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Editor's Choice

Best of the Month
for November 2011
 
 

SUMMER AND SMOKE (1961)

 

Music composed and conducted by Elmer Bernstein.

26 Tracks (Playing Time = 78:04)

Album produced by Bruce Kimmel and Neil S. Bulk. Mastered by James Nelson. Tape Transfers by John Davis. Additional Audio Restoration by Chris Malone. Art Direction and Package Design: Doug Haverty. Executive in Charge of Music for Paramount Pictures: Randy Spendlove. Soundtrack Album Coordinator: Kim Seiniger.

Orchestrations by Leo Shuken and Jack Hayes.
Music recorded on April 17, 19, 20, 21, 1961.

Limited Edition - 1,500 copies

Kritzerland CD KR 20020-2

Rating: ****

1. Prologue
2. Prelude
3. Glorious Hill Waltz
4. Rosa Enters
5. John Comes Home/ Changed Decision/ Hat Snatcher
6. Two Lonely Women
7. Alma's Dilemma
8. A Stranger in the House
9. John's Patent
10. The Cockfight
11. Summer Thoughts
12. The Greased Pig
13. Trouble With Papa/ Doctor's Dilemma/ Dr. John's Demise
14. Alma's Secret/ Dr. John's Triumph
15. Johnny Is Not Welcome
16. Alma's Stone Angel
17. The Tables Have Turned/ Finale

Bonus Tracks:

Band Music

18. The Phyllis Gavotte
19. To Be or Not
20. Alma's Flareup
21. Southern Comfort Waltz

The Album Versions (with Source Cues)

22. John Comes Home/ Changed Decision (previously unreleased edit)
23. Degeneration (The Greased Pig)
24. Moon-Lake Casino (Rosa's Dance)
25. The Father's Murder (Trouble With Papa/ Doctor's Dilemma/ Dr. John's Demise)
26. The Final Irony and Finale (The Tables Have Turned/ Finale)

Following the death of Elmer Bernstein, Film Score Monthly published a special memorial issue to him with a series of articles in their October, 2004 issue. I was pleased to write one of these articles and titled it, "Elmer's Magnificent 7: Essential Elmer Bernstein Scores From the 1960s." The seven scores I selected were: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962), THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT (1964), HAWAII (1966), TRUE GRIT (1969), and SUMMER AND SMOKE (1961). In my description of SUMMER AND SMOKE, I quoted what Elmer Bernstein himself wrote about his wonderful score:

"The music begins with a soft chord in woodwinds and strings. The glockenspiel sounds three notes as if to raise our awareness and attention a little notch. Harp plays a measured arpeggio. Soon the clarinets begin to play a running figure which keeps turning in on itself aimlessly, like someone's quietly disordered thoughts...The music is, in a way, letting the viewer have a hint of the unspoken dialogue...Very quietly the viewer is helped to understand what the lady is feeling...Here the music serves the purpose of deepening the experience by introducing another dimension."

Bernstein's comments illustrate how much thought went into his superb score for SUMMER AND SMOKE, one of his best scores among many great ones in his career. It was nominated for an Oscar as Best Score but that was the year of Henry Mancini's enormously popular Oscar-winning score for BREAKAST AT TIFFANY'S and the song "Moon River" also received an Oscar as Best Song that year.

The quiet opening in SUMMER AND SMOKE in the "Prologue" is similar to the subtle music in what many believe (including me) was his best score for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which is No. 4 on my list of 100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century, and SUMMER AND SMOKE is also listed there.

 

 

Now, for the first time, the complete score is available on a Kritzerland CD. Before that there was only the original RCA LP, which was reissued in 1980 by John Steven Lasher's admirable record label, Entr'acte Records, the album cover shown at left. But there were only 12 tracks on this LP with about 35 minutes of the score.

On this Kritzerland CD there are more than double the number of tracks (26) and well over an hour of this marvelous score.

Bruce Kimmel writes his booklet notes what is essential to a successful film score in those days in Hollywood, but sadly lacking in most of today's film scores -- a memorable theme:

"His main theme is one of the most haunting and beautiful - a swirling, sinuous delirious melody that recurs throughout the score. Right from the get-go, Bernstein establishes the mood of the film's "Prologue," which leads directly into the "Prelude," the film's main title music."

It is that main theme which comes back in various variations to accompany the various moods or thoughts of the spinster lady, Alma Winemiller, sensitively portrayed by Geraldine Page, and Oscar-nominated for this challenging role. The other main character was played by Laurence Harvey, displaying his uncanny ability to play a no-good character, and do it convincingly. The Bernstein score helps to make him that way with darker and more sinister music for "John Comes Home" (track 5) and less so for "John's Patent" (track 9), which includes the beautiful main theme.

There is also the delightful band cue with the sassy title of "Glorious Hill Waltz." Kimmel informs us that the other band music was placed later on the CD (tracks 18-21) to avoid too much of the same kind of music, but all of it is enjoyable. Also worth mentioning is the lovely guitar playing by famed guitarist, Laurindo Almeida, on "The Cockfight" (track10) and "Moon-Lake Casino" (track 24).

In addition, there five bonus tracks taken from the original LP edited cues which are useful to compare with the album CD cues.

The album is appropriately dedicated to Jack Hayes (1919-2011), one of the original orchestrators for SUMMER AND SMOKE.

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the year 2000, Elmer Bernstein kindly complimented me on my review of his Amber Music CD release of the music he composed for the films of Charles and Ray Eames. He wrote me an email of gratitude, something that seldom happens between film composers and critics. One of his sentences is relevant here:

"It was particularly pleasing to find that you had such a clear idea of what I was trying to do."

I also believe that Elmer had "a clear idea" of what he was trying to do when composing his SUMMER AND SMOKE score based on a typically offbeat play by Tennesse Williams.

As I wrote in my Film Score Monthly memorial tribute about SUMMER AND SMOKE:

"This is an excellent score and as good as any classical work of its era. It deserves to be better known and is highly recommended for those who enjoy a subtler type of score."

Kudos to the album producers, Bruce Kimmel and Neil S. Bulk, and all those involved in bringing this beautifully designed CD to those of us who treasure high quality soundtracks from the past. The art design by Doug Haverty also deserves praise for its clean and colorful CD booklet layout.

This SUMMER AND SMOKE soundtrack is a treasured reminder of Elmer Bernstein's long and brilliant film music career.

One of the best vintage film score releases of the year.

Don't pass this one up!

 

-- Roger Hall, 28 November 2011

Comments regarding this review can be sent to:

Film Music Review

 

 

Another recommended Kritzerland CD release
with two Elmer Bernstein film scores (1500 edition)...

FEAR STRIKES OUT (1957) and THE TIN STAR (1957)

 

 

 


 

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