Henry you said (I still have problems with the idea he wasn't pleased with the whole score). In my first posting I said that the author said Wyler hated the main opening and "some" of the score. I don't remember reading that he didn't like the whole score.
Sorry Joan, possibly the wording above in your post "We already saw in the book that Wyler wasn't happy with Moross's score, but he had left to work on BEN HUR" might have confused me.
BTW I remember that documentary mentioned from a while ago and thought it was a wonderful overview of Wyler. Seeing it again I found the omissions more pronounced. Not just the fact they ignore many of my favorite films like DETECTIVE STORY but they naturally concentrate on his work with actors.
When he began at Universal he visited the "cutters" a lot and learned not just what "coverage" was but what shots were the most useful in editing. Even later in life his editor Robert Swink mentioned, despite leaving most trivial shooting to his second unit, Wyler would shoot an insert or vista personally that tended to be the perfect cutaway to make a scene work.
And then there is the man who changed his life - Gregg Toland. This master cinematographer not only came up with new deep focus techniques but worked with art directors to make the most of them. For Wyler's DEAD END a whole block of New York was recreated and built in such a way you could shoot from interior to exterior to interior foreshadowing Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW by more than a decade.
I have no doubt his relationship with composers were more than meets the eye. Like all involved in Wyler's films they relied on his taste. This is from Tiomkin's autobiography: When the 5 songs were done [for FRIENDLY PERSUASION], Wyler liked them, and he was an excellent judge.
Yes, Toland's 'deep focus' enabled all sorts of clever set-ups, almost theatrical.
It's not so noticeable now, but back when widescreen pics were shown on terrestrial TV on narrow screens, five different viewings of the same Wyler movie could produce five different experiences, because the TV frame editor could choose from more framing options, when everything was in focus!
"But oh, the music: 135 glorious minutes of it, unsullied by dialogue. Moross, best known for his film scores to westerns including “The Big Country,” was a member of Aaron Copland’s coterie and brings the familiar sound we call American, with its modal harmonies and widely spaced voicings, to a work of astonishing breadth and beauty."
Recent commendations of this thread made me take another look, which has offered pleasure and profit. A couple of afterthoughts:
William McCrum defended Wyler's multiple takes. Many writers who chiefly admire the Goldwyn-Toland films think Wyler's work declined after 1950 or so. One posited a reason: Color stock and other factors made filming so much more expensive in the fifties that it became impossible for Wyler to be as exacting as he had been in earlier years. Can it be documented that he took fewer takes in late years? There's no question that he really sweated the boys in Ben-Hur. (Of course most of us in the present conversation don't agree with the "decline" premise anyway.)
Howard L suggested that Herrmann and Goldsmith might have made fine directors. Hmm. Can you imagine Benny nursing some hypersensitive performer through a difficult scene? It wouldn't be pretty!