Category Archives: Music

Song of the Day #1927

Song of the Day: Lady Usher (“Suite”) [site link], composed by Michael Gordon Shapiro, is a lovely suite of selections from the soundtrack to this 2021 creepy thriller with a twist, based on Edgar Allan Poe‘s Gothic tale, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” My friend Mike outdoes himself here. He prepared this suite just for my Film Music February Festival and I’m honored to mark its official premiere today! The full soundtrack album is on the way! (Ed: It’s now out here!) In 2020, it won Best Original Score from the New York Cinematography Awards competition. Terrific!

Song of the Day #1926

Song of the Day: Far From Heaven (“Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, was the final film and the final Oscar-nominated soundtrack of Bernstein’s illustrious career. This 2002 film, written and directed by Todd Haynes, is an homage to the 1950s films of Douglas Sirk, exploring themes of race, class, and sexuality. With its sumptuous Oscar-nominated cinematography by Edward Lachman, the film starred the Oscar-nominated Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson, and Viola Davis. Bernstein’s lyrical score harks back to those 1950s melodramas in a particularly poignant way.

Song of the Day #1925

Song of the Day: The Great Escape (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, is a terrific complement to the suspense and thrills of this 1963 epic POW film, directed by John Sturges. The all-star cast includes Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough. It is said that Bernstein lived off the royalties to the film’s popular score for the rest of his life. Not too shabby considering that he composed the scores for 150+ other films and nearly 80 television productions throughout his career. I will feature another Bernstein gem tomorrow.

Song of the Day #1924

Song of the Day: Lawrence of Arabia (“Soundtrack Suite”), composed by Maurice Jarre, highlights key themes from the 1962 Oscar-winning Best Picture, directed by David Lean, and starring Peter O’Toole as T. E. Lawrence, and a grand supporting cast featuring Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, and Omar Sharif. The Oscar-winning score is as sprawling as the desert depicted in this monumental film—just magnificent.

Song of the Day #1923

Song of the Day: How the West Was Won (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, provides the musical backdrop for this 1962 all-star epic Western, narrated by Spencer Tracy, directed in five chapters, variously by Henry Hathaway, John Ford, and George Marshall. Now that we are at the sixtieth anniversary for 1962 films, it’s interesting to note that some critics consider this to be the greatest year at the movies. Tomorrow’s entry will provide some additional evidence to support that debatable contention. But there’s no denying that the year was a box office bonanza for the epic genre, and this score is as epic as it gets. And for an extra-special treat, check out a jazz version of the main theme played by Joe Pass on 12-string guitar [YouTube link].

Song of the Day #1922

Song of the Day: The Robe (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, derives from the 1954 Cinemascope epic adaptation of the 1942 Lloyd C. Douglas novel. It starred Richard Burton as Tribune Marcellus Gallio, Jean Simmons as Diana, Victor Mature as Demetrius, Michael Rennie as the very reverent Peter, and Jay Robinson as the crazed Caligula. This film was actually shot twice, once in widescreen, and the second time in a “flat” version, which, in my view, is actually the more superior-acted take. Be that as it may, the score is memorable throughout—with a love theme (at 7:34) for the ages. Tomorrow, the patriarch of the Newman Musical Dynasty gets one more entry.

Song of the Day #1921

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, derives from one of the greatest symphonic scores ever written for one of the greatest epics in cinema history: the 1959 version of “Ben-Hur“, directed by William Wyler, and starring Charlton Heston in the title role. The first “intimate epic” won a record 11 Oscars, equaled—by “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King“—but never surpassed, including this well-deserved statuette for Best Original Score, Rozsa’s third and final Oscar. It is the only Oscar ever won for any score written in the ancient and medieval epic genre. This concludes our three-day mini-tribute to the Maestro Miklos. It’s become a tradition of sorts for me to highlight a cue from this film every year on this date. So… uh… Happy Birthday to Me!

Song of the Day #1920

Song of the Day: King of Kings (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, graces this 1961 Biblical epic about the life of Jesus, played by Jeffrey Hunter. Rozsa received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Score, one of three lifetime Golden Globe nominations. Up against himself for 1961’s score to “El Cid” (featured yesterday), Rozsa lost to Dimitri Tiomkin (for “Guns of Navarone“).

Song of the Day #1919

Song of the Day: El Cid (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, provides a powerful backdrop for this 1961 epic, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Lauren. The soundtrack was among Rozsa’s 16 Oscar-nominated scores. Today, we begin a three-day mini-tribute to the great Hungarian-American composer.

Song of the Day #1918

Song of the Day: Two for the Road (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, is one of the highlights of this romantic 1967 film, starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. The central theme features the lyrics of Leslie Bricusse, who passed away in October 2021. “As long as love still wears a smile, I know that we’ll be two for the road. And that’s a long, long while.” Happy Valentine’s Day, with love…