Film Score Monthly
Search Terms: 
Search Within:   search tips 
You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
 Posted:   Dec 26, 2000 - 9:35 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

We've already discussed To Kill A Mockingbird. Mockingbird is on both my all-time favorite film-with-music ("desert island") and stand-alone soundtrack lists. And now so is Best Years. All it took was one full hear-through. You know why? A few years ago I went to a Sunday matinee revival at the palatial Tampa Theatre with tissues in hand. I ain't one to get all blubbery at the movies, in general, but the flick does me in no matter how many times I've already seen it. And just like clockwork, on that Sunday the tissues came out at the same precise 4 moments as all those TV viewings. Anyway, yesterday I sat down and put on the re-recording and listened with utter astonishment at the breadth & beauty of the music. It sort of underscored my reading of the terrific liner notes, too. And damn me I lost it at the same precise 4 moments in the score that coincided with the film! That's why I know even more than before that the score and film are one of those perfect marriages made in Film Score Heaven.

Thankfully, the kleenex box was in reaching distance. And ultra-thankfully, this remixed/remastered CD of the 1979 LP is a beaut. A BEAUT. We're talking powerful stuff here. Oh my. You know that line of James Earl Jones's in Field Of Dreams about baseball marking the time? I love the game but film music does the same thing. The notes state that Best Years opened on November 22, 1946. When I read that it suddenly occurred to me that that was exactly one week after my parents had married. "Good God," I thought, "now when I watch the ending I can imagine how young my folks were and how young they must have looked." You see, like Kevin Costner also said in Field Of Dreams, I only got to know my folks years later after life had made them turn "old" and everything.

All this from listening to the music yesterday. Incredible. Boy do I feel silly talking like this.

--On the other!


[This message has been edited by Howard L (edited 26 December 2000).]

 Posted:   Dec 26, 2000 - 9:43 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)


[This message has been edited by Howard L (edited 26 December 2000).]

 Posted:   Dec 26, 2000 - 12:02 AM   
 By:   Dutch   (Member)

Howard L, you and I are having an anniversary of sorts as we headed down this same path over a year ago, singing the praises of "The Best Years of Our Lives." And now I can tell you that I am old enough to be your father! My parents took me to the movies to see "Best Years" when it was first released. We were so poor that we could only see one movie each year, and this was our Holiday movie of the year. I remember every scene, especially the scene with all of the retired airplanes, which until a few years ago, existed only 80 minutes from where I now live in Campbell, CA. Or the very opening when Frederic March comes home from war to an unsuspecting Myrna still sends a chill down my spine. I also remember how frightened as a child I was by Harold Russell's "hooks" and Teresa Wright's reaction to them. But most of all was Friedhofer's score, which is my favorite score of all time, never surpassed, a work of inspired genius. Kleenex for everyone! Happy anniversary, Howard. (And you are so correct -- there is no experience like seeing this film in a theater. Here we have the Stanford in Palo Alto, a restored art deco beauty that specializes in classic films.)

 Posted:   Dec 26, 2000 - 3:58 AM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

I know I'll sound like an old fart when I say this, and all the under-25s are just going to yawn when they read it">, but Hugo Friedhofer was a GIANT of a composer, and damned if he gets two posts a year on this message board. Howard, right on! There have not been 5 better film scores in the history of movie music (all the Williams epics included) than The Best Years of Our Lives. Thanks for reminding me, and for reminding the denizens of this here hangout once again, that great stuff was happening long before some of us were hatched.

 Posted:   Dec 26, 2000 - 6:48 AM   
 By:   JEC   (Member)

The John Wayne Estate is suppose to be in the process of restoring ISLAND IN THE SKY. If/when released on video, perhaps we'll be treated to a CD of Friedhofer's score.

[This message has been edited by JEC (edited 26 December 2000).]

 Posted:   Dec 26, 2000 - 7:16 AM   
 By:   Chris Kinsinger   (Member)

One of my very favorite Christmas season treats is sitting down to watch The Bishop's Wife. I enjoy Friedhofer's score even more than the film itself!
I'm ashamed to report that An Affair To Remember and Lifeboat are the only two other Friedhofer scores that I am familiar with.
After reading what you fellas have written, I look forward with eager anticipation to watching The Best Years Of Our Lives!


NP: How The West Was Won Newman 2 CD set
[This message has been edited by Chris Kinsinger (edited 26 December 2000).]

 Posted:   Dec 27, 2000 - 3:03 AM   
 By:   Guenther K   (Member)

I suspect the real problem with Friedhofer
is that he doesn't sell. I've heard reports
of just a couple of hundred copies...

Still better than some high salary classical
conductors, but...

 Posted:   Dec 27, 2000 - 3:57 AM   
 By:   ZapBrannigan   (Member)

Howard, you have the new Intrada version? I have the Preamble CD, and it's my most treasured one. I went a long time being told by store clerks that it didn't exist. Then I tried another store and they ordered it right up. This was before I went on the net. Remember being at the mercy of store clerks?

Apparently the Preamble PRCD 1779 is the same recording, only yours has been remastered. I wonder if there's such a difference, since the Preamble CD sounds so good to me.

Did you get the lengthy, loving liner notes by Royal S. Brown and also by Page Cook? I really appreciate that kind of treatment. Good, substantive notes affirm your belief that the subject is important.

I cry at the "Homer Goes Upstairs" cue. It never fails.

Harold Russell guest starred on China Beach around 1989. That series had been using part of Wilma's touching theme for its endearing "Colleen McMurphy" character right along, and I emailed the composer about it.

Dr. Paul Chihara sent me the following note, which I've edited only slightly:

Dear [Zap]:

I am astonished at your memory and good grasp of the score. The episodes you mention were the most carefully written and produced of all the shows in four years. John Sacret Young was betting his career on their success, and we went way over budget on them.

I worked especially hard on the score, and truly loved every note. I actually wrote (and recorded) several versions of each cue. The quote from Best Years of Our Lives musically was John's idea, consistent with his casting Harold Russell as Colleen's [uncle].

I had two reasons for using the tune. First of all, Hugo Friedhofer was a great composer, and one of that elite generation of Jewish refugee composers working in Hollywood, and creating that very special language we now call film music. Secondly, and most significantly, the principal melody in YEARS is actually based on an American cowboy folk tune, which Copeland uses in his Rodeo ballet. I was for ten years prior to China Beach the composer-in-residence with the San Francisco Ballet, and was quite familiar with that score.

My use of the melody is different from Friedhofer's, especially in its continuation and development. I wanted to integrate that melody with the theme from China beach.

Anyway, Chihara did a splendid job, making China Beach much better than it would have seemed without him. Likewise, I think Best Years was well served by Friedhofer, to say the least.

[This message has been edited by ZapBrannigan (edited 27 December 2000).]

 Posted:   Dec 27, 2000 - 4:52 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

"Did you get the lengthy, loving liner notes by Royal S. Brown and also by Page Cook?"

Yes, and they are outstanding. You end up appreciating both the score and film that much more. Re this new CD's creation, producer John Steven Lasher includes this note:

"In May of 1979 the original edition of this recording was released on LP to celebrate Hugo Friedhofer's 50th anniversary as a working Hollywood composer. Although the recording received favourable press from around the world, not to mention 'heartfelt thanks' from the composer, I was never happy with the original analogue stereo mix, which was done in a mad rush the day before Franco Collura and I flew back to New York aboard order to meet our mid-morning mastering session scheduled with Bob Ludwig at Masterdisk.

I have always felt that there were problems with the close multi-miking, which tended to favour certain instruments (the harp, celeste, piano, xylaphone and tympani) in the recording. I later discussed this with the composer, who concurred that at some point in time we should consider mixing the masters. Unfortunately, Hugo died in 1981, and in the nineteen years since I have for a variety of reasons (excuses?) been unable to allocate sufficient time for this mammoth task.

However, with recent advances in digital mastering technology...I decided the time was ripe for a completely remixed and remastered CD edition, one which would finally do justice to Friedhofer's legendary score.

In producing this new edition I consulted the full orchestral score prepared in 1978 by Tony Bremer, as well as the original optical soundtrack recordings (from the DVD release), for reference. The end result is such that many will believe they are listening to a completely new recording. Of course, you--the listener--must be the final judge.

3rd May 2000 (Friedhofer's 99th birthday!)"

 Posted:   Dec 27, 2000 - 6:24 AM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

I've got the old (Preamble) one, but now I'm beginning to think I should get the remastered version... Us eastcoasters can't afford to be outdone by the Pass-a-grille AARP chapter">.

 Posted:   Dec 28, 2000 - 2:20 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

"And now I can tell you that I am old enough to be your father!"

Now don't make me have to call you Pops. I was born 9&1/2 years after film's debut. How much of a kid were you in Nov./'46, around Rob's or Homer's little sister's age?

"I remember every scene, especially the scene with all of the retired airplanes..."

It's a great scene for so many reasons; I especially admire the way the camera & music became a "character" when things zoomed from engine to engine. Stunning bit of direction. And the addition of bomber sounds put the whole scene way over the top.

"After reading what you fellas have written, I look forward with eager anticipation to watching The Best Years Of Our Lives!"

THAT can be arranged, hee-hee...

"I cry at the 'Homer Goes Upstairs' cue. It never fails."

For 3 days I have had the Octave Theme, as presented in this cue, ringing in my ears. It is indeed a highly emotional piece, wrenching and happy at the same time.
O.K., 2 of my major proverbial kleenex scenes/cues have been identified (this one + March & unsuspecting Loy) and the others are when Homer reunites with little sister, folks and girl-next-door (pure Americana) and when Fred's father discovers and reads the citation. Gulp.

"Dr. Paul Chihara sent me the following note..."

Great story. Good for you, ZapB.

"Us eastcoasters can't afford to be outdone by the Pass-a-grille AARP chapter."">

 Posted:   Dec 30, 2000 - 4:14 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Pertaining to the thread title, and not so much BEST YEARS (of which I'm too unfamiliar):

IMO, BLADE RUNNER still shines as a beacon; the happiest of marriages between visuals and music. Drawing the marriage metaphor a bit too far, one could say that the music and visuals of BR not only share the same doublebed, but also a SINGLE bed, making perhaps for an uncomfortable sleeping position, but at least an undistinguishable mess of arms and legs (seen TOP SECRET?). Sorry.

 Posted:   Dec 30, 2000 - 7:32 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Get familiar
(after same w/Mockingbird).

 Posted:   Jan 2, 2001 - 9:17 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

The liner notes mention how Friedhofer gently interpolated "Among My Sounvenirs" when Al emerged from the elevator on the way to reuniting with the family. While this is correct I believe, however, that the 3-note phrase from the folk song "Goin' Home" actually precedes Souvenirs. Anyone? This phrase would certainly fit the situation.

I really love the added cue entitled "Exit Music" which the notes mention was removed after the Hollywood premiere. It is a wonderful piece that really sets your mind back to those days when a movie, as Mr. Kinsinger would say, was a true "event".

 Posted:   Jan 2, 2001 - 4:24 AM   
 By:   Dutch   (Member)

Howard L., do you have access to a copy of George Burt's brilliant book "The Art of Film Music." Pages 143-168, "The Sequence as a Unit," is a thorough parsing of the score to "Best Years of Our Lives," complete with full page samples of the score. I have the liner notes from the CD as well, but you will not get a more thorough note-by-note analysis of what Friedhofer was doing with this music then you will find in Burt's book. If you have a fax number, write to me at, and I will fax this chapter to you. Or ask your local library to buy a copy of this book. It is my favorite book of any written on film music, and include thorough analyses of Raksin's "Laura," North's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Rosenman's "East of Eden," and a dozen other classics with sheet music to follow.

 Posted:   Jan 3, 2001 - 10:19 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Wow--thanks, Dutch. I really would like to settle that question. Will email you shortly.

 Posted:   Jan 10, 2001 - 4:54 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

What a treat. Am I ever so glad for my high school music education. Dutch, I was never much of a sight reader but I really enjoyed reading the text and reading the music, often going back and forth between the two. Instantly recognized the runs of 16th notes ("Homer's sister runs to greet him") and finally defined the "Neighbors" theme and nailed down same for "Best Years"--I think. The liner notes of the CD refer to the "Octave Theme" which is indelible to the mind's ear. Does not this theme sound like an amalgam of "Neighbors" & "Best Years"? I'm going to have to listen & read. Maybe "Best Years" & "Octave" are one in the same.

Got a real kick out of seeing the phrase "...Friedhofer's approach captures a feeling that brings the entire sequence into dramatic focus." This phrase illustrates what Mr. Hobgood would call the art of fusing. And the genius within the sequence is wonderfully illustrated by the writer contrasting Friedhofer's approach with an alternative that might have worked, per se, but without the marvelous irony Friedhofer employed i.e. not underscoring the obvious as stated through dialogue but saving the "feeling of apprehension" as they got closer to their final destination--home. This point is well stated on p. 147: "...he keeps the more or less somber music in reserve for the fourth section, 'Arrival,' where it is really needed.

Overall, though, I love imagining the creative process just as much as seeing the final product spelled out on paper. Wish I could have been there and gone right into his head as he watched unscored film. it's neat when you think of how screenwriters verbally capture, directors/cinematographers visually capture, and then composers like Friedhofer musically translate one or the other or both. Best Years really is an example of the perfect marriage.

 Posted:   Jan 10, 2001 - 8:41 AM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

Originally posted by Guenther Koegebehn:
I suspect the real problem with Friedhofer
is that he doesn't sell. I've heard reports
of just a couple of hundred copies...

Still better than some high salary classical
conductors, but...

Guenther...what title did you read sold only a couple of hundred copies???

"Best Years...." continues to be in print...first as a highly anticipated/touted LP which appreciated in price before it was issued on CD. The first CD pressing ran out so fast the demand raised auction prices. Once again, it was issued. And now it's in its third incarnation.

Another score by Friedhofer to get a general commercial release, that I am aware of, is "The Young Lions" which David Wishart issued on Cloud Nine backed with "This Earth is Mine." I do believe the CD of "An Affair to Remember" is fairly popular, especially as a crossover and when marketed with videos such as the title film, plus "Sleepless in Seattle."

I have the Japanese issue of "Boy on a Dolphin," but that was a limited issue and is hard to get, so I don't think it would qualify as a low seller. I've heard that "One-Eyed Jacks" was issued in Japan, too. Have never seen it, though. I totally discount all the Tsunami releases...I was thoroughly disgusted by the sound.

I'd like to believe that the Morgan/Stromberg Friedhofer album would have introduced his music to a younger generation, but John Morgan told me that they did the album more for love of the music than for any great hopes it would sell.

But the unrecorded Friedhofer is what's so significantly absent. Where are complete scores to "Above and Beyond," "Between Heaven and Hell," "In Love and War" and "The Sun Also Rises"? Why no "Rains of Ranchipur"? The one cue from it on Varese's "Music from 20th Century-Fox" is

"Broken Arrow" released in stereo by BYU last year (or earlier) was a revelation. I hear they have pristine acetates for "The Bishop's Wife" and that score should see life on CD at some future time.

Dutch: Thanks for the book recommendation above. That's one that eluded me and is one I shall certainly obtain!

For all who don't know: The HBO Home Video DVD version of this film features restored audio tracks, which sound great. Also, the film score, plus some effects (but nothing traumatically invasive), is isolated and is the perfect way to watch the film if you love this score.

Don't be surprised to find other DVD video versions of this title out there, as I believe the film went into public domain some time back. The HBO Video is the definitive version, remastered from original elements.


[This message has been edited by Ron Pulliam (edited 10 January 2001).]

 Posted:   Jan 13, 2001 - 12:34 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Pops, gotta tell ya I followed up and got 'em all straight. The Octave Theme is definitely a cross between Best Years & Neighbors. Just take the first 2 notes of both in that order and you have the indelible Octave theme. Just goes to show the more you analyze the greater you end up respecting what went into it and & what's going on.

Earlier today I replayed the "Fred and Peggy" cue. This is one great stand-alone piece; get the feeling it may have been buried in the older prints of the film. The liner notes call it "Gershwinesque" and brother did they get that right. Also listened to the Fred-in-the-cockpit music which begins with the cue underscoring Fred's father's reading of the citation. The opening notes of the latter creates for me an instant association with the opening of Mr. Williams's "Hymn to the Fallen."

 Posted:   Jan 15, 2001 - 6:33 AM   
 By:   Guenther K   (Member)

Originally posted by Ron Pulliam:
Guenther...what title did you read sold only a couple of hundred copies???).

Just general rumours. Varese did very poorly
with their Decca re-releases. John Morgan
can tell you certainly more about their
Friedhofer compilation, but I suspect it
is one of their worst sellers.

"An Affair to Remember" does certainly not
count. Basically it's a songtrack with
a few Friedhofer cues.

"Best years" propably did better, but a
Lasher release being 'out of print' is
hardly a criterium. They have quite small

With the exception of "Saint" John Morgan
I can see no one bold enough to risk a
Friedhover re-recording.

Sadly, I have to add.

You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
© 2024 Film Score Monthly. All Rights Reserved.
Website maintained and powered by Veraprise and Matrimont.