13th Anniversary Special
Pictures of film composers in concerts or recording sessions
(from the top):
Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, Miklos Rozsa,
John Williams, and Max Steiner -
all of them represented below.
Film Music Review began as an online webzine with Volume 1, Number 1 on 8 July 1998.
In that first issue there were 6 scores and 4 compilations reviewed, with the highest ratings going to Max Steiner's KING KONG (Marco Polo re-recording) and John Williams CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Arista expanded CD). Unfortunately, due to a computer malfunction, all these early reviews were lost.
These are some of the comments received after the first few issues in 1998:
- "Clearly you have a long view of this art form - and that is good!" -- Bob Bowd
- "I was very impressed when viewing your site...I appreciate your taste in film music" -- Matthew Gear
- "Enjoyed your web site - nice job and very informative"--
Randall D. Larson, Editor, Soundtrack Magazine
- "I want to congratulate you on your new site - for me it's one of the best review sites on the net (or in print) simply because it gets to the 'meat' of the story without all the fluff and nasty personal grudge stuff that seems to be standard at some other sites" --
Mark Northam, Publisher, Film Music Magazine
- "Excellent site - straightforward, no nonsense and to the point. Every film music buff should visit it." -- David Wishart, the late prolific CD producer and writer
Now one of the longest-running e-zines of its kind, Film Music Review has grown to an impressive size
with over 1,000 Book, CD, and DVD reviews.
Volumes 1- 7 of Film Music Review are no longer available online but the CD reviews are included as files in a book on a multimedia DVD-R with music examples and a video program. It is titled,
A Guide to Film Music
If you enjoy music from older films, this DVD is highly recommended. It includes music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alfred Newman, David Raksin, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Franz Waxman.
Music for the Movies: The Hollywood Sound
A Special Limited Edition DVD
For the Herrmann Centennial (1911-2011)...
Film Music Master:
A Tribute To Bernard Herrmann
Film Music Review - 13th Anniversary
A Note of
Putting together an online e-zine is not such an easy task and usually goes unheralded. It takes lots of time to write or compile the information, and then publicize it online to film music fans and general readers.
Other film music sites also spend considerable time in their preparation and are deserving of support. I salute these sites, as well as restoration and preservation CD outlets like Film Score Monthly, Intrada, Monstrous Movie Music, Tadlow, and Tribute Film Classics, which have all received Sammy Awards over the years.
This online e-zine is part of a music preservation site so the composers and scores listed below focus on the past more than the present. How many film scores do you know? Are any of them also your favorites?
Some film music fans have very narrow interests and seem to think if a critic disagrees with their favorite soundtrack or composer that critic is treated as if he or she is an idiot. I strongly disagree with this view and also the nasty accusations that flame across cyberspace by anonymous fans who haven't learned how to behave online. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and should be treated with some respect -- including film music critics. Disagreement is fine, Personal attack or ridicule is not.
I'm especially pleased to express my respect and gratitude to my staff critics, Steve Kennedy and Steve Vertlieb, for their commendable writing and views about film music. Both of them have greatly helped to make FMR a more interesting and diverse online e-zine.
Each year, I try to select a theme which is appropriate to the anniversary.
I invite you to read the thirteen favorite film composers and scores listed below. Maybe you might have some of the same choices or have other favorites.
If you would like to send in your own list of favorite film composers, please write to:
My Thirteen Favorite Film Composers
With best film music wishes,
Roger L. Hall, Managing Editor
Film Composers Chosen By All Three FMR Critics:
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Film Score Chosen By Three FMR Critics:
SPARTACUS (1960) - Alex North
Film Scores Chosen By Two FMR Critics:
KING KONG (1933) - Max Steiner
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) - Elmer Bernstein
THE LION IN WINTER (1968) - John Barry
PLANET OF THE APES (1968) - Jerry Goldsmith
Steven A. Kennedy
Roger L. Hall
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Thirteen Favorite Film Composers and Scores
- Miklos Rozsa – LUST FOR LIFE - The passion, dignity, and exquisite suffering of Vincent Van Gough’s tormented genius is painfully expressed by Rozsa’s compassionate rendering of his tortured soul. The lush strokes painted in music convey a powerful tapestry equalled only by the signature brush strokes of the artist himself. Vincente Minnelli’s rhapsodic portrait of a dispairing heart is lavishly illustrated by Miklos Rozsa’s magnificent artistry.
- Bernard Herrmann – THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR - This beloved fantasy classic afforded Herrmann the opportunity to compose his most ethereal score. The love between a lonely widow and the ghost of a sea captain is deeply felt by the composer who created his most tender, and romantically exquisite work, hauntingly capturing the infinite expression of enduring affection transcending both time and eternity.
- Alfred Newman – THE RAZOR'S EDGE – This profoundly spiritual examination of a wandering soul finding meaning and redemption within the mountains of Himalaya offered the sublimely gifted composer a chance to create one of his most complex and remarkable achievements, capturing not only the beauty of mortal romance, but the miraculous ascension of the human spirit as expressed by his magnificent score.
- John Williams – E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL - The most gifted composer of the past fifty years created his most enduring love sonnet to the wonder and sweet innocence of childhood in Steven’s Spielberg’s unforgettable fantasy, a fragile exploration of friendship and discovery compressed into a sublime tapestry of loneliness and coming of age.
- Dimitri Tiomkin –LOST HORIZON – Frank Capra’s utopian fantasy about the Valley of the Blue Moon and its promise of eternal life gave Tiomkin the opportunity to compose his most ethereal score, a wondrous symphony of sound and substance, expressing in music the very summit of man’s aspirations to spiritual goodness, his ascension to the divinity of soul, and the sublime perfection of selfless devotion to the evolution of the human spirit.
- Elmer Bernstein – SOME CAME RUNNING – The controversial novel by James Jones inspired this volatile Vincente Minnelli drama about a soldier returning home, only to encounter bigotry and violence. Elmer Bernstein’s immaculate score sensitively captured the loneliness and sexual repression hidden away in a small Indiana town, alternately uncovering the steamy passion and unhappy desperation in the lives
of its world weary characters.
- Hugo Friedhofer – THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES - Friedhofer, among the most gifted, if underrated, Hollywood composers created his personal masterpiece with the exquisite score for William Wyler’s sober and complex tale of returning veterans finding disillusionment in post war America. The bittersweet homecoming of three scarred and wounded soldiers is hauntingly underscored by Friedhofer’s moving, passionate, and unforgettable Oscar winning music.
- Max Steiner – KING KONG – Perhaps the first important symphonic score of the sound era, Max Steiner’s ground breaking, wall to wall symphony of excitation roared across the screen with ferocious individuality, creating the exhilarating mold upon which all subsequent composers and scores would find their own dramatic inspiration.
- Franz Waxman – THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN - Following in the paw prints of KING KONG, Franz Waxman’s revolutionary score for the second in Universal’s historic FRANKENSTEIN films soared in meteoric splendor, a wondrous and spectacular Wagnerian suite emblazoned by near operatic, sublimely joyous hysteria. So successful was the score for this fantasic James Wale sequel that Universal used it once more as the background music for its popular FLASH GORDON'S TRIP TO MARS serial, creating new life for the score, as Henry Frankenstein had created new life for “the monster.”
- Jerry Goldsmith – THE WIND AND THE LION – Jerry Goldsmith’s fabled rise to prominence was highlighted by his heroic score for the handsome costume epic starring Sean Connery as a colorful Arab chieftan doing battle with encroaching civilization, fighting valiantly for a life style that would soon fade both from memory and existence. Steeped in symphonic grandeur, and romantic tradition, Goldsmith’s glorious rhapsody rejoiced in reverent recollection of a breathless world, and its courageous “lion,” that had gone with the “wind.”
- Erich Wolfgang Korngold – BETWEEN TWO WORLDS – Filmed originally as OUTWARD BOUND with Leslie Howard in the lead, this profoundly beautiful retelling of the classic tale of passengers on an ocean liner bound for eternity brought exhilarating new life to the haunting story of life after death. While better known for his swashbuckling themes for THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and THE SEA HAWK, Korngold’s exquisite score for this tender fantasy remains a remarkable highlight of this legendary composer’s compellingly classical film career.
Victor Young – SCARAMOUCHE – Young brilliantly captures the intricate romantic complexity of the wonderful Sabatini story of a daring cavalier posing as a clown in order to exact revenge upon the aristocrat who had killed his youthful friend in a duel. The composer’s thrilling main title theme resonates commandingly as echoes of champions fence their heroic swath through cherished celluloid corridors bloodied by the spectres of Fairbanks and Flynn. Romantic, exultant, and joyously exuberant, Victor Young’s splendid musical tableau remains a consummate tribute to chivalry and cinematic valor.
- Alex North – SPARTACUS – Celebrated composer Alex North reached the zenith of his career with his brilliant score for Stanley Kubrick’s historical extravaganza concerning the slave revolt that nearly consumed the arrogant empire that was Rome. North’s powerfully dissonant treatment of the irrational enslavement of an heroic people, yearning for the day in which their physical and spiritual imprisonment might be eradicated, tragically dramatizes the repressive dictatorship inspiring their rebellion. The immensity of his music is subtly, yet over poweringly, understated by the gentle simplicity of its love theme, an emotional counterpoint that rises to a passionate crescendo in dignity, and tribute to the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
-- Steve Vertlieb
13 For The 13th
For the 13 th Anniversary of FMR, we were given the near impossible task of limiting ourselves to 13 composers and one score! The only real way for me to go about such a task was to think about which scores I might listen to on a regular basis and the result is what you have below. This is no “best” ever list by any means and a lot of other choices had to go by the wayside.
- Alfred Newman—CAPTAIN FROM CASTILLE
My first exposure to this score came from the concert march on one of the early John Williams and the Boston Pops LPs. So its recent availability on CD has made this great Newman score available.
- Sergei Prokofiev—ALEXANDER NEVSKY
Probably one of the first film scores I may have owned music to in its cantata format. Prokofiev’s score is a masterpiece of music and is best appreciated, like all great film music, when it can be heard alongside this fascinating Russian classic. The “ Battle on the Ice” has to be one of the best cues in film music.
- Erich Wolfgang Korngold—THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD
Though I make my way through my Korngold collection about every two years, this particular score finds itself to my CD player more often than any of the other great works by this composer. You just cannot beat the swashbuckling sound of this score.
This may be a surprising selection, but I wanted to honor Hitchcock films in some way as they were always personal favorites. Though this one is less fascinating on film, there is no denying that creepy theremin in the score.
- Franz Waxman—SUNSET BOULEVARD
Waxman is another difficult composer to determine just one score, but here I was most interested in choosing something that is a bit beyond his more Romantic works like Rebecca, or The Silver Chalice. This score is again one of those classic pieces of music that helps make this film one of the most engrossing works of the period.
There is no denying the starkness and raw power North brought to this epic score. This was the film I most identified the composer with through the film’s many TV airings. The selection was a close call with WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLFF?, another personal favorite.
- Elmer Bernstein—TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
You do not need me, or this website, to tell you what a great score and film is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The opening credits and music are so good at establishing the innocence one needs to really appreciate what follows and Bernstein’s music is simply beautiful.
- Henry Mancini—THE PINK PANTHER
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S might be the score an older generation would prefer of the Mancini lounge-crossovers of the period. THE PINK PANTHER, and its many sequels, was a popular matinee and TV film throughout my youth making this theme one of the first ones I tried picking out at the piano.
Picking just one Herrmann score is probably impossible, but this science fiction score is so amazing in its orchestration and color that it is hard to resist. The runner-up Herrmann score for me was THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, another of those great Harryhausen effect films that were being shown often for kid matinees.
- Bronislau Kaper—MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY
I came to Kaper’s MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY more through its opening titles music and other excerpts on film music compilations over the years. Its recent full appearance on CD makes this score so much more accessible to enjoy in its entirety.
- John Barry—THE LION IN WINTER
For some it’s Bond, but for me, the Renaissance styles Barry adapted in THE LION IN WINTER make this film far better and manage somehow to stay out of the way of the many strong performances.
- Jerry Goldsmith—PLANET OF THE APES
The PLANET OF THE APES original and its subsequent sequels were common TV fare when I was a kid. I was even a fan of the TV series (and had a couple of action figures which I wish I still owned!). Goldsmith’s music was so very different from anything else I had heard in a film. “The Hunt” sequence is still one of my personal favorites. There are many great Goldsmith scores during the 1960s that we are all getting reacquainted with these days.
It perhaps is appropriate to end with the score that was my true entry into film music fandom, though of one particular composer, John Williams. I listened to this score so much, that I still have trouble with the more recent re-mastered and re-edited releases of the music that appeared on RCA/BMG a decade ago. But it feels like the right place to stop as we end up with another swashbuckling score in the shadow of Korngold.
Here’s to another great year of reacquainting ourselves with more great film music!
--Steven A. Kennedy
Lucky Thirteen Thirteen Favorite Film Composers and Scores