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Editor's Choice:

Best of the Month
May 2009

 

 

 

HOW TO STEAL A MILLION (1966) and
BACHELOR FLAT (1962)

Music Composed and Conducted by Johnny Williams

 

 

 

Disc One (Total Time = 28:01) -

HOW TO STEAL A MILLION - The Original Soundtrack Recording
12 tracks

Disc Two (Total Time = 55:45) -

HOW TO STEAL A MILLION - The Film Recordings - 14 tracks (Playing Time = 26:54)

BACHELOR FLAT - 14 tracks (Playing Time = 28:45)

Album Produced by Douglass Fake, Mike Matessino, Nick Redman. Ececutive Producer: Roger Feigelson. Score Restoration and Assembly for CD Two by Mike Matessino. Mastered by Daniel Hersch.35mm Assembly: Ron Fuglsby. Album Art Direction by Joe Sikoryak. Recorded at the Twentieth Century-Fox Studios, Los Angeles, California.

INTRADA Special Collection Volume 83 (Limited to 2,500 copies)

Rating: ****

 

Along with record labels like Film Score Monthly and Tribute Film Classics, INTRADA has been one of those companies that has produced high quality film score restorations.

Some listeners might not expect much from this Johnny Williams, except he is really the same"John" Williams who later had such his spectacular success with JAWS, STAR WARS, and many more. These two scores he composed for 1960s comedies were very important milestones for Williams. They are both premiere CD releases and that alone is something to celebrate. But there is much to enjoy on this 2 CD set.

HOW TO STEAL A MILLION (1966) was according to Williams: "my first really major picture." It starred the lovable Audrey Hepburn and a sly and cunning Peter O-Toole, with outstanding supporting cast including Hugh Griffith, Eli Wallach and Charles Boyer, in his last film role.

Mike Matessino also mentions in his wonderfully informative CD notes that BACHELOR FLAT (1962) is the earliest Williams film score to be released so far, though not all of it has survived intact. Of the two, HOW TO STEAL A MILLION is the better known and higher profile Twentieth Century-Fox release. It is a very funny and breezy caper comedy.

Disc One offers the original soundtrack recording of this score. It offers the delightfully exuberant "Main Title" (track 1, 1:51), what Williams called a "French boulevard piece"and a Gallic lightness of texture and a melody that appears more than once within the film, such as the very next track ("Two Lovers Theme" - 2:46), where the main theme is played at a much slower tempo as a love theme. This is one of those memorable Williams slow themes that stays with you. There are other fine themes, such as two marches (Fanfare and March To The Museum, 2:05), the type of music that Williams would later use in a comedy like 1941 and the INDIANA JONES series.

Then there is the Henry Mancini influence employed in a track like the one titled "Nicole" (track 5, 2:45), even including the same type of smooth and elegant wordless chorus. Overall, though quite short in its playing time, this score is a complete delight from beginning to end. There is also a lovely song on track 7 ("Two Lovers" - 2:53), with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.

On Disc Two is music from the original film cues. As Mike Matessino explains it:

"Over the years it has been discovered that there is no reliable means of determining which elements will be affected and how severely, but generally it has been found that 35mm magnetic recordings from the 1960s tend to suffer more degradation that elemts from other era. For this reason, it is only possible to present portions of these two early John Williams scores."

Though the cues from HOW TO STEAL A MILLION take up slightly less playing time than on Disc One, they are useful to compare with the original soundtrack re-recording.

 

To fill out this second CD are what remains of the score to BACHELOR FLAT. I was so pleased to read that Matessino had mentioned theunjustly neglected LP with Andre Previn playing themes of young Hollywood composers. One of these theme was "Tuesday's Theme," named after one of the film's stars, Tuesday Weld, and not her character named Libby. I happen to think that this Williams theme is the best track of the Andre Previn LP and I was fortunately able to play it on a radio birthday tribute to John Williams back in 1983. This theme is available on the CD which accompanies my film music guide and is titled: "John Williams on Radio"

BACHELOR FLAT is a might slighter film and the score. Matessino quotes the funny description that Williams gives this score as "lots of brass chords on cuts to brassieres - that sort of thing." The Main Title (track 16, 1:58) features another breezy theme that is totally appropriate to this rather obvious (and tame) sex comedy. It is full of rapid figures in brass, woodwinds and strings.The following track introduces the theme associated with the Tuesday Weld character ("Libby Comes Home"), which appears again when she is on screen, as in "Libby Da Lip/Bra and Panties" (track 21, 1:18) and "Poor Mike/Short Trip" (track 22, 2:49). This film comedy is not regarded by many as a major film, but it is still enjoyable in its own innocent way of presenting the delightfully giddy Terry- Thomas as the Professor and having a dachshund as one of the supporting players (I'm partial to that breed, having owned four different dachshunds over the past few decades). The last track is called "Trailer" (track 28, 2:47), and what's today called "ultra lounge music." Yes, it sounds that way but so what...it's a nice jazzy track and ends the CD leaving you with a happy feeling, if you're so inclined.

This 2 CD package features a well restored collection of early John Williams comedic music, along with a well illustrated CD booklet, attractively designed by the talented Joe Sikoryak.

This is recommended especially to those who want to hear how John Williams began his long and illustrious career.

It demonstrates Williams in a lighter vein, writing for two enjoyable film comedies.

To put it in the lingo of that era -- Man, dig that cool music!

I dig it...maybe you will too.

 

-- Roger Hall, 30 May 2009.

 

 

Comments regarding this review can be sent to:

Film Music Review

 

John Williams is the recipient of 12 Sammy Movie Music Awards.

 

Also recommended is this well produced DVD...

 

How to Steal a Million

HOW TO STEAL A MILLION

 


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