Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Centennial Tributes: Bernard Herrmann Part II

By Edward Copeland
So I had to divide this tribute to Bernard Herrmann in two parts. If somehow you started here and want to backtrack, click here. We pick up still in 1956 and I wanted to use two clips from Hitchcock's 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much, but YouTube has removed both since I wrote this and I could find no good substitute.

The Wrong Man (1956) directed by Hitchcock; Piece: Prelude
A Hatful of Rain (1957) directed by Fred Zinnemann; Scene: Turning Johnny in

Have Gun — Will Travel was one of the most popular TV Westerns of its time starring Richard Boone as Paladin, a West Point grad turned gunfighter after the Civil War. It ran from 1957-1963. It managed to have two themes: the instrumental one that Herrmann wrote for its opening credits and a song "The Ballad of Paladin" that played over the closing credits. We, of course, are only interested in Herrmann's contribution.

1958 brings us back to Vertigo, whose opening credit sequence I used as the opening to Part I simply because I felt it was one of if not his greatest. Thankfully, it is not one of the movies. Unfortunately, another clip I planned to use from it from YouTube also disappeared that I wanted to include to show how his score worked within the context of the Hitchcock masterpiece, but most did not so I got to use one to top Part II and another for after this graf. There are so many choices because frankly I don't believe Vertigo would be as great as it is without Herrmann's contribution. I could have selected the opening rooftop chase, the first time Scottie sees Madeleine at Scotty's restaurant with those beautiful, vivid reds (which I took up top), the museum scene, or many others. I had settled on the scene where Scottie tails Madeleine and saves her after she jumps into the bay but that disappeared, so I went with the museum

The Naked and the Dead (1958) directed by Raoul Walsh
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) directed by Nathan Juran; Piece: Skeleton fight
North by Northwest (1959) directed by Hitchcock; Piece: Title sequence

On Oct. 2, 1959, one of the most iconic television series of all times premiered on CBS: Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. Bernard Herrmann wrote the show's theme, though not the famous one when you're familiar with and you could mimic right now. His intro music was only used for the first season, though he scored many individual episodes.

Here we have an interesting comparison of a Bernard Herrmann score that later is evoked in another composer's score either as homage or something else. You be the judge. First, listen to part of Herrmann's score for director Henry Levin's 1959 film Journey to the Center of the Earth. Then, listen to its echoes present in Danny Elfman's main title music for Tim Burton's 1989 Batman. Next in 1960, Herrmann and Hitch teamed again for the memorable Psycho. If I had my preference, I'd embed a clip of the Saul Bass title sequence with the score, but it's been disabled, so you'll have to click to hear it. However, I was able to embed the shower scene.

Mysterious Island (1961) directed by Cy Enfield; Pieces: 4 tracks
Tender Is the Night (1962) directed by Henry King; Pieces: 3 tracks

Here is one of the more interesting comparisons. First, we have Herrmann's original main theme for J. Lee Thompson's 1962 Cape Fear (but unfortunately not actual footage from the movie) and then we have Elmer Bernstein's adaptation of Herrmann's score for Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of the film — complete with Saul Bass title sequence.

Jason and the Argonauts (1963) directed by Don Chaffey; Piece: Prelude
Marnie (1964) directed by Hitchcock; Piece: Prelude
Fahrenheit 411 (1966) directed by Francois Truffaut; Piece: Prelude
The Virginian TV series Episode: "The Reckoning (9/13/67); Piece: Title credits

What's next is something special. First, we have sequences from Truffaut's 1968 film The Bride Wore Black without dialogue, only Herrmann's score. After that, we have Herrmann himself discussing his work on the score of the film against scenes from it.

Director Roy Boulting made a thriller in 1968 called Twisted Nerve for which Herrmann composed a frightening, whistle for the film's killer to use. It has taken on a popularity greater than the film itself. So here are three takes on it. First, we have the whistle as it is emanates from Hywel Bennett as the killer in the movie. Second, we have how Herrmann incorporated the whistle into the movie's score. Lastly, we have Quentin Tarantino's homage to it in a scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1.

In 1974, Herrmann scored the schlocky horror film It's Alive, but I could find no samples of his work from that film. On Dec. 24, 1975, Bernard Herrmann died of a heart attack at the age of 64, but he left two scores behind, both of which received his final two Oscar nominations in 1976: Brian De Palma's Obsession and one of his greatest, Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Both nominations lost to Jerry Goldsmith's score for The Omen.

First, from Obsession

Of course, it's nearly impossible to keep a clip from a Scorsese film up for long, but we've got the masterful Taxi Driver score, if not the images that go with them.

Ironic in a way, that Bernard Herrmann's film scoring career began with the ultimately lonely Charles Foster Kane and ended with the God's lonely man Travis Bickle. What range. What talent. Imagine if he had lived longer.

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A beautifully-written piece about a--and I know this word is bandied about too often, but on Bernie it fits--true genius in the world of film, TV, radio, etc. music. The clips you included both embedded and un- compliment the fine prose.
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