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 Posted:   May 27, 2013 - 4:10 PM   
 By:   Niall from Ireland   (Member)

Morricone, that's a great piece you wrote.

I started buying soundtrack LPs in 1964 and all through the 60s Elmer had the most LPs by far.

Elmer fans might find this story interesting. In 1969 I took a guided tour to "Homes of the stars in Beverly Hills and area." It was a fun tour and the guide was a nice fellow. I decided to ask him where Elmer Bernstein lived knowing he would give me a blank look. I said "where does Elmer Bernstein live?" He replied: "I don't know but I was just playing his Hawaii last night. Great score!"

I bought the Hi Fidelity magazine when it came out in the 70s, still have it. It was exciting to read at the time.


Thanks! Nice story.
I think I wrote it because there doesn't seem to be a lack of demand for Goldsmith, Williams or Morricone scores but Elmer has more unreleased material than any of them. And his scores, many of which are quite old, are in most danger of being lost as the disintegration of the original tracks to HALLELUJAH TRAIL has shown.


Well done Henry. It's true there is still a lot of great unreleased Elmer music, especially all the wonderful documentaries and tv series, fingers crossed that at least some of it will see the light of day. I get the feeling that there is a bit of a resurgence of interest in his music at this present time, hopefully when the complete sessions for The Ten Commandments comes out (sometime soon?) some more collectors will sit up and take notice.

 
 Posted:   May 27, 2013 - 4:42 PM   
 By:   George Komar   (Member)

"We live in times in which the soul must learn to live with the senseless killing of millions throughout the world; with the necessity of the double lock; with the knowledge of where not to walk after dark. We have learned to accept the philosophy that no person in public life can ever tell the whole truth, and that the future might hold annihilation either through man's brutishness or through his ecological selfishness. In such a world, art tends to become sensation, without form, without art and without humanity. In this atmosphere the quality of film scores is being strangled by the search for effect, for 'new sounds' without content and form on the part of the artist, and by avarice on the part of the producer. Today the once proud art of film scoring has turned into a sound, a sensation, or hopefully a hit. How ironic that in an era in which music enjoys its greatest popularity as an art, film producers are demonstrating the greatest ignorance of the use of music in films since the beginning of that medium's history"

What a profound insight from Mr. Bernstein, made almost four decades ago. I hope for civilization's sake that the pendulum swings back to musical sanity.

Thanks, James.

 
 Posted:   May 27, 2013 - 5:13 PM   
 By:   Tom Servo   (Member)

This was such a great remembrance by Richard Kraft, really enjoyed all the personal memories and it made me revisit several of Bernstein's scores today (COMANCHEROS, JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN) and re-reading parts of his Film Music Notebook.

 
 
 Posted:   May 27, 2013 - 7:54 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

What a profound insight from Mr. Bernstein, made almost four decades ago. I hope for civilization's sake that the pendulum swings back to musical sanity.

Yes, 1972 was a time when many of us, like Elmer, thought that film music was in terminal decline. Yet, some people today are calling the 1970s a "Silver Age." Two major young talents were in the ascendant then, and Bernstein himself would get some good opportunities as well. How will the dismal 2010s look to our successors forty years hence?

 
 
 Posted:   May 28, 2013 - 10:55 AM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Morricone, that's a great piece you wrote.

I started buying soundtrack LPs in 1964 and all through the 60s Elmer had the most LPs by far.

Elmer fans might find this story interesting. In 1969 I took a guided tour to "Homes of the stars in Beverly Hills and area." It was a fun tour and the guide was a nice fellow. I decided to ask him where Elmer Bernstein lived knowing he would give me a blank look. I said "where does Elmer Bernstein live?" He replied: "I don't know but I was just playing his Hawaii last night. Great score!"

I bought the Hi Fidelity magazine when it came out in the 70s, still have it. It was exciting to read at the time.


Thanks! Nice story.
I think I wrote it because there doesn't seem to be a lack of demand for Goldsmith, Williams or Morricone scores but Elmer has more unreleased material than any of them. And his scores, many of which are quite old, are in most danger of being lost as the disintegration of the original tracks to HALLELUJAH TRAIL has shown.


Well done Henry. It's true there is still a lot of great unreleased Elmer music, especially all the wonderful documentaries and tv series, fingers crossed that at least some of it will see the light of day. I get the feeling that there is a bit of a resurgence of interest in his music at this present time, hopefully when the complete sessions for The Ten Commandments comes out (sometime soon?) some more collectors will sit up and take notice.


Let's hope. Although documentaries and television Elmer has in common with the above composers not having that much out. Probably because that material has traditionally been lost or hard to find (even though Elmer is a particular loser there since he seems to have done more of those than the others). But it is his features that separate him into the most unreleased of those silver age kings. Starting with those original tracks to THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE BUCCANNEER, KINGS OF THE SUN and THE MIRACLE, which sound extraordinary. To the long list of features including THE INCREDIBLE SARAH, I LOVE YOU ALICE B TOKLAS, SEE NO EVIL, THE CHOSEN, FIVES DAYS ONE SUMMER, BLOODBROTHERS, DOCTOR'S WIVES, THE AMAZING MR. BLUNDEN and many others, Elmer has more major scores that have been untouched than Williams, Goldsmith or Morricone. Add to that, the work he did on MR. QUILP, the major mini-series THE CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS, THE CHISOLMS and SEVENTH AVENUE and his last score to the TCM doc CECIL B. DEMILLE: AMERICAN EPIC plus his Hollywood Bowl fanfare it all adds up to bordeline neglect. But, as you say, things are beginning to look up.

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2013 - 8:56 AM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Thank you for such a heartfelt tribute and insight into my first film music god. Before Williams, Goldsmith or Morricone I had more soundtrack LPs from Elmer Bernstein than any other composer (and indeed he had more releases than any other!). And each new release was such a revelation. He was the first composer from whom I could never know what to expect, his scores had such variety and range that I hardly could believe it was all from the same guy. And THAT was what made it so exciting.

Would his war score be a gritty grinding one for a modestly budgeted tale of Korea, MEN IN WAR or a glorious heroic one for a prisoner-in-war opus, THE GREAT ESCAPE? Would his western be comedic with Cinerama sound and 4 songs thrown in, THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL or a TexMex rendition for a Kurosawa story, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN? Might it be 6 minutes of guitar strummings reflecting the desolate landscape and souls of HUD or hours of Wagnerian bliss for a bible tale everybody and their mother would see, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Elmer would take us places we’ve never been; to the Malaysian jungles with a Belafonte-like theme, RAMPAGE; the hardly covered Allied defensive in the south of France, KINGS GO FORTH or the war in Israel, CAST A GIANT SHADOW (what I thought was traditional Hebraic songs was Elmer). And During every epoch imaginable; biblical times, 8th century Mayan empire, KINGS OF THE SUN; 1720s London, WHERE’S JACK,; the Napoleonic era, THE MIRACLE; colonial HAWAII or the War of 1812, THE BUCCANEER (with what seems to be a dozen themes including a swashbuckling one!).

I can’t begin to describe to new collectors what an experience it was anticipating what the next Elmer would be like. It was glorious and since the heyday of the above mentioned composers I’ve never felt anything quite like it since. The musical journey he took us on was groundbreaking and breathtaking.

And that journey wasn’t just outward but inward. To properly plumb the depths of such writers as Tennessee Williams (SUMMER AND SMOKE), Eugene O’Neil (DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS), James Jones (SOME CAME RUNNING), Clifford Odets (SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS), Harper Lee (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD) and James Michener, Elmer could not turn to traditional Golden Age scoring techniques which started sounding cliché but went in the direction of modern writing that Herrmann, North and Rosenman practised (and Elmer’s approach was distinctive enough to become his recognizable personal voice). The intimacy needed to tell the true stories of people like Robert Stroud (THE BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ) and Christy Brown (MY LEFT FOOT) benefitted greatly from that delicate quality. While at the same time Elmer was old enough to have one foot in that Golden Age, like Andre Previn, and could utilize that lush facility so often (BY LOVE POSSESED, THE VIEW FROM POMPEY’S HEAD, FROM THE TERRACE) he was picked, as the last remaining practitioner of that style, to recreate it for a modern day Douglas Sirk film FAR FROM HEAVEN. Speaking of which he was a friend of Bernard Herrmann and was chosen to adapt his music for the CAPE FEAR remake; of Dorothy Dandridge and was chosen to score the TV movie about her life and of Cecil B. DeMille and was chosen to score the TCM documentary about him.

But that was Elmer, he was so many different composers to so many people he would get underrated because people would only like the Elmer they wanted and rejected the other Elmers. I LIVED for all those Elmers. I would get giddy over some of his outrageous wonderful choices. He would score a film based on a steamy 1933 novel GOD’S LITTLE ACRE with…folksy Baptist style spirituals! His James Bond score THE SILENCERS was purely Vegas (appropriately for Dean Martin). The almost absurd tale of the last bridge on the Rhine THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN, taken and defended by Americans from attacking Germans is scored with a march married with a Viennese waltz!

As you can see Elmer was propelled by challenges. The more difficult the better. If Pakula-Mulligan wanted their protagonist to play and sing Rock-a-billy on the guitar he would write the songs and one would hit the charts in BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL. If Saul Bass needed a powerful piece of music to be cut with a cat prowling, fighting, and then prowling again AND would fit the theme of the movie WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, Elmer would oblige, hit the charts again, and create for me Bass’s most memorable title sequence (yeah, more than PSYCHO, VERTIGO or IT’S A MAD, MAD WORLD). When Otto Preminger needed music for his film about a jazz drummer who became a drug addict, Elmer saw the opportunity to truly integrate jazz flow to express the uncontrolled blood fever of addiction. The jazz riff increased in intensity until he got his fix. It became more influential in so many ways that went beyond Alex North’s integration of jazz elements in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Oh yeah, also while hitting the jazz charts and being synced to a Saul Bass title sequence.

And when it came to innovation how about electronics in 1952 with CAT WOMEN ON THE MOON and ROBOT MONSTER, now guilty cult classics. Having been blacklisted he made do with the sound you could get when you used a Novachord, a Hammond B3 organ, some electrified instruments and an extremely small orchestra. The good people at Capitol records, where he recorded these, took note. He used electronics judiciously throughout his career including the representation of the insane mind in his astounding driving main theme to THE CARETAKERS! BTW even though I love Frank Zappa’s 100 MOTELS and Stu Phillip’s BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS the psychedelic score I think of when that genre is mentioned is Elmer’s I LOVE YOU ALICE B TOKLAS.

You notice I haven’t even mentioned his associations with John Wayne, John Landis, Ivan Reitman and Martin Scorsese, or his long associations with jazz, western and comedy scores. That is because that is all he is known for and totally evaluated by on here and I say that is only the tip of the iceberg.

That is because there wasn’t just a number of Elmers but each Elmer had a number of careers. For instance while all that I have listed above was going on he was all over the television. I didn’t know at the time but the themes to RIVERBOAT, JOHNNY STACCATO, OWEN MARSHAL, JULIA, SAINTS AND SINNERS, ELLERY QUEEN, HOLLYWOOD AND THE STARS, GE THEATER, ABC STAGE 67 and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (which is used to this day) and many more were all his. And his theme to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was the theme to the series and, to his dismay, represented Marlboro cigarettes in their Marlboro country ads for years.
He began his association with documentary producer David Wolper in 1959 with THE RACE FOR SPACE and proceeded to do dozens of projects for him, some legendary like THE MAKING OF THE PRESIDENT.

In 1953 he began his association with Charles Eames with the short film A COMMUNICATIONS PRIMER and proceeded to do over 150 experimental shorts, commercials, industrial films and exhibits with this design genius over the next 25 years. This include POWERS OF TEN which starts with a wide shot of the entire known universe and zooms in into the sub-atomic particles in a man’s hand.

He worked on a number of scores for stageplays including LAURETTE that was released on Kritzerland.

And speaking of the stage, musical theater was a chunk of his resume. He was rehearsal pianist and musical assistant on Danny Kaye’s gem THE COURT JESTER. He did the dance music for the film version of OKLAHOMA which led him to doing the dance music to THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. He did the background scores to the stage version of PETER PAN and the film version of THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE plus the supervision and background to Anthony Newley’s MR. QUILP. Plus he had two Tony nominated musicals on Broadway HOW NOW DOW JONES and MERLIN. Again, most of this was totally unknown to me during those early collecting days.

And at the same time Elmer managed to conduct the Academy Awards, the background score to the Michael Jackson video THRILLER and the Neil Diamond Movie Album. He tried to preserve great film music when he created the Elmer Bernstein Film Music Collection, re-recordings of unreleased scores (available in The Bernstein Collection Box) and Filmmusic Notebook (available through the Film Music Society) to compliment them. Everything mostly financed out of his own pocket. Even though this experiment failed it led to a lifelong commitment to film music preservation as well as being president of the Society for the Preservation of Film Music from 1996 to 2001. BTW other positions he held include the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (first vice president, beginning in 1963; chair of the music branch with others), Screen Composers Association (director), Composers and Lyricists Guild of America (president, 1970--), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (founding life member and director) and Young Musicians Foundation (president 1961-71).

When I think of the total accomplishments and experiences of this man who was a protégé of Aaron Copland, and who studied music with Roger Sessions, Israel Citkowitz and Stefan Wolpe, my mind boggles so I’m stopping here. And even though I have felt my previously mentioned film music “kings”, Goldsmith, Williams and Morricone have picked up and exceeded where Elmer left off, I can’t help believe he was the last major giant on whose shoulders they all stand. He was there first (When I first heard the RAIDERS theme I said “Aha, William’s GREAT ESCAPE!”).

To meet him was to love him. He had that unique sweetness in a composer that I would compare to, let’s say Chris Young. In their youth he and Jerry Goldsmith LOOKED very similar. His energy at 78 embarrassed me when I hit 49. And there was that rare civilized quality that may be echoed in someone like John Williams. When he was told he had his fatal cancer Elmer went on a cruise to Alaska with his wife. Life never ended for him, it still hasn’t


I am deeply honored Richard Kraft sent me a highly complimentary e-mail on this.
I told him I was inspired by his in-depth tribute telling us so much about the man behind the legend.
As much as I may enjoy the music of my other "kings" Goldsmith, Williams and Morricone sometimes even more than Elmer, all things considered THAT friend of the "east coast" Bernstein - Leonard, THAT tutor to the Walnut High School orchestra (the last concert I saw him conduct), THAT musical voice of "Billy Jack"(TRIAL OF BILLY JACK, BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON) and THAT composer for the last films of great directors Cecil B. DeMille (THE 10 COMMANDMENTS), William Wyler (LIBERATION OF L.B.JONES), John Ford (7 WOMEN), Michael Curtiz (THE COMMANCHEROS) , seemed to have the most fantastic life. And he did it all FIRST being the oldest of the lot.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 3, 2013 - 1:17 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

I can sympathize with the writer's desire to have seen Elmer receive the Oscar for that wonderful late score of his. The Academy loves sentiment, and surely just about everybody loved Elmer Bernstein. What went wrong? Nothing against Mr. Goldenthal's good work on FRIDA, but that film wasn't exactly a blockbuster.

Incidentally a musical stage adaptation of Far from Heaven has just opened in New York. From Ben Brantley's NY Times review:

The superb film that inspired this musical accomplished this through principally cinematic means. As conceived by Mr. Haynes, “Far From Heaven“ is an hommage to Douglas Sirk’s intense movie soap operas of the 1950s, works in which people seemed to think, breathe and talk in Technicolor. Mr. Haynes’s approach brought out the subtext in that style, while adhering to, and even enhancing, Sirk’s ruling aesthetic.

When the camera moved in on the face of its Cathy, a wonderful Julianne Moore, the slightest flicker of that actress’s eyelid told you everything you needed to know about her interior life, especially with Elmer Bernstein’s dark purple soundtrack swelling in counterpoint.


http://theater.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/theater/reviews/far-from-heaven-at-playwrights-horizons.html?hpw&_r=0

 
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