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Korngold dies

December 1, 2007 |  8:00 am

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, 1897-1957

The suite from "Robin Hood" is playing at the Daily Mirror HQ as I post The Times obituary on Korngold, one of the great film composers of his generation. And he lived in the Valley!

 

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My goodness. Well, this is too good not to share.

Caine_mutiny_color A few months before Korngold's death, Times Hollywood writer Philip K. Scheuer responded to recent articles in Variety and the New York Times puzzling over the popularity of soundtrack albums (please trust me, this actually happened). According an article by Fred Hift in Variety, film producers and distributors were stunned that the soundtrack album for "Around the World in 80 Days" had sold nearly 1 million copies. (And yes, as soundtrack collectors know, that thing is in every Salvation Army record bin in America).

But why on earth are soundtrack albums popular, Hift asks. "Music in these pictures was penned to help to create and underscore a mood set by the film. Heard by itself, some of that music doesn't sound like much. Some trade people speculate that the glamour illustration and screen names appearing on the album fronts do the trick. Others point out that in today's crazy inflation, Americans are buy-happy."

Scheuer ticks off a list of current, popular soundtrack albums:

"The Man With the Golden Arm," "Saint Joan," "A Face in the Crowd," "The Pride and the Passion," "Picnic," "The Ten Commandments," "The Rainmaker," "The Sweet Smell of Success," "War and Peace," "Baby Doll," "An Affair to Remember," Band of Angels," "Trapeze," "Men in War" and the Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Eddy Duchin stories.

Golden_arm All of which were dismissed by legendary New York Times music critic Harold C. Schonberg.

"Take away the film and let the music stand on its own. Then what? The chances overwhelmingly are that the product suddenly becomes synthetic, a collection of musical banalities and inanities. What may work in a film does not necessarily work elsewhere," he wrote.

For example, Schonberg wrote, " 'Saint Joan' has a medieval setting. Thus (Mischa) Spoliansky has inserted into his score many sections of a quasi-modal character, even resorting to a basse dance at one point. The scoring, however, pays the usual debt to Rachmaninoff. One organ interlude could be by Franck. A big Hollywood musical sunburst ends the score.

" 'The Pride and the Passion' has a Spanish locale and (George) Antheil throws in the works--Albeniz-sounding Iberianisms, flamenco, nightclub-like heel and toe suggestions, and sections that nod fraternally to Ravel's 'Bolero.' What a hodgepodge!"

Scheuer concludes that although some composers (like Korngold) write good music, they are the exceptions that prove the rule. "These scores just do not stand up as hi-fi listening."

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