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 Posted:   Jul 24, 2018 - 11:05 AM   
 By:   mistermike   (Member)

I'm reading Stephen C. Smith's biography of Bernard Herrmann A Heart at Fire's Center. It contains a letter which Herrmann wrote to Morton Stevens as follows:

Dear Mort:

During the month of November the Hawaii 5-0 television show appeared here over ITA as it has done for some years. I was astonished to hear that on three of these shows (devoted to the Vashon family) the music used was based on a piece of mine entitled "The Ambush," and that no credit was given to me, nor has it ever appeared on the clearance sheets of BMI.

Now let me make one thing clear. Although CBS has every right to use this music which is in their tape library, as they see fit, they have no right to give somebody else credit for composing it.

I should appreciate your attention in this matter, and your advising me promptly of your reactions. I should like these before I proceed further to protect my legal and artistic rights.

With best regards,
Bernard Herrmann

Stevens replied:

Dear Bernie:

In answer to your letter of January 23rd I must say that I fail to see any evidence to support your suggestion that the theme was based on one of yours entitled "Ambush." I find no more similarity between ***'s [this is as reproduced in the book] theme and your theme of "Ambush" than between your "Ambush" theme and the first few notes of "Für Elise" by Beethoven or the first fragment of Mozart's "Overture to the Marriage of Figaro."

Nevertheless, I am happy that you reminded me of your piece entitled 'Ambush" because in listening to it again I find a new appreciation of the marvellous way in which you made such a few notes build a level of tension which was extraordinary.

According to the book:

Enraged by Stevens's "condescending and snide" answer, and convinced CBS had committed a moral if not legal violation, Herrmann battled the network over the issue for years without success.

Does anyone know where this "Ambush" theme can be heard?

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 24, 2018 - 11:42 AM   
 By:   lacoq   (Member)

I believe it's from: BERNARD HERRMANN: THE CBS YEARS VOL. 1: THE WESTERNS

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 24, 2018 - 1:04 PM   
 By:   MMM   (Member)

This occurred thousands of times back then. The main composer got credit, and if individual pieces of other music were used in the score, the composers rarely got screen credit. But their music was notated on the cue sheets and they got paid for it. If Herrmann's music was not on the cue sheets -- assuming it was definitely his music being used -- he would be able to bring it up to BMI. Some of Herrmann's motifs were so short -- just three or four notes -- he would have had a very tough time proving copyright infringement for such usages.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 24, 2018 - 4:29 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

If I were Stevens, I would have replied, "Too bad you have enough free time on your hands to watch schlock like Hawaii Five-O. "

 
 Posted:   Jul 24, 2018 - 4:51 PM   
 By:   Last Child   (Member)

Names have the same number of vowels so it's a draw.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 24, 2018 - 4:55 PM   
 By:   pg1978   (Member)

I know I'm not answering your question about where to hear the "Ambush" music.

But an explanation of Herrmann's behavior I found on page 3 of the Prelude of the Smith biography -

"As great as his generosity was his capacity for self-
destruction; the relentless drive that brought him triumphs led to his
alienating friends and colleaues. It was a flaw that Herrmann recognized
privately but which he felt he could not control.

For despite the many achievements - his film work with Orson Welles,
Alfred Hitchcock, and others, his fifteen years as conductor of the CBS
Symphony - Herrmann's life was an ongoing battle with demons: lack of
recognition as a "serious" composer, his having chosen the high-salary,
invisible medium of film to work in; failure to see the performance of the
composition he considered his most important; and his inability for
twenty-five years to secure a conducting post."

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 24, 2018 - 5:12 PM   
 By:   Jim Cleveland   (Member)

......... and his inability for twenty-five years to secure a conducting post."
And the world is a much better place for it, for if he HAD "secured a conducting post", we probably would've never been "gifted" with all the wonderful music he composed in those years!

 
 Posted:   Aug 9, 2018 - 2:08 AM   
 By:   Guenther K   (Member)

......... and his inability for twenty-five years to secure a conducting post."
And the world is a much better place for it, for if he HAD "secured a conducting post", we probably would've never been "gifted" with all the wonderful music he composed in those years!


True. But I always wondered why he never founded his own orchestra and put some own gigs on. He should have had sufficient funds and a couple of concerts a year would have been not too much a distraction.

 
 Posted:   Aug 9, 2018 - 4:52 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

If I were Stevens, I would have replied, "Too bad you have enough free time on your hands to watch schlock like Hawaii Five-O. "

You're being a tad rough. Five-0 is an indirect Tiki inspiration--Tiki is also often derided as "schlock."

 
 Posted:   Aug 9, 2018 - 8:44 AM   
 By:   Justin Boggan   (Member)

Based on that video interview with his wife and Howard Blake a year or so ago, I think Herrmann wrote his fair share of angry letters, because deep down, he enjoyed it to a degree.

 
 Posted:   Aug 9, 2018 - 10:57 AM   
 By:   LordDalek   (Member)

If you watch the Twilight Zone episode "Execution", you'll be hearing The Ambush a lot. Its the primary underscore for most of the episode's 2nd act.

 
 Posted:   Aug 9, 2018 - 11:06 AM   
 By:   jackfu   (Member)

"Hey, 'Bernie', ever hear of a guy named Holst?"

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 9, 2018 - 4:20 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

You're being a tad rough. Five-0 is an indirect Tiki inspiration--Tiki is also often derided as "schlock."

I forget if I told you this story that time a year ago when you and I met in an undisclosed location to be determined:

One of the oldies TV stations was showing Hawaii Five-0 a few years back, and I timed my elliptical workouts to watch it. My interest was primarily interior and exterior shots of any tiki bars, and also the Hawaiian fashions. I have no idea if the station was airing the shows in sequence, but they all looked to date from the mid-70s, based on the fashions.

Anyway, what struck me about all these episodes I watched was that there was absolutely ZERO character development for Jack Lord or anyone on his team. No distinguishing quirks, no one collected rare first editions of books, no one grew orchids, no one was a Mel Torme fan. They were interchangeable stick figures whose sole function was to advance the plot and solve the crime of the week.

My favorite episode was the one in which someone threatened to blow up the island with nuclear weapon. What would happen in real life? SWAT teams, the national guard, the FBI, and, these days, Homeland Security would be called in. Curfews would be declared, streets would be cleared, and mass evacuations would ensue.

What happened on Hawaii Five-0? Jack Lord and his team treated the threat as though it were a gang of high school kids knocking over mailboxes in a gated community. Another day at the office. There was no sense of urgency. The best part was the investigation montage, in which the various members of Jack Lord's crew calmly interviewed gas station attendants while jotting down notes on pads of paper.

I soon got bored with the show and moved on.

Having said all of this, if the hair gods ever descend from on high and tell me that I may have the hair of anyone on the planet, I don't know who I would ultimately choose, but I can promise you that I would strongly consider Jack Lord. (Brian Jones and Keith Relf would also be in the running.)

 
 Posted:   Aug 9, 2018 - 5:00 PM   
 By:   Scott M (Oldsmith)   (Member)

Well, to be fair, a lot of police shows of that era didn't have a lot of character development beyond "dead girlfriend/relative" of the episode. The cops were their job. Whatever personalities they had were provided by the actors. Very few police, adventure or SF shows had actual "characters." And those breakout stars were the exceptions.

Hawaii Five-O was a police procedural. I don't think it really pretended to be more than that. Maybe you'd see McGarrett playing his guitar, or restoring his boat. Or one of the early Hawaiian cops, Kono, talking about how he was taking Hula lessons. But either you liked the actors and the plots, or you didn't. I loved the series. I thought Jack Lord was an extremely magnetic actor who brought McGarrett to life. James MacArthur was pitch perfect as Danny and the series lost a lot of its appeal when he left.

But really, look at the other cop shows of the day. Can you tell me what Kojak did in is spare time? Or Frank Cannon? Mannix? Or the guys riding in Adam 12? Even today. I've seen a number of episodes of Law and Order and all I know is the lead was sexually abused. Everyone else is just grim and determined and good at their jobs. The cases are the reason people tune in.

There were some pretty dire episodes, certainly. When a case was dull, the episode was as well.

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 9, 2018 - 7:15 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

If you watch the Twilight Zone episode "Execution", you'll be hearing The Ambush a lot. Its the primary underscore for most of the episode's 2nd act.

I don't have to look that up to know it's the one with Albert Salmi and Russell "The Professor" Johnson. The memory of the stock score does not exist and I am itching to see it because I know I will immediately recognize "Ambush" when I see it. Just knowing BH said what he did has me juiced. He did not make accusations lightly.

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 10, 2018 - 2:28 PM   
 By:   vr518   (Member)

You're being a tad rough. Five-0 is an indirect Tiki inspiration--Tiki is also often derided as "schlock."

I forget if I told you this story that time a year ago when you and I met in an undisclosed location to be determined:

One of the oldies TV stations was showing Hawaii Five-0 a few years back, and I timed my elliptical workouts to watch it. My interest was primarily interior and exterior shots of any tiki bars, and also the Hawaiian fashions. I have no idea if the station was airing the shows in sequence, but they all looked to date from the mid-70s, based on the fashions.

Anyway, what struck me about all these episodes I watched was that there was absolutely ZERO character development for Jack Lord or anyone on his team. No distinguishing quirks, no one collected rare first editions of books, no one grew orchids, no one was a Mel Torme fan. They were interchangeable stick figures whose sole function was to advance the plot and solve the crime of the week.

My favorite episode was the one in which someone threatened to blow up the island with nuclear weapon. What would happen in real life? SWAT teams, the national guard, the FBI, and, these days, Homeland Security would be called in. Curfews would be declared, streets would be cleared, and mass evacuations would ensue.

What happened on Hawaii Five-0? Jack Lord and his team treated the threat as though it were a gang of high school kids knocking over mailboxes in a gated community. Another day at the office. There was no sense of urgency. The best part was the investigation montage, in which the various members of Jack Lord's crew calmly interviewed gas station attendants while jotting down notes on pads of paper.

I soon got bored with the show and moved on.

Having said all of this, if the hair gods ever descend from on high and tell me that I may have the hair of anyone on the planet, I don't know who I would ultimately choose, but I can promise you that I would strongly consider Jack Lord. (Brian Jones and Keith Relf would also be in the running.)


If you were only interested in tiki bars and exterior shots, then the plots would be lost on you. Just because you got bored with one episode, it doesn't mean the show was "schlock." Five-O's job was to handle cases like the nuclear threat one, which HPD would not do, so it would be another day at the office.

As for character development, growing orchids and collecting rare books are not character development. If you actually watched and paid attention to the storyline, you'd find that McGarrett liked poetry and liked to read in general and also collected things - miniature Japanese carvings, which was the subject of one episode. McGarrett also played the guitar, as a previous poster said, and he watched football. Danno like to go surfing and Chin had 8 kids. 6 of them appeared in one episode.

The lack of background information on the characters was no more or less than other shows of the time. Today's shows flood the storylines with too much information about the characters to the point where it takes up most of the storyline and we don't want to know any more. They were anything but interchangeable stick figures, because again, if you watched closely, you'd see that they had very different personalities and they could not change places with one another. McGarrett was very wired up when the moment called for it, while Danno was the calm one. Chin was the fatherly one whose personality was influenced by his Chinese ancestry. Kono was the local Hawaiian guy who spoke pidgin English, and had a way with getting the locals to talk, and Ben was more demure.

As for the hair, being a girl, I wouldn't take Jack Lord's hair, but I'd vote it as the best head of hair on a male ever. For me, I'd want Jane Asher or Cher's hair - '60s Cher, that is.

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 12, 2018 - 5:54 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

......... and his inability for twenty-five years to secure a conducting post."
And the world is a much better place for it, for if he HAD "secured a conducting post", we probably would've never been "gifted" with all the wonderful music he composed in those years!


True. But I always wondered why he never founded his own orchestra and put some own gigs on. He should have had sufficient funds and a couple of concerts a year would have been not too much a distraction.


Which is what Franz Waxman did with his Los Angeles Music Festival from 1947 to 1966 http://franzwaxman.com/about-waxman/

 
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