Best of the Month for February
KINGS ROW (1942)
CD One (Total Time = 74:56)
THE SEA WOLF (1941)
CD Two = KINGS ROW = 9:38 & THE SEA WOLF = 47:27
(Total Time =
Music for both films composed and conducted by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
Album Producer: Lukas Kendall. Production Executive for Turner Entertainment Co: George Feltenstein. Project Consultant: Brendan G. Carroll. Digital Assembly: Michael McDonald. Digital Masteirng: Doug Schwartz.
KINGS ROW recorded November 1941. Orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer, Ray Heindorf, Milan Roder, Bernard Kaun.
THE SEA WOLF recorded February - March 1941. Orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer, Ray Heindorf, Milan Roder, Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
CD Art Direction by Joe Sikoryak. Production Assistance by Jeff Eldridge.
Booklet notes by Brendan G. Carroll.
Film Score Monthly FSM Vol. 10, No. 15 (Limited Pressing of 3,000 Copies.
This soundtrack is yet another great example of having a quality team at Film Score Monthly working on a pair of soundtracks from the past.
In this case it is two highly prized scores by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who along with Max Steiner was the most prominent film composer working at Warner Bros. during the 1930s and 1940s. Unlike Steiner who was the workhorse of that film studio, Korngold composed only 18 film scores during his years at Warner Bros. But most of them remain beloved film scores for outstanding or at least entertaining films. KINGS ROW and THE SEA WOLF rank among his best scores. Strangely, neither of these excellent Korngold efforts were even nominated for an Oscar for Best Score.
Of these two scores, KINGS ROW is the more extensive and also one of the most beloved of all Korngold film scores. It is also a well made film filled with fine acting by Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan, Betty Field, Ann Sheridan, Claude Rains and all the others. It was also among the most popular films of that year. Tony Thomas in the revised 2nd edition of his excellent book, Music for the Movies, about the popularity of Korngold's KINGS ROW score, saying it was "the score that brought him his biggest response -- one fan wrote to say he had seen the film sixty times, mostly with his eyes closed." How many films got this kind of adulation? In fact this film score was so popular that the studio prepared a form letter to send out about inquiries (reproduced in the CD booklet).
KINGS ROW begins with the magnificent Main Title theme which also becomes the prevalent theme for the entire score. As Korngold biographer Brendan G. Carroll explains it in his excellent notes: "the celebrated main theme, which opens the film, is treated to a remarkable number of variations as this marvelous tune (which stands as the town), weaves in and out of the story, reappearing at key moments and , as in a Wagner opera, differently orchestrated and even altered in key, rhythm and character." As he goes on to explain that after the main theme, "the opening sequence (as Parris and Cassie play on the way home from school) presents a series of delightful variations on that theme." All this music and more is heard on the first long cue heard on Disc One (track 1, 10:19).
But even with that magnificent main theme there are many as a dozen themes in all employed by Korngold, such as one for Parris's grandmother (played by the wonderful Maria Ouspenskaya) and one for Cassie's mental breakdown. The soundtrack is divided into a series medleys containing numerous cues..
One of the most dramatic is the medley containing these cues: "Randy/ Accident/ Poco Adagio (Amputation)/Dr. Gordon and Louise/ Drake Awakens/ Vienna University" (Track 10, 6:09), which accompanies Drake McHugh (played by Ronald Reagan) after his unfortunate accident and his leg amputation by the brutally sadistic Dr. Gordon (played by Charles Coburn). You can follow this medley as if watching the film itself. That's how talented Korngold was in underscoring the films he worked on while at Warner Bros.
The KINGS ROW takes up just over 80 minutes spread over Disc One and the first track of DISC TWO. It is well worth the disc space devoted to it and remains one of the most important film scores of the 1940s.
On Disc Two THE SEA WOLF is a much starker film and so Korngold's score reflects that darker mood. The famous Jack London novel had been filmed before but this 1941 version is undoubetedly the best one. The film starred Edward G. Robinson in another of his great performances as Wolf Larsen. Also in the film are Ida Lupino, Barry Fitzgerald, and Gene Lockhart. The film's special effects, sound effects and cinematography all received Oscar nominations.
In his CD notes, Brendan G. Carroll writes that Korngold "conceived one of the most brutal and sinister musical canvases ever created for a motion picture, yet the score is among the least known of his major works." While it is true that this score is far removed from the lush romantic music employed of KINGS ROW, I would not go so far to agree that it is one of the "brutal and sinister musical cancases ever created." There are many film noir scores, such as Rozsa's THE KILLERS or BRUTE FORCE, that are just as "brutal."
Also, the Korngold score is not so little known. The complete SEA WOLF score was included on a 2005 Chandos CD with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Rumon Gamba. Unfortunately, this is an uninspired performance as interpreted by Gamba. But it is worth having for comparison with this original soundtrack. The CD notes are once again by Korngold biographer, Brendan G. Carroll.
The Film Music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold:
THE SEA WOLF and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD
There are also several previous CD releases with portions of KINGS ROW.
One that is recommended is a rare 1979 re-recording by
The National Philharmonic Orchestra,
conducted by Charles Gerhardt. It is available on two different Varese Sarabande releases, one a more expensive import:
KINGS ROW (Import)
There are also suites from KINGS ROW and THE SEA WOLF on the 2 CD anthology of original Warner Bros soundtracks, conducted by Korngold, and released by
Turner Classic Movies/Rhino Movie Music, with an extensive 44 page booklet. It was produced by Tony Thomas and Marilee Bradford.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Warner Bros. Years
But it is the two soundtracks from FSM that get the highest praise from me.
On Disc Two THE SEA WOLF score begins a vigorous Main Title (track 2, 1:56). This is followed by the longest and most impressionistic cues of this score and containing these titles: "The Fog/ Van Weyden-Ruth/ Shipwreck/ The Ghost" (track 3, 8:03).
As a relief from the dark and foreboding music of this score, there is a sweet and tender "Love Scene" (track9, 4:02). This theme returns near the end as well in this series of cues: "Assault/ Love Scene at the Door/ Larsen/ The Shot/ Van Weyden Dies" (track 15, 3:04).
This is a very fine score, not quite as memorable as KINGS ROW, but not far from behind either.
Once again, I send my bravos to Lukas Kendall and his team of technicians for their stellar work on this fine CD release. Praise also goes out to Brandan G. Carroll for
his excellent, detailed CD notes.
Once again Film Score Monthly has reached the top of vintage CD releases with this superb restoration release of KINGS ROW and THE SEA WOLF.
This is an essential addition for any classic film fan's soundtrack collection.
--RogerL. Hall, 29 February 2008
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