Category Archives: Film / Tv / Theater Review

Song of the Day #1917

Song of the Day: Somewhere in Time (“Super Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by John Barry, concludes our mini-Barry tribute, while kicking off a double-dose of romantic film scores en route to Valentine’s Day. This lush, achingly beautiful soundtrack suite for the 1980 film, starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer, remains one of Barry’s finest achievements.

Song of the Day #1916

Song of the Day: Goldfinger (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by John Barry, remains one of the most recognizable scores in the entire 007 film franchise. Still a sentimental favorite, this 1964 flick, starring Sean Connery as Bond, James Bond, introduced many of the elements that would become staples in the film series. Barry’s brass-heavy jazz-infused soundtrack remains a highlight of the spy-thriller genre. Shirley Bassey famously handles the vocals to the main theme. Today begins a two-day mini-tribute to Barry’s contributions.

Song of the Day #1915

Song of the Day: Laura (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], features the memorable music of David Raksin, who scored this 1944 film noir, directed by Otto Preminger, and starring Gene Tierney in the title role, along with Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, and Vincent Price. As Wikipedia tells us, Preminger wanted to use “Sophisticated Lady” by Duke Ellington for the main theme, but Raksin, who was hired to score the film, objected. Fox studio’s musical director, Golden Age film score composer, Alfred Newman, convinced the director to give the composer a weekend to write an original tune, though Preminger threatened Raksin with dismissal if he failed. The haunting theme composed by Raksin would become a jazz standard recorded by 400+ artists in the years thereafter (with lyrics later written by Johnny Mercer).

In the Facebook discussion that followed, I stated:

In the wake of the success of the film and its soundtrack, Johnny Mercer wrote lyrics to the main theme. And it was recorded (as mentioned above) over 400 times. Sinatra’s vocal version (1957, [YouTube link]) is one notable one, arranged by Gordon Jenkins. There have been so many jazz artists (from Erroll Garner, Woody Herman, and Stan Kenton to Nat King Cole, Eric Dolphy, and Bill Evans [YouTube links]) who have recorded “Laura”—a partial list is here. [Others mentioned on the thread include Charlie Parker and Joe Pass (YouTube links), who recorded an acoustic guitar solo version in tribute to Parker.]

Song of the Day #1913

Song of the Day: Jurassic Park (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by John Williams, continues our two-day celebration of the maestro’s 90th birthday. Williams remains the most-Oscar nominated film score composer in history. His 52 Oscar nominations in total, put him second only to Walt Disney (with 59 nominations) in the history of the Academy Awards. This ground-breaking 1993 Spielberg-directed film set off a dynamic dino franchise and the score’s themes have become iconic.

Postscript: In the Facebook discussion that followed, a commentator expressed their distaste with the film, “Jurassic Park”, and I added this comment:

The Film Music February Festival is not a festival of films, per se, but of film scores. That said, I did enjoy this film—and have enjoyed virtually all the films in this festival, even if not every one of them is in my All-Time Top Favorite Film List.Still, I very much enjoyed “Jurassic Park” and in the franchise that followed, I most enjoyed “Jurassic World”, and am looking forward to the finale in the second trilogy of films. “The Lost World: Jurassic Park II” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” were my least favorite of the other films, while “Jurassic Park III” was a fun popcorn film.That said, what I most enjoyed about the original “Jurassic Park”—which, when I saw it on its first day of release was an eye-popping event, to say the least—was its updating of the old “Frankenstein” film theme, how Man Playing God can lead to unintended consequences. When John Hammond remarks that “creation is an act of sheer will,” Ian Malcolm responds: “Life breaks free, it expands to new territories, and crashes through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh, well, there it is. … Life will find a way.” Can’t think of a nicer testament to spontaneous order in nature.

In any event, the score, with its iconic themes, is wonderful, and I’m happy to have featured it back-to-back in my celebration of John Williams’s 90th birthday! But there’s really nothing wrong with sitting in a theater with some popcorn to go on a rollercoaster ride of thrills and chills and enjoy a film for what it is. Yes, there are some good themes that I pointed out, but ultimately, these films were of the summer blockbuster variety, and I have enjoyed them (especially the two noted above).

Song of the Day #1912

Song of the Day: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by John Williams, provides just a hint of the triumphant Oscar-winning score to this Steven Spielberg-directed classic that celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. I had the privilege of seeing the finale of this film conducted by John Williams himself with the New York Philharmonic in 2007. (You can check out that finale at the Hollywood Bowl, with Williams conducting [YouTube link].) Ten years later, we saw the entire film, with the Philharmonic providing the score live at Lincoln Center. It was an exhilirating experience that left the audience in tears. Today, the great John Williams celebrates his 90th birthday. Long live the maestro! And we’ll have another Williams suite tomorrow!

Song of the Day #1911

Song of the Day: Taxi Driver (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Bernard Herrmann, concludes our 5-day mini tribute to this film score maestro. This was the composer’s final film score before his death on Christmas Eve in 1975. He didn’t live to see the film’s debut on February 8, 1976. Directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring an unhinged Robert DeNiro, along with a terrific supporting cast that included Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and Cybill Shepherd, this film sports another side to the Herrmann cinematic musical legacy. It’s jazz-inflected hue explores alienation, melancholy, psychological trauma, and suspense, earning Herrmann his fifth Oscar nomination for Best Original Score (he won only once, for the score to the 1941 film, “The Devil and Daniel Webster“).

Song of the Day #1910

Song of the Day: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], music by Bernard Herrmann, harks back to his early years as a film score composer. This suite, derived from the soundtrack to the enchanting 1947 fantasy film, starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison, features some of the most romantic of Herrmann’s themes.

Song of the Day #1909

Song of the Day: Marnie (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Bernard Herrmann, is the third of our 5-day mini-tribute to this cinematic score legend. This score for the 1964 film starring Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren, was the last of Herrmann’s seven collaborations with Hitchcock.

Song of the Day #1908

Song of the Day: Vertigo (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Bernard Herrmann, is the second suite in our 5-day mini-tribute to one of the finest composers to touch cinematic history. The soundtrack to this film is one of his crowning achievements—yet another of his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, who directed this 1958 psychological thriller, starring James Stewart and Kim Novack. The central theme—Scene d’Amour—remains the most haunting highlight of this selection.