George Antheil, Cecil B. DeMille & Boris Morros – Union Pacific (1939)
George Antheil (1900-1959) composed at Paramount Studios three scores for director-producer Cecil B. DeMille:
- The Plainsman (1936) - The Buccaneer (1938) - Union Pacific (1939) - Rejected
Antheil's Main titles & intro from "The Buccaneer"
0:00 Main Titles 1:34 Intro 2:11 The President’s Palace (Excerpt)
In those days, the head of the music department at Paramount’s was Boris Morros (1891-1963), composer, conductor, aspiring film producer and Soviet agent - later turned double agent. Morros lost his job at Paramount after the score for John Ford’s “The Stagecoach” was considered inappropriate. A committee of studio composers wrote the replacement score. Morros apparently tried to modernize the way films should be scored and hired new people from the outside of the usual film music composer’s group associated with Paramount. He also fired parts from the composer’s staff. Under such circumstances George Antheil got his gigs thanks to Morros. When Antheil started to present his music for “Union Pacific” Morros was no longer there to shield him from possible attacks by envious and/or narrow minded competitors at Paramount’s music department. To make a long story short. Antheil’s efforts for “Union Pacific” were tossed by DeMille. A committee of Paramount composers delivered the replacement score. Antheil reworks pieces of his “Union Pacific” score into the third movement of his 3rd symphony, “Symphony No. 3 "American": III. The Golden Spike. Andante – Allegro scherzando”.
The premiere recording of the 3rd movement “The Golden Spike” (2004): Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt Hugh Wolff, conductor
The second recording of “The Golden Spike” movement (2019): BBC Philharmonic Orchestra John Storgårds, conductor Yuri Torchinsky, leader
Excerpt from the Chandos liner notes by Mervyn Cooke (CH10982, p. 9):
The only part of the Third Symphony which was performed during Antheil’s lifetime was the third movement, ‘The Golden Spike’, which was aired by the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C., under Hans Kindler on 28 November 1945. The movement’s title is a reference to the legendary piece of precious metal which symbolically completed the tracks laid down as the First Continental Railroad in the USA in 1869. For the music in this movement Antheil drew from his abandoned score to the movie Union Pacific (1939), the third film on which he was due to work with the director Cecil B. De Mille at Paramount. This project proved to be a sad turning point in Antheil’s film-scoring career, as the formerly supportive director – increasingly worried about public opinion – enlisted almost everyone in the studio’s music department to voice their collective disapproval of Antheil’s style when Antheil demonstrated his musical sketches to them. The film was in the event scored by others.
The “Union Pacific” story has already been told by Antheil himself in his 1945 autobiography “Bad Boy of Music” (various reprints) as well as by Gergley Hubai (Torn music, rejected film scores, a selected history: 2012: 6-8).
The Boris Morros story has been filmed in 1960. Morros was in Dallas to promote the film "Man On a String" starring Ernest Borgnine which was based on his book "My Ten Years As a Counterspy" – you’ll find “Man on a string” on YT. Here is Austin Schneider’s interview with Boris Morros (April 1960) (interview & sound starts at 0:40):
Here is a video in Spanish about Morros for those who speak the language:
Read more about Morros’ story as US-Soviet agent in the book “Hollywood Double Agent: The True Tale of Boris Morros” (Jonathan Gill: 2020: Hollywood Double Agent: The True Tale of Boris Morros, Film Producer Turned Cold War Spy: Abrams Press.).
After DeMille's definitive rejection of Antheil's various attempts to please the director - and maybe even Paramount's 'composer committee' present in the background during the demo sessions - with the music he had composed for "Union Pacific" there was obviously one particular composer who somehow managed to get all the DeMille scoring gigs afterwards (with one well known exception only): Victor Young.
I wonder if Victor Young had anything to do with the fact, that Antheil's music was tossed?
Could it be that Young sat in that sounding board and was one of the detractors of Antheil's efforts?
Young didn't compose the replacement score, although some uncredited stock music of his was apparently used in "Union Pacific". But for the next DeMille film, Young was in, and with the exception of “The Ten Commandments” he would score every DeMille film afterwards.