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 Posted:   Dec 7, 2016 - 4:29 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

I just finished a book called JEROME MOROSS’S THE BIG COUNTRY by Mariana Whitmer. Thanks to FSMer James MacMillan for recommending it to me. The last part of the book does analyze, cue by cue, motif by motif, and theme by theme this amazing score. Yes, there are academic places that I didn’t understand because I’m not a musicologist. However, I learned a lot about Moross’s life, his theater and movie scores, and about this movie.

Here are just a few items that I learned from this very interesting book.

--William Wyler first and foremost wanted Aaron Copland to score this movie, but he refused.
--Wyler might have employed Tiomkin as Tiomkin had scored some of his previous movies, but Tiomkin was too busy. Tiomkin’s songs from Friendly Persuasion and High Noon were popular, and at one time, consideration was given to composing a song for The Big Country.
--Moross was a life-long friend of Bernard Herrmann
--This movie was made during the Korean War as a rally for pacifism. (Like Friendly Persuasion.)
--It was a contentious process to make this movie, and Wyler left immediately to work on Ben Hur. He HATED the main theme and some of Moross’s music, but he was in Rome, so Moross got a lot of his music placed in the movie. (And some got cut by the evil editor.) Music that was cut out or not used impacted the dramatics of certain scenes.
--This book talks a lot about various westerns and their music. The author dissects 4 previous western scores to show how Moross’s approach is the antithesis of those four. His ballet and theater background greatly influenced his dramatic compositions in the film. This was a new and novel score with a unique approach to the visuals. (You’ll have to read it to glean that information.)
---This score left a legacy for future western scores, especially his rhythms and the use of a huge orchestra. Legacy scores (large symphonic scores) that were influenced by The Big Country were such scores as Back To The Future, The Magnificent Seven, Silverado, Dances With Wolves, and others.
--Author points out several times that there was an unnatural relationship between Carroll Baker’s Patricia and her father. That went right over my head during various viewings. Duh.

There are TONS of other wonderful pieces of information about this movie and westerns in general like The Searchers, Shane, Jubal, and many more.

How to pay for this book? It was $40.00 at Amazon for this book that has less than 200 pages. I went to my library and asked for an Interlibrary Loan. Most libraries will do this. My library got on the internet and put out a call for this book and ordered it for me. It was shipped from a university in another state. I can keep it for 3 weeks. It cost me two dollars. I’ve used that service several times.

It you liked the movie and this stunning score, check it out.

 
 Posted:   Dec 7, 2016 - 5:54 PM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

Thanks for the heads up! I'll have to check out this book some time.

Yavar

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 7, 2016 - 6:43 PM   
 By:   lacoq   (Member)

The Korean War was well over by the time this movie was made. 1958.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 7, 2016 - 7:09 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

You are welcome, Yavar.

Lacoq, it basically says, "In the wake of the Korean war and amidst the growing tension in Indochina...." Sorry if I indicated it was at the same time. Pacifism was a theme Wyler wanted to explore, and this script was based upon a short story or more like a novella.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 7, 2016 - 7:16 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Great stuff here, joan. Certainly grist for the film music mill in these here parts.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 7, 2016 - 7:51 PM   
 By:   lacoq   (Member)

You are welcome, Yavar.

Lacoq, it basically says, "In the wake of the Korean war and amidst the growing tension in Indochina...." Sorry if I indicated it was at the same time. Pacifism was a theme Wyler wanted to explore, and this script was based upon a short story or more like a novella.


No biggie Joan....just pointing out timelines. And the theme of pacifism is definitely there in the movie. One of Wyler's best scenes that underscores the senselessness of violence in the grand scheme of things, is the fight between the Peck and Heston characters done in extreme long shot. Masterful!

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 7, 2016 - 8:36 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Yes, that was a good scene and done away from Patricia. Riding the wild horse was also done without her watching. Peck's character didn't have to prove himself to anyone.

 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 8:57 AM   
 By:   Sean Nethery   (Member)

Thanks for taking the time and effort on this, Joan - very interesting thread.

 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 12:02 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

You are welcome, Yavar.

Lacoq, it basically says, "In the wake of the Korean war and amidst the growing tension in Indochina...." Sorry if I indicated it was at the same time. Pacifism was a theme Wyler wanted to explore, and this script was based upon a short story or more like a novella.



The Cold War analogy is fairly well pointed up in the final climax where Bickford and Ives, the 'old men' with their feud, achieve mutual self-annihilation simultaneously, with all the younger generation held to ransom. Note too the Hannassays' commune-style camp under a dictator, and the capitalistic Terrills.

 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 12:07 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

Yes, that was a good scene and done away from Patricia. Riding the wild horse was also done without her watching. Peck's character didn't have to prove himself to anyone.

Yes, and this flies in the face of the usual stereotype where the mythic hero has to 'slay the father-in-law ogre' of fairytale, and 'win' the bride from her Elektra enslavement to the father. Peck is the forerunner of the 'modern' suitor who says, 'Why the hell should I go through that?' and then picks a wiser lady.

It wasn't an incestuous thing, just 'my heart belongs to daddy'. Or as old Carl Gustav used to say, the first paternal stage of the animus had not been replaced by that of the young hero ...

 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 12:16 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

Tiomkin’s songs from Friendly Persuasion and High Noon were popular, and at one time, consideration was given to composing a song for The Big Country.



In fact Morross's main theme was released as a song, 'Another Day, Another Sunset' and thanks to the same James MacMillan's generosity I got to hear it.

The lyrics are really bad. Downhome western gal pants for her cowboy hubby's nightly return from the range to make it all worthwhile.

 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 12:43 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

The Cold War analogy is fairly well pointed up in the final climax where Bickford and Ives, the 'old men' with their feud, achieve mutual self-anihilation simultaneously, with all the younger generation held to ransom. Note too the Hannassays' commune-style camp under a dictator, and the capitalistic Terrills.

Well put. Although this is the reason for planting the anti-war flag, it is upstaged by the very clear, level headed non-intervention practiced by Peck's character, who only fights when backed into an impossible corner.

Some time ago, the score came up for scrutiny and we discussed the Blanco Canyon sequence, late in the film. I always thought (and still do) the rift between Heston's character and old man Terrill was scored in such a way as to bridge the conciliatory gap quickly and concisely between the two men. It's almost like a game of ping pong in which the guys' questioning looks to one another and their very fast reconciliation is actually IN the underscore. The musical exchanges are tied to each character and the very tone of the music is a replacement, if you like, for the equivalent word exchanges they would otherwise have had to make, only, they're too man for that sissy stuff!

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 1:24 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Thank you William and Grecchus for your valuable insights. Your additions are really interesting. Hoping the movie plays on TV again and very soon. I will bring new insights to my next viewing.


FYI:
Scarecrow Press has published other film score guides not just The Big Country.
All titles are followed by the words, “A Film Score Guide.” Titles are:

Gabriel Yared’s The English Patient
Danny Elfman’s Batman
Ennio Morricone’s the Good, The Band and The Ugly
Louis and Bebe Barron’s Forbiddent Planet
Bernard Herrmann’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s The Adventures of Robin Hood
Mychael Danna’s The Ice Storm
Alex North’s A Streetcar Named Desire
Nino Rota’s The Godfather Trilogy
Miklos Rozsa’s Ben Hur
Zbigniew Presner’s Three Colors
Franz Waxman’s Rebecca

 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 3:10 PM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

Thank you William and Grecchus for your valuable insights. Your additions are really interesting. Hoping the movie plays on TV again and very soon. I will bring new insights to my next viewing.


FYI:
Scarecrow Press has published other film score guides not just The Big Country.
All titles are followed by the words, “A Film Score Guide.” Titles are:

Gabriel Yared’s The English Patient
Danny Elfman’s Batman
Ennio Morricone’s the Good, The Band and The Ugly
Louis and Bebe Barron’s Forbiddent Planet
Bernard Herrmann’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s The Adventures of Robin Hood
Mychael Danna’s The Ice Storm
Alex North’s A Streetcar Named Desire
Nino Rota’s The Godfather Trilogy
Miklos Rozsa’s Ben Hur
Zbigniew Presner’s Three Colors
Franz Waxman’s Rebecca


Interesting thread, Joan, thanks!

For those who like to keep what they read, a lot of these seem to be available through Amazon, with regular prices as well as links to used copy vendors. (In the search box on the Amazon site, select books and type in A Film Score Guide for a listing.)

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 3:48 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

Scarecrow Press is of course a major publisher of cinema histories. I have some of the score titles cited -- you don't have to be a spendthrift if you mostly buy used copies at Amazon and elsewhere -- and a lot of their other books as well.

Purely by coincidence, I just discovered that my used copy of STANLEY DONEN by Joseph Andrew Casper has a section (pgs. 51-66) from an entirely different Scarecrow book, (SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM). Imagine my surprise and disappointment when immediately after watching GIVE A GIRL A BREAK on TCM I picked up the Donen book to read about it and saw that that section had been usurped! (Now I'll have to wait till tomorrow to call Scarecrow customer service on east coast time...)

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 5:21 PM   
 By:   filmusicnow   (Member)

It's interesting to note that Moross was an orchestrator for both Copland ("Our Town") and Hugo Friedhofer ("The Best Years Of Our Lives" directed by Wyler, and "Joan Of Arc"). Probably because he was impaired in one ear, Wyler was known to have a difficult relationship with most of the composers who scored his films. And his dislike of Moross' score for "The Big Country" was the main reason why he didn't promote it properly and may have been the reason it didn't win the Oscar for Best Score.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2016 - 10:40 PM   
 By:   Film Sage   (Member)

Yes, that was a good scene and done away from Patricia. Riding the wild horse was also done without her watching. Peck's character didn't have to prove himself to anyone.

I’m afraid that you misread what this scene is about.

In breaking Old Thunder, Jim McKay isn’t trying to prove anything to anyone, including himself. He has a very clear sense of who he is and what he believes. McKay’s intent is to make sure that Major Terrill and Steve Leach can never play their sadistic practical joke – putting visitors to the ranch, especially Eastern dudes like McKay, on the horse just to watch them get bucked off -- on anyone ever again.

McKay is a good man but he isn’t perfect. This action is a measure of revenge against a man, Terrill, whom he has come to despise, partly because of the Major’s hypocritical veneer of civility cloaking a savagery and sadism, but mainly because McKay’s realized that Pat, the woman he came west to marry, is every inch her father’s daughter, inculcated with the same anger, bigotry and greed (the author’s contention of an “unnatural,” i.e. incestuous, relationship between Pat and her father is absurd).

And of course there's a thread of pacifism in the film; it's what the film's about. It is, in fact, something that runs through much of William Wyler's work, from "The Westerner" to "Mrs. Miniver," "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Detective Story," "The Desperate Hours," "Friendly Persuasion," and "The Liberation of L.B. Jones."

Wyler was born and raised in Alsace; during World War I, when Wyler was a teenager, the Germans and French would each push the other's army back and forth across the region on a day-to-day basis. One day the city he lived in was called Mulhouse (French), the next day Mulhausen (German). Wyler would get up each morning not knowing which language he was expected to speak by the army occupying the city. It all affected him profoundly, and shaped his lifelong aversion to war.

 
 Posted:   Dec 9, 2016 - 12:00 AM   
 By:   Ray Worley   (Member)

Wow...thanks, Joan! This score is one of my all-time top ten favorite scores. Only THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN tops it for Western scores for me (my favorite score genre). Even at $40 the book sounds like a must-get.

The only tidbit you mentioned above that I knew was about Moross and Herrmann being great friends...I've read about that in more than one place. Nice Jewish boys and their Western scores. smile

 
 Posted:   Dec 9, 2016 - 5:13 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

THE BIG COUNTRY is one of my all time favorite movies, I fell in love with it when I was about 8 or 9 years old and have seen it several times since; it has aged very well and still stands tall as one of the greatest westerns ever made. The score by Jerome Moross is also one of those responsible for me to take note of film music in the first place. Great film, great score. Thanks for letting me know there's a BOOK about this movie's score!

 
 Posted:   Dec 9, 2016 - 5:31 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

Yes, that was a good scene and done away from Patricia. Riding the wild horse was also done without her watching. Peck's character didn't have to prove himself to anyone.

I’m afraid that you misread what this scene is about.

In breaking Old Thunder, Jim McKay isn’t trying to prove anything to anyone, including himself. He has a very clear sense of who he is and what he believes. McKay’s intent is to make sure that Major Terrill and Steve Leach can never play their sadistic practical joke – putting visitors to the ranch, especially Eastern dudes like McKay, on the horse just to watch them get bucked off -- on anyone ever again.


Hmm... I have to admit, this isn't exactly my interpretation of the scene either. Jim wanted to ride Old Thunder on his terms, when he wanted and how he wanted. Whether he wanted to spoil Major Terrill's and Steve Leech's practical joke for good along the way... well, yeah, next joke will be on them, true, yet somehow there's more to the scene than just "I spoil their joke for good".


McKay is a good man but he isn’t perfect. This action is a measure of revenge against a man, Terrill, whom he has come to despise, partly because of the Major’s hypocritical veneer of civility cloaking a savagery and sadism, but mainly because McKay’s realized that Pat, the woman he came west to marry, is every inch her father’s daughter, inculcated with the same anger, bigotry and greed (the author’s contention of an “unnatural,” i.e. incestuous, relationship between Pat and her father is absurd).


Exactly. Pat was a daddy's girl, whereas Julie was independent. There is also the implication that Pat and Steve were at least attracted to each other, but that Pat needed a higher "trophy" as a husband than the ranch foreman, so she got an attractive and financially better off suitor from the American East Coast.

 
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