Again this is in honor of the GSPO Elmer Bernstein concert on Feb. 15th.
For those who were around when widescreen films got started you will remember they also brought the beginnings of the best sound around. And of all those widescreen processes the one that had the very best sound was Cinerama. Even if you saw just the latter ones like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY you knew that you were hearing something akin to a mixing stage sound. So in 1965 after the enormously successful Cinerama western HOW THE WEST WAS WON and the almost equally successful Cinerama comedy IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD came out someone got the idea to combine the two genres for Cinerama, which wasn’t such a good idea. Actually I consider this a companion piece to Steven Spielberg’s 1941, neither was very funny but I could have sat there all day listening to those absolutely astounding scores. And like 1941 someone thought that a talented director (John Sturges/Steven Spielberg) who had just come off a couple epic hits (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN&THE GREAT ESCAPE/ JAWS,&CLOSE ENCOUNTERS), both of which had a lot of humor in them, would be perfect for an epic comedy. Unfortunately they both thought that to do a full-length “comedy” you had to play it all “funny”. If they had only looked at what was funny in their own films they would have seen that comedy comes out of “character”. To be fair there are fans of both of these films but for most of us the laughs in 1941 and THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL are few and far between. But who cares when they inspired their composers to go beyond inspiration into nirvana! Listening to the overture before THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL on those Cinerama speakers was bliss. And only in those Cecil B. DeMille films (THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE BUCCANEER) did Bernstein right so many leitmotifs for one film. The overture alone had 5: “The Denver Free Militia” for the Colorado miners waiting for their 40 wagons of booze; A jaunty theme used for the cavalry similar to the title tune; a lush wide open theme that I’ll simply label “The Plains”; a theme I identify for the character “Oracle Jones” (Donald Pleasance steals this film, like he did THE GREAT ESCAPE as the blind forger, playing this grizzled desert oracle who sees visions when he is given a drink) and finally “Stand Up We’ll March To Denver” for the Temperance ladies. The tragedy is this is one of those lost scores. The original tapes were found almost totally disintegrated. Only two cuts were salvaged for the Varese release, the rest are the album tracks recorded with a smaller orchestra.
This overture is at 10:30 on the youtube clip below.
There were other themes for the Irish teamsters, a secondary song for the Temperance ladies “We will Save!”, a theme for Cora Templeton Massingale (Lee Remick) and a politically incorrect accompaniment for the boozy Indians. The whole movie is politically incorrect as everybody at some point gets to go on a bender. (Probably alcohol was more tolerable in the old west where you were less likely to run over women and children). Anyway the masterly part of this score is how Elmer lets all these leitmotifs play against each other, sometimes subtly sometimes overtly. And somebody has got to say amen to the choral main title. All that study of folk music paid off in this handclapping spectacular tour de force with lyrics by Ernie Sheldon.
This was a wonderful history lesson, Morricone. I can't say that I really like the movie, but I absolutely LOVE this score. It contains all of those wonderful themes you mentioned. My favorites are the main theme sung sometimes by the choir or played by the orchestra and the open land theme that you call The Plains. I hope that all of us someday get to hear it all in a concert. It is sad to hear that most of the original tapes disintegrated. I've always thought that this magnificent score should have more recognition.
What is known of the writer of the LYRICS for this film [and other pictures like Baby the Rain Must Fall (Bernstein), Wild Rovers (Goldsmith), Duel at Diablo (Neal Hefti)], ERNIE SHELDON ?? It's known he was a member of the folk group The Limeliters, after which he seems to have ventured into lyric-writing, but there's precious little info about him on the inter-web. Is he still with us? Did his career just stop at a certain point? Did he move on to other musical endeavours?
'Twould be nice to have some sort of overview of him somewhere, or to have his career history highlighted. I liked his style; some of his lyric-writing made an awful lot of sense. And he fancied himself as a vocalist too (q.v. Duel at Diablo; The Sons of Katie Elder). Ernie Sheldon - where are you now!?
Fun movie. Great score. Saw it in Cinerama roadshow when it first opened. Still have the souvenir program, which still appears on EBay. Even then, I thought it was much too long, and have not seen it since, except when channel surfing. (One funny detail: both the Remick and Lancaster characters are seen taking baths, separately...). Always seemed it was trying too hard too be funny, like the later 1941. Looks like the cast had more fun making it than we did watching it.
But the HALLELUJAH score is glorious! Easily the best thing in it. So sorry the tapes deteriorated.
Looks like only a rerecording can do it justice. Though that seems unlikely.
the sound should be no different - this is NOT true Cinerama movie, just big screen. Elmer Bernstein had copies of the complete scoreon several tpaes and he duped them a few yearsw before he passed to make sure the score would survive. I'm sure the dupes are mono. Sadly, we do NOT get to hear the original Main title on the dvd. UA had the complete film in stereo except for reel one. For the Main title, they duped the stereo Mian title from the LP nd dubbed it into the film. You can hear the difference because part of it is reused in either the Intermission Music or the exit Musc(can't remember which). The record uses around a 25-30 piece orchestra and about ten voices - the actual soundtrack uses 50 - 60 orchestra and thirty voices. It makes a big difference.
James, you are right. Not much on the Internet about Ernie. You've probably already read the information in the above URL; it contained the most information I could find. I didn't know he wrote the lyrics for The Hallelujah Trail until your post. Most of the information I could find mainly listed his writing for Baby The Rain Must Fall. I noted the above said he composed the TV theme for Here Comes The Brides which is a song I always liked.
I couldn't find out if he is still living. I don't know if any of us will be able to answer your questions, but I'll keep playing Sherlock and snoop around.
Love, love, love Bernstein's themes in this soundtrack.
Sadly, we do NOT get to hear the original Main title on the dvd. UA had the complete film in stereo except for reel one. For the Main title, they duped the stereo Main title from the LP and dubbed it into the film. You can hear the difference because part of it is reused in either the Intermission Music or the exit Musc(can't remember which). The record uses around a 25-30 piece orchestra and about ten voices - the actual soundtrack uses 50 - 60 orchestra and thirty voices. It makes a big difference.
Does that mean that the Overture is also from the LP?