The Vintage

The Vintage (1957) is a love story—a pair of them, in fact—set on a French vineyard during the annual “vintage” season. Mel Ferrer and John Kerr play Italian brothers on the run from the law: Ernesto (Kerr) is a loose cannon wanted for murder, placing a burden on his responsible older brother, Giancarlo (Ferrer), in a dynamic that recalls Of Mice and Men. At the vineyard, Giancarlo falls in love with a beautiful, lonesome teenager (Pier Angeli), while Ernesto develops a crush on her older sister (Michèle Morgan)—who is also the wife of the vineyard’s owner (Leif Ericson). Dramatic conflict arises not only from this unrequited love, but also due to the presence of a group of Spanish migrant workers and the ultimate arrival of law enforcement in pursuit of Ernesto.

Ursula Keir’s novel of the same name provided the basis for the screenplay. (The film’s working title was Harvest Thunder—and for a time was also known as Purple Harvest—but the producers reverted to the novel’s title prior to release.) Despite a location shoot in southern France, under the direction of Jeffrey Hayden and with photography by Joseph Ruttenberg, most reviewers found fault with the array of accents and ethnicities. Variety wrote, “The Vintage is the kind of picture that the French and Italians often do to perfection, but in English and especially with American players it seems stilted and implausible.” Perhaps most disconcerting are Ferrer and Kerr speaking American-accented English as Italians, but the film also features the Italian Angeli as a Frenchwoman, and the Jewish Theodore Bikel as leader of the Spanish field workers. By contrast, Michèle Morgan seems out of place playing a character true to her French ethnicity.

The New York Times closed their review with a sentiment likely shared by soundtrack aficionados: “David Raksin’s pulsating musical score is most helpful. If only the same held true for the tempo and pitch of the proceedings!” From love themes to turbulent dramatic strains to exuberant, evocative music for the annual rituals of the wine harvests, Raksin’s music offers a bounty of melodic invention. Among the highlights of the score are the joyous, dance-like material for the harvest (spotlighted in the main title and several montage cues) and the tender, rarefied love theme for the Ferrer-Angeli romance.

This CD (the premiere release of music from The Vintage in any format) features the complete score in monaural sound, with a light stereo reverb added to enhance the ambiance. One reel of the original 17.5mm masters was lost, so these cues (primarily short revisions used to create the finished film cues heard in the bonus section) have been taken from acetates stored at the USC Cinematic Arts Library. The film’s source music—much of it guitar solos performed on screen by Theodore Bikel—was not composed by Raksin and is not included here. Missing from the film’s master tapes and acetates was a curiosity that suggests M-G-M’s Bronislau Kaper might have been the composer originally assigned to the film: Kaper recorded a piano solo called “Song for The Vintage” on July 18, 1956 (six months before Raksin’s work) but all recordings and manuscripts of this selection have vanished.

1. Grape Stomp—Main Title
Opening credits play over images of grapes on their vines. Raksin’s score introduces two of the major themes of the score—although although to call them mere “themes” is something of an understatement, as they are each fully developed musical compositions. First are rapturous, exalting chords for the vintage itself (the annual product of the vineyard), followed by celebratory, dance-like music for the harvest—in complex patterns of 2/4, 3/4 and 2/4 bars giving the impression of 7/4 time.
The Message
The film’s story begins at a checkpoint on the Franco-Italian border, where authorities are on the lookout for two Italian fugitives. Raksin’s dramatic music conveys a sense of urgency as well as grandeur for the story that is about to unfold.
2. The Border
The fugitives—brothers Giancarlo and Ernesto Barandero (Mel Ferrer and John Kerr)—sneak across the border into France. Raksin’s epic cue beautifully matches a picturesque location shot of them on a bridge, subsiding as they arrive at a vineyard to ask for work. Thematically this cue introduces a soothing minor-mode theme for the brothers.
3. A Friendly Sound
The first farmer they encounter has no work to offer them, so the brothers continue to another vineyard on the other side of a mountain. Raksin’s sweeping “traveling” version of the brothers’ theme follows them; the cue title refers to Ernest’s sarcastic remark about barking dogs as they arrive at the second vineyard: “That’s a friendly sound.”
4. Easy Brother/My Choice
The brothers are sent away by Louis Morel (Leif Ericson), the owner of the vineyard, and prepare to spend the night near a riverbank. Louis’s kind sister-in-law, Lucienne (Pier Angeli), later brings food to them. Two themes come into play in these cues: the brothers’ theme, heard previously, and a beautiful waltz-like melody for Lucienne, introduced here.
5. My Name Is Lucienne/My Name Is Giancarlo
After a brief conversation, Lucienne and Giancarlo reveal their names to each other as she departs. Raksin reprises Lucienne’s gentle waltz theme but also introduces (in the opening bars of “My Name Is Lucienne”) the love theme for the film—an unusually introspective melody with characteristics of the major (a major third) and minor (flatted sixths and sevenths) modes. This lends it an exotic and rarefied air, appropriate for the Continental setting and Lucienne’s character—her beauty and pure heart.
6. Not the Same
Lucienne speaks to her sister, Léone (Michèle Morgan), about her longings for the future, evoked by Raksin’s sensitive treatment of the love theme. The scene shifts inside the barn, where Louis hears rain outside—and possibly hail. Raksin captures the dramatic import of this possibility, as hail would wipe out the vintage. In the finished film, however, some of this music (1:31–1:47) is dialed out of the scene to allow the sequence to play with just sound effects and Louis’s reaction. The music is dialed back in as Louis stumbles outside into the vineyard, tasting a grape in a cathartic moment of prayer, hope and defiance—matched by Raksin’s fortissimo, sweeping “vintage” chords from the opening of the main title.
7. Brothers—Sisters
This cue covers a kitchen scene between brothers Giancarlo and Ernesto and sisters Lucienne and Léone. The love theme appears for the growing attraction between Giancarlo and Lucienne; introduced at 0:57 is a second love theme, this one for the relationship between Ernesto and Léone. She is married, however, and Ernesto’s attraction to her is a point of concern for Giancarlo: in the recent past, Ernesto has killed a man over a woman, which is the reason the brothers are on the run. The interior, melancholy nature of this new theme is appropriate for Ernesto and his longing.
8. Harvest
Louis hires a group of laborers, led by Eduardo Uribari (Theodore Bikel), who join Ernesto and Giancarlo for the annual harvest. This is the full-length version of Raksin’s “Harvest” cue, beginning with a never-before-heard 0:34 passage for a deleted benediction scene (intended by Raksin as an “alternate start” to the cue). The harvest music itself begins with the rapturous “vintage” chords of the main title before segueing to the joyous, dance-like 2+3+2-meter music for the picking of the grapes.
9. Something He Loves
Raksin reprises several themes—the brothers’ theme, the secondary (Ernesto-Léone) love theme and primary (Giancarlo-Lucienne) love theme—for dialogue scenes during a meal break. (The Ernesto-Léone theme appears for a plot development: Ernesto shows Léone’s daughter a woodcarving he is making of her mother.) Jolly music in the second half of the cue accompanies Eduardo inviting Giancarlo to “officially become one of my ‘cousins.’” The cue title refers to a line of dialogue from Giancarlo about Eduardo’s time away from his wife and family in order to make money as a laborer; Giancarlo remarks (with the subtext that he is speaking personally about Lucienne), “You’re right—every man has to leave something he loves every now and again, in order to see it more clearly.”
10. A Strike
When a local policeman discovers that Giancarlo and Ernesto are working without proper papers, Louis fires the brothers—but Eduardo announces a strike if his “cousins” are not immediately rehired, and Louis relents. A comic-pompous march (for the impromptu strike) segues to the harvest music for a montage sequence as the grapes are processed indoors.
11. Coq au Vin
Raksin reprises Eduardo’s comic march when—after swearing up and down to Louis that he and the laborers would never steal a chicken—the laborers help themselves to a roasted chicken they have hidden. (The cue title refers to the French dish that translates literally to “rooster in wine.”) The harvest music returns as the grape-picking continues. The opening 0:07 of this track is a revision added to start the cue slightly earlier in the scene.
12. Not Enough
Ernesto speaks to Léone after escorting her daughter home. Raksin’s tender music—featuring the brothers’ theme and the Ernesto-Léone love theme—plays as she sympathizes with him; the dialogue references his difficult childhood in WWII-ravaged Italy. (The cue title is a dialogue reference as well: Léone suggests it is good that Ernesto has Giancarlo to look after him, to which Ernesto replies, “It’s not enough, a brother.”) The cue continues as Giancarlo collects Ernesto and warns him to stay away from Léone and certainly not to give her the woodcarving of her likeness; they scuffle before Giancarlo apologizes. Raksin reprises some of the brothers’ music from the opening of the film for their interaction.
13. The Dogs
Giancarlo returns to the house to look for Ernesto’s carving, which he realizes (but does not tell Ernesto) he accidentally dropped. Raksin develops the large-scale music from the opening cues as Giancarlo is attacked by Louis’s dogs and locked up in a shed—suspected of being a chicken thief.
14. The Sisters
Lucienne learns that Giancarlo is being held prisoner and decides to go to him; this short cue is heard as she speaks with Léone, emotionally conveying the sisters’ understanding that Lucienne is falling in love with the stranger.
This Is Going to Hurt
This lengthy cue underscores dialogue between Lucienne and Giancarlo as she tends to his wounds (the cue title refers to a line from her as she applies alcohol to disinfect the dog bites) and confesses her love for him. None of this cue appears in the finished film—or at least the version presently in circulation—but curiously the cue is listed in its entirety on the film’s legal cue sheet (which is typically accurate to the second, as it determines royalty payments). As written and recorded, Raksin provides a sensitive treatment of the love theme.
15. Looking for This
Ernesto comes to the house (looking for Giancarlo) and sees Léone—who shows him the woodcarving (via her daughter, who found it). Raksin’s tender music (not used in the film but, like “This Is Going to Hurt,” listed on the cue sheet) features the Ernesto-Léone love theme: she is not upset, but rather sympathetic to his longings.
What Hurts You
The scene continues after a reel change (the music beginning in the finished film at this point) as Ernesto confesses to Léone about the murder that led to the brothers becoming fugitives. (Ernesto killed a man who was beating a woman.) Ernesto gives Léone the carving and Léone is overcome by emotion in her sympathy for the young man; Raksin’s cue surges with their love theme but cuts out when Louis walks in, disapproving.
16. It Didn’t Happen
Léone convinces Louis that nothing happened between her and Ernesto—but confesses that she does thirst for romance. Raksin’s music enters as Léone breaks down, crying, and Louis proceeds to the shed to free Giancarlo—a noble act. The Giancarlo-Lucienne love theme appears when they are reunited, but the mood darkens as Giancarlo asks Lucienne to forget everything that happened between them the previous night: “It didn’t happen.”
17. The Wine Press
Raksin reprises the harvest music as the wine press is assembled and work on the vintage continues. This cue (totaling 0:34) segues into:
The Vintage
When the Morel family gathers to sample the wine, the discussion turns Lucienne’s future: she is expected to marry Louis’s brother, Etienne (Jack Mullaney), but is smitten with Giancarlo, to everyone’s disapproval. Her theme takes over as she runs outside, followed by Léone, and the two sisters share their feelings with each other.
18. I’ll Follow You
Later, Lucienne finds Giancarlo at the riverbank, their love theme entering gently on flute and guitar; the music swells rapturously as she pledges her love to him.
19. Something to Decide
The French authorities alert Louis that Ernesto is wanted for murder; when Louis goes inside to retrieve his rifle, he stumbles across Ernesto (who has come to the house say goodbye to Léone) but decides not to turn the boy in. Raksin’s cue, featuring the Léone-Ernesto love theme, captures their anguish and torment—each with a different kind of pain over the matter, from Ernesto’s unrequited love to Léone’s loneliness to Louis’s jealousy.
20. Farewell Ernesto
Ernesto attempts to escape the property undetected but is shot and killed by a police inspector. Raksin’s cue enters in the aftermath, underscoring the tragedy with the Léone-Ernesto love theme as Giancarlo mourns his fallen brother.
21. Not So Far
Giancarlo says goodbye to Louis and his family. He walks off alone, but Lucienne runs after him, and the two set off together for a nearby piece of property (another “vintage”) that she owns—it’s “not so far,” she explains (hence the cue title). The love theme appears for their union, capped by the rapturous chords of the main title and harvest music for the close of the film itself.

Bonus Tracks

22. Grape Stomp—Main Title/Figure on a Bridge
Tracks 22 and 23 feature an alternate version of the opening cues in the film. Whereas most alternates are recorded days—if not weeks or months—apart, in this case Raksin scored on the same day (1/15/57) two differently edited versions of the opening sequence. Presumably, this was done so that the filmmakers could later decide which footage—and cues—they wanted to use. “Grape Stomp—Main Title” is the same recording as in track 1; “Figure on a Bridge,” however, is different music that, according to the conductor’s score, accompanied the brothers crossing the bridge to France. (In the finished film, this is scored by the third cue in the film, “The Border.”) Of “Figure on a Bridge” the conductor’s score also notes “This is original cutting version of opening sequence.”
23. Two of Us
Continuing with the alternate cut of the film’s opening, this cue—according to the conductor’s score—accompanied the brothers venturing farther into France, where they stop at the first vineyard to ask for work. (In the finished film, this action is incorporated into “The Border,” track 2.)
24. Easy Brother/At the River/My Choice
This is the finished film version of track 4 (reworked for reduced footage), for which Raksin recorded a new bridging cue, “At the River,” to connect portions of “Easy Brother” and “My Choice.”
25. Brothers—Sisters (film version)
This recording is the same as track 7 except for the last 0:21, which features a rewrite for the end of the scene: Giancarlo and Ernesto are asleep by the riverbank when they are awakened by Eduardo and his group of laborers. (The purpose of the rewrite was to incorporate a softer final chord.)
26. Harvest (film version)
This is the shortened “Harvest” music heard in the finished film; after a revised 0:18 opening, the balance of the cue is the same as track 8.
27. A Strike (film version)
The finished film version of track 10 features an abbreviated, revised ending to shorten the cue.
28. What Hurts You (revised)
The finished film version of “What Hurts You” from track 15 features a revised 0:53 at the end, altering the culmination of the Ernesto-Léone love theme.
29. Farewell Ernesto (film version)
The finished film version of track 20 shortens the tragic response to Ernesto’s death and adds a chipper piece of music as the film jumps ahead to Giancarlo bidding goodbye to Eduardo.
30. Theme From The Vintage
Raksin recorded this gentle treatment of the love theme at the last recording session, possibly for record exploitation. —