Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Raksin/Friedhofer CD ST Double Bill

THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER (1956)

  • Imagen de THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER (1956)
"If you want to see Mamie tonight..."
           Jane Russell as the volatile Ms. Stover.

David Raksin HILDA CRANE / Hugo Friedhofer THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER

Orchestrations: CRANE, Edward Powell, STOVER: Earle Hagen – Intrada Special Collection Volume 31, TT: 72.22, 30 tracks (stereo)  Highest Rating

Producer: Nick Redman Performed: 20th Century-Fox Orchestra  Conductor: CRANE: Alfred Newman, STOVER: Lionel Newman


Here Intrada brings us a double-feature premiere of two lesser-known scores from the middle period (1956) 20th Century-Fox CinemaScope era.  

Hilda Crane is melodrama about a young divorced woman (Jean Simmons) whose return to her college hometown  sets local tongues wagging. The Revolt of Mamie Stover is about an even more liberated heroine who is kicked out of San Francisco on the eve of World War II and, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, makes her fortune in a Honolulu bordello (toned down to a “dance hall” for the film version of the original novel).

Both scores (like many of the era) might be described as populuxe, a term recently coined for the new brand of lush post-war style designed for the newly affluent, eagerly consumerist America of the 1950s. David Raksin is probably best known for his 1940s work at Fox, including his celebrated Laura. After a curiously perky (for a melodrama) Main Title his score for Hilda Crane is a kind of subtle rhapsody for strings and soloists (including reeds, violin/cello, and a silky alto sax). The style is hauntingly melodic, but in an elusive way, and there are no “big” (or obvious) tunes, but lots of beautifully crafted lines and modulations.

Many cues are concentrated and you wish some had more time to develop, but all in all Crane is a score that grows more appealing with each hearing. It’s also a prime example of that seamless fusion of concert and pop modes that only Hollywood and its composers could bring off so effortlessly.

http://www.soundtrackcollector.com/images/cd/large/Hilda_Crane_Intrada_31.jpg

In 2005 I saw a pristine CinemaScope print of The Revolt of Mamie Stover at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood where I enjoyed Hugo Friedhofer’s score in its original theatrical stereophonic mode  (and a personal appearance by star Jane Russell herself).

Friedhofer’s pop-oriented but varied Stover is a fine contrast to Raksin’s more refined Crane. It opens with a bluesy Main Title, the melody of which is developed throughout the film. There’s also a lilting, waltz-like love theme that is sometimes linked to a brief yearning motif in strings for when things get serious.

In keeping with the period and setting much of the score emphasizes an authentic ‘40s big band/jazz sound, and several dance hall numbers are included. “If You Wan’na See Mamie Tonight” (by Hollywood hit makers Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster) is a slyly humorous tune performed in a semi-camp tango mode by a male chorus. (“Fellows who try to resist ought to hire a psy-chi-a-trist.”) It’s also heard in a dynamically authentic period swing arrangement.

“Keep Your Eyes on the Hands” (by Mary Tobin and Tony Todaro) is performed (in mono) by Jane Russell, a talented and under-rated vocalist who also recorded both numbers on a Capitol single at the time of the film’s release. Another rather camp moment is a tiki lounge version of the old Fox number, “Sing Me A Song of the Islands”. (This score has everything!)

However, Friedhofer’s casually sexy orchestral cues are the main attraction, very coolly performed by the celebrated Fox strings backing up an assortment of slick jazz soloists, just as Raksin’s Hilda Crane soloists weave in and out of a more posh carpet of velvety strings and harp. Both scores represent that unique populuxe sound that nobody did better than Hollywood in the 1950s, and nobody in Hollywood did better than Fox (and MGM). Both are unusual and welcome re-issues, but to me any new Friedhofer release is always special.



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