

There are also several cues of Zodiac jazz combo source music by Duning, but these also include a track of Harold Arlen’s  “Stormy Weather” which back-ups a manically comic sequence in the coffee house. Duning’s main theme comes to the fore in “The Spell” in which Gilliam hums the seductive melody against a magical orchestral backdrop.

1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS (1959) is one of the few features produced by the innovative United Productions of America (UPA), the only animation studio to give Disney any competition during the 1950s. It stars one of UPA’s major characters of the period, the lovably bumbling Mr. Magoo, here playing the bumbling father of Aladdin in a plot that does a spin on that familiar tale.

Duning’s score includes both songs and an alternatingly lyrical and toon-ish background score. The vocals are by Jim Backus (as the voice of Magoo) and a girl group, the Clark Sisters, and are supervised by Jud Conlon who had also provided the vocal direction and arrangements for Disney’s Peter Pan.

The songs are OK but Duning’s background score (which of course integrates the song melodies) is a witty and dynamic aural knockout, especially where the percussion and mallet work is concerned. Thus both Michael McDonald and Doug Schwartz should be respectively cited for the brilliant score remix and digital mastering (for both scores). All in all, a double feature sonic spectacular, with a welcome return of Bell, Book and Candle, one of the versatile Duning’s best and most charismatic scores.

My only criticism might be that liner notes do not include enough photos of the very bewitching Ms. Novak!

Royal Wedding



ROYAL WEDDING

Royal Wedding
Composer/Songs: Burton Lane (music), Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics) Arrangements/Orchestrations: Conrad Salinger, Johnny Green, Al Sendry, Robert Franklyn, Skip Martin,

Rhino Handmade RHM2 7777, TT: 55.11, 22 tracks (mono and stereo)
Producer: George Feltenstein, Performed: MGM Soloists, Studio Orchestra & Chorus, Musical Director, Johnny Green
by Ross Care

As the liner notes comment, Royal Wedding is best-known as the film in which Fred Astaire dances on the ceiling, but it’s also the only MGM musical featuring Winston Churchill’s daughter, Sarah, as the second female lead. Aside from all that the film is one of those modestly excellent and entertaining productions that MGM did so well during the twilight of the Hollywood studio system when studios were still churning out an astonishing number of films per year of all genres.

A musical set against the 1947 marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Royal Wedding (1950) is distinguished by its score by Burton Lane. Lane was the composer for a number of songs for earlier MGM musicals, but had also just had a tremendous hit on Broadway with Finian’s Rainbow, written with Wizard of Oz lyricist, E. Y. “Yip” Harburg. Lyricist/screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner had just written Brigadoon with composer Fritz Loewe, with whom the writer would eventually produce Broadway’s My Fair Lady and MGM’s Gigi. Lerner would later reteam with Lane for the less-successful but still popular, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.

The score for Royal Wedding is more comparable to the latter than to any of the aforementioned mega hits, but (like the film itself) is charming and well-crafted with several fine numbers. “You’re All the World To Me” was obviously designed for the distinctive vocal talents of Fred Astaire, and is the score’s best tune, also heard instrumentally throughout. The haunting ballad, “Too Late Now,” is pristinely performed by Jane Powell, the youngest member of MGM’s stable of classy legit sopranos, in a dreamy Conrad Salinger arrangement, and even co-star Peter Lawford got a number, though it ended up cut and is heard here as a first-time stereo outtake.

Astaire and Powell team up for a raucous comedy duet, “How Could You Believe Me,” and for a torrid production number, “I Left My Hat in Haiti.” “Haiti” is vocal soloed by Astaire, but danced with Powell to Salinger’s throbbing orchestration which showcases the MGM symphony’s considerable battery of percussion. Too bad they did not have stereo components for this elaborate track, or for “Sunday Jumps,” an instrumental orchestrated by Skip Martin in MGM’s patented symphonic big band mode.

Of two operetta-ish choral ensembles “What A Lovely Day for A Wedding” credits Les Baxter as vocal soloist! The CD is rounded out by some of MGM’s always superb underscoring cues, one of which, “We Can’t Get Married,” opens with a passage which curiously suggestive of Nino Rota before segueing into an instrumental reprise of the “All the World” melody.

Producer George Feltenstein’s liner notes document the complicated production history of Royal Wedding which was originally conceived as a vehicle for MGM’s troubled and troublesome Judy Garland, and the CD concludes with a vintage radio interview with Astaire and Powell.

John Green, soon to take over as Musical Director for the legendary MGM music department, conducts, and in a few years would compose his only major film score for one of the last of the MGM historical blockbusters, Raintree County.
Ross Care

Kenyon Hopkins: BABY DOLL

 

Baby Doll soundtrack Kenyon Hopkins

BABY DOLL: Music: Kenyon Hopkins

DRG/Sony 19053, TT: ??.??, 12 tracks (mono) **** Quintessential
Producer: Dan O’Leary , Performed: Warner Bros. Studio Orchestra, Conductor: Ray Heindorf
by Ross Care
 
Baby Doll, an original screenplay based on two one-act plays by Tennessee Williams, gained considerable notoriety in 1956 when New York’s Cardinal Spellman vehemently condemned it from the pulpit. Though the good cardinal later admitted he had never actually seen the film the damage was done and Baby Doll received a limited release which pretty much launched it into obscurity for decades.  Today the relatively innocuous but still compelling film has been seen on TNT but it remains a modestly steamy property due to its central premise, a nubile child bride (Carroll Baker) withholding her favors from her klutzy older husband while being seduced by a lusty Sicilian on a poor white farm in the rural south.
 
Like A Streetcar Named Desire, Baby Doll inspired an alternatingly sexy/dramatic score by a composer new to Hollywood, Kenyon Hopkins. Hopkins was a product of the “new” Hollywood of the declining studio era, and like Alex North (who scored Streetcar) and Elmer Bernstein he fluidly fused elements of jazz and contemporary pop with orchestral scoring. In the summer, 1957 issue of the pioneering film music journal, Film and TV Music, Hopkins noted: “I’m inclined to select thematic material which I think will fit characters and situations, and develop it according to their needs. In Baby Doll you can find the main title in the end title; you can hear that theme in one type of development or another almost anywhere in the score. The Confession theme is derived from the first element of the Baby Doll theme, it in turn becomes Archie’s Break Up theme, and so on.”

All very good, but for some inexplicable reason the recent DRG reissue of the original Columbia soundtrack completely drops the main title from the CD!  Imagine my shock when, as a fan of the original LP, the CD commenced with “Baby Doll and the Empty House,” actually the brief second part of the LP’s original opening title track. Hopkins’s exciting (and structurally essential) main title is a clever fusion of rock-pop saxes and brass under a lyrical string countermelody, aptly suggesting the innocent/erotic nature of the title character,  and introducing a duality that will continue through the rest of the score.

Thus its absence here turns the score into a kind of variations without a theme. While this title theme survives in a few of the cues (the end of “The Fire and Baby Doll,” the beginning of “Baby Doll’s Fright,”) it is never heard in its original sax/brass/string instrumentation, and its omission seriously distracts from this reissue which is hyped as the score’s “first time on CD!” and which is otherwise authentic down to the Columbia LP number on the reproduction of the original cover art.

What remains, however, is a fresh, exciting, often sensual and humorous score for a unique black comedy/drama. Hopkins makes inventive use of the pop elements in the orchestration, many derived from jazz, blues, and period rock and roll. A lurid solo sax, and a subtle use of electric guitar and jazz drumming suggest the script’s more earthly elements, while velvety massed strings and a solo celesta   evoke the child-like, virginal title character. (Hopkins used a similar schitzophrenic approach to his later Lilith score, another film about a psychologically conflicted heroine).  Cues such as “The Cradle” and “The Confession” are warmly sensual, especially the latter’s languorous harmonica  solo, while “Lemonade” is a clever jazz variation on the main title theme.

The CD is a fine remastering of the excellent Columbia 360 mono sound with the solo elements, notably a crisp mandolin and the on-going sax, clarinet,  and harmonica, beautifully reproduced. The Warner Bros. strings are warmly luminous throughout under Ray Heindorf’s always-superb musical direction. Also included is a source music vocal, “Shame, Shame, Shame (On You, Miss Roxy”), an authentic and certainly energetic  rock’n’roll  track by Smiley Lewis.

This is an excellent score that I cite in my Library of Congress article on the key scores of the 1950s (Performing Arts: Motion Pictures, LOC, Washington, DC, 1998) and should appeal to anyone interested in the new Hollywood, North/Bernstein et al sound of that era. I just wish DRG would reissue the reissue and put back that great main title!  

Sunday, August 23, 2009

LOVELY TO LOOK AT























LOVELY TO LOOK AT – Detail of the original MGM Records 10-inch (mono) LP jacket. Most of the MGM musicals were first released as 10-inch LPs.

+++++++++++


MGM Musical Scores:

LOVELY TO LOOK AT: Songs: Jerome Kern (music); Otto Harbach, Dorothy Fields, (lyrics)
TEXAS CARNIVAL: Songs: Harry Warren (music), Dorothy Fields (lyrics)
Arrangements/Orchestrations: LOVELY: Leo Arnaud, Wally Heglin, Conrad Salinger TEXAS: David Rose

Rhino Handmade RHM 2 7842, TT: 68.08, 23 tracks (mono and stereo) **** Quintessential
Producer: George Feltenstein, Performed: MGM Soloists, Studio Orchestra & Chorus, Musical Directors/Conductors: Carmen Dragon, David Rose

by Ross Care

Lovely To Look At is the second screen version of Jerome Kern’s second most well-known work (after Show Boat), Roberta. The 1934 musical comedy was first filmed by RKO in 1935, and remade by MGM in 1952 when Metro dusted off what was considered a somewhat creaky screenplay even in 1935 and turned it into a still less than compelling but visually dazzling tale of Broadway show biz confronting Parisian haute couture. However, with Otto Harbach’s original lyrics also revamped by Dorothy Fields, the score remains a class act with some of Kern’s loveliest and most poignant melodies, including the classic “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” “Yesterdays,” (both beautifully sung by lyric soprano Kathryn Grayson), “I Won’t Dance,” and the title song (which was added to the RKO film version and earned an Academy Award nomination for “Best Song” in 1935).

While hardly as dramatic as Kern’s Show Boat (which MGM had also remade with Lovely stars Grayson and Howard Keel in 1951) Lovely To Look At is one of the most gorgeous Technicolor films ever photographed, and the arrangements (mostly by Leo Arnaud) and orchestral sound (supervised by Carmen Dragon who would soon compose the score for the ‘50s sci-fi classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) vividly reflect the film’s dazzling cinematography. The fusion of music and visuals peaks in the spectacularly populuxe fashion show finale, directed (uncredited) by Vincente Minnelli, and completely underscored with Arnaud’s lush and sometimes modernistic transcriptions of the Kern melodies. Particularly amazing is the arranger’s unique jazz take on “Yesterdays” (“Fashion Show Part II”).

I once saw an original IB Technicolor print of then-rarely seen Lovely To Look At at a Kern film retrospective in New York, and had truly never seen such color rendered on film before. The smolderingly saturated reds in the “Yesterdays” sequence, a torrid backdrop to an erotic Marge and Gower Champion dance duo, are perfectly matched by Arnaud’s primitive/moderne arrangement which is driven by aggressive piano vamps and throbbing tuned tom toms. Like many of the other numbers the purely orchestral and extended (three part) fashion show sequence is heard in vivid stereo. Listen also to the sleek arrangement of Ann Miller’s “I’ll Be Hard To Handle” which, with its swirling woodwinds runs and witty rim shots, seems to anticipate the sound of the innovative ‘50s big band, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra.

Lovely To Look At
is accompanied by five bonus tracks from Texas Carnival, an even more obscure MGM/Esther Williams musical from 1951. The score again features Fields lyrics, and music by the prolific Harry Warren, who for over three decades created some of the greatest and most popular songs ever composed in Hollywood.

Unfortunately the
Texas Carnival numbers are not among them, but do include another always welcome Ann Miller number, “It’s Dynamite,” in which the dynamic Ms. Miller is backed-up by a jazz combo with a terrific vibes soloist. Rhino Handmade again provides a superb restoration for lovers of the lesser known but still classic film musical, and for devotees of dazzling peak studio-era orchestral sound beautifully revived in stereo.

Ross Care

Saturday, July 4, 2009
























For July 4th, 2009

The footrace is about to begin in the wonderful 4th of July sequence in the MGM film version of Ross Lockridge, Jr.’s epic and complex American novel, RAINTREE COUNTY. Montgomery Clift as the barefoot John Shawnessy and Lee Marvin as Orville “Flash” Perkins. Rod Taylor is in the background.

Cover: Performing Arts – Motion Pictures, Iris Newsom, Editor, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 1998.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ross Care - Shakespeare Songs

Conductor Elizabeth Helms takes a bow after the Ventura Gold choral concert.


In March 2009, Ross Care had a new work premiered by the 80-voice Gold Coast Concert Chorus. The two performances, conducted by artistic director Elizabeth Helms, were part of Ventura County Gold, a concert of classical music by regional southern California composers.

RICH and STRANGE -
Songs from the Fantasy Plays of William Shakespeare

I. Fairy Song from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
II. A Very Scurvy Tune from THE TEMPEST
III. Medley: Full Fathom Five (Ariel's Song) and Caliban’s Song
From THE TEMPEST
IV. Spring Song from THE WINTER'S TALE

From the program notes:

The songs in Rich and Strange were first composed as part of complete incidental scores for various theatrical productions.

For this choral cycle I expanded these tunes into developed movements for large choir, adding piano accompaniments and repeating and developing section in ways that could not be utilized in the concentrated dramatic context of the plays themselves.

Writing in the Ventura STAR, Margaret Nesbitt, an actress and journalist, commented:

“The concert opened with Rich and Strange, songs from the fantasy plays of Shakespeare. I had studied Shakespeare so all the plays were familiar. The music was delightful and brought to life the scenes from the various plays.

“As I listened it was impossible not to see Queen Tatiana being lulled to sleep by her fairy troop and the drunken Caliban carousing. The bawdy song of Autolysis from The Winter's Tale closed the piece.

“It was a wonderful opening to a varied program.”

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About the Gold Coast Chorus:
The Gold Coast Concert Chorus, Elizabeth Helms, Artistic Director,
is a regional choir composed of singers of all levels and experience. GCCC traveled to New York in July 1991, to perform at Carnegie Hall (under the direction of John Rutter) and at Lincoln Center. Other tours were in 1995 to Great Britain and in 1998 to France, Italy and Croatia. The Chorus had successful tours of Central and Eastern Europe from June 28 - July 14, 2001, and the British Isles from June 25 - July 11, 2004.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Serenity

















After Sunset,
near Ventura County Line, between Ventura and Santa Barbara, California, USA. January, 2009.
Photo by/COPYRIGHT Ross Care, 2009.










Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

RIP Tom O'Horgan
























RIP director Tom O'Horgan

O'Horgan is best known as the director of HAIR and the original JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.


During my New York period my friend Michael Sakara took me to see HAIR right after it moved from Off Broadway to Broadway.
At the time the show was so new and unpublicized I did not even know there was a group nude scene at the end of the first act, a pleasant surprise.

Later, among other personal hits and flops of the era, O'Horgan directed this tripped-out extravaganza based on the songs of the Beatles. Though not a tremendous commercial success it was one of the most exciting things I've ever seen in live theater.

Cult figure Divine was just coming into popularity at the time and one of the things I most remember about this production is the swarms of Divine clones running wild throughout the production (and the auditorium!)

What Divine had to do with the Beatles no one ever really figured out, but it was a fabulous effect.


There was even a later film version, at least with the same title.

It's one of the worst film musicals ever made and O'Horgan's name flashes by in the credits, mercifully brief. (Happily, O'Horgan did
NOT direct the film version).

Unfortunately I never got to see the infamous DUDE.

BTW Ted Neeley is still trucking with JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, most recently in a "farewell" Los Angeles revival.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

For the New Year

















January 1, 2009: Into the FUTURE
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, California, ఉస