BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD
In this Segment, we are going to discuss talented musicians with European musical training who transitioned from Broadway to Hollywood, where they had their greatest success in movies.
Conrad Salinger (1901-1962) studied at the Paris Conservatoire, worked in Hollywood for Alfred Newman on Born to Dance (1936) and Gunga Din (1939) and orchestrated most of the MGM musicals, including Show Boat (1951 version), Girl Crazy (1943 version), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Anchors Aweigh, Good News (1947), On the Town (1949), Annie Get Your Gun (1950), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Kiss Me, Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), An American in Paris (1951), The Band Wagon (1953), Gigi (1958) and ballet sequences in Brigadoon (1954).
It is sometimes very hard for an audience to understand just what an orchestrator does; we have covered this subject in depth in the Segment on orchestrators; however, that Segment is dedicated to our Broadway orchestrators, such as Robert Russell Bennett. While the same principles apply to Hollywood orchestrators, there are differences. Quite often, it is best just to listen for yourself. An example is the song “But Not For Me” from the movie version of Girl Crazy. Judy is being chased by all the men, but she does not believe that she will ever find love. In a carefully staged confession to a seated Rags Ragland, almost like a Shakespearean soliloquy, she shares her feelings with the audience. Note Salinger’s careful choice of strings and winds in the music, as he chooses to highlight the singer and not the orchestra. Please compare this version with the stage version in the Roxbury restoration recording of Girl Crazy. Your ear can tell you better than we can the differences between the two orchestrations.
Max Steiner (1888-1971), was born in Austria, studied at the Imperial Academy of Music and took private lessons from Robert Fuchs and Gustav Mahler. He worked in London, was forced to depart to New York during WWI and found work on Broadway as a music director and orchestrator at T.B. Harms.
Later, he signed with RKO, where he started his career as a composer. As a footnote to the change in career from orchestrator on Broadway to composer in Hollywood, we should point out that it is possible that Steiner was more of a symphonic composer and would thus feel more at home composing for a movie. His first major effort was in 1933, when he wrote the complete score for the movie, King Kong, which contains the great line, “It was beauty killed the beast.” He would go on to win his first Oscar two years later.
He left RKO to go to Warner Brothers where he wrote music for 140 films over thirty years. He was loaned out once, when David O. Selznick asked that Steiner create the score for Gone with the Wind (1939). Rumor has it that Selznick wanted to use classical music and that Steiner decided to write original music on his own (imagine if “Tara’s Theme” had never been written).
Steiner won his first Oscar for The Informer (1935; Best Score) and subsequently won Oscars for Now, Voyager (1942) and Since You Went Away (1944). In addition, he was adept at creating music for westerns, such as Dodge City (1939) and The Searchers (1956); however, he was just as comfortable writing for films like The Big Sleep (1946) and The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948).
In this example, note the way that Steiner collaborated with Hugo Friedhofer (orchestrator) on the orchestral arrangements for Now, Voyager. We first hear the Fanfare with lots of brass; then we shift into the music called “Love Scene.” In it, we hear the winds and strings shift the melody between them until around the three minute mark, when the strings take the lead in a lush fullness.
The same can be heard in this brief clip from The Searchers, on which Steiner and Murray Cutter (orchestrator) collaborated on the score. At the opening, we hear heavy brass and percussion which shortly transitions to the softer music associated with Debbie, using mostly strings.
Murray Cutter (1902-1983) was born and trained in France and had a brief sojourn on Broadway before going to Hollywood, where he received 166 credits as an orchestrator from 1937 to 1965. Cutter may be best remembered for his arrangement of “Over the Rainbow” for the young Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz (1939). However, he showed his versatility by orchestrating for all types of movies, from musicals like Babes in Arms (1939), New Moon (1940), Kismet (1944) and The Desert Song (1953) to love stories such as Mrs. Miniver (1942), Random Harvest (1942) and Waterloo Bridge (1940), to dramas such as Mortal Storm (1940), Northwest Passage (1940), The Caine Mutiny (1954) and Key Largo (1948) to westerns like Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948), Johnny Belinda (1948) and The Searchers (1956).
Charles Previn (1888-1973) was born in Brooklyn, took his undergraduate degree at Cornell and his masters with European-trained musicians at New York College of Music. He had an unremarkable Broadway career but achieved notable radio success in New York before being lured to Hollywood. From 1936 to 1944, he served as music director at Universal Pictures. He won an Oscar as music director for the 1937 Deanna Durbin movie, One Hundred Men and a Girl; he received Oscar nominations for six other movies, including the unforgettable song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” starring The Andrews Sisters (for the 1941 movie Buck Privates). You can see YouTube clips from the movie; however, the sound quality of the Decca recording is far superior.
Alfred Newman (1900-1970) was born in New Haven but, as a youngster, traveled to New York to attend the Von Ende School of Music, where he studied piano under Polish pianist, Sigismund Stojowski, and studied composition under Rubin Goldmark and George Wedge. When he was older, Newman took private lessons in 1930 from Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles.
In his autobiography, Robert Russell Bennett remembers the work of Newman, who as leader of the 1920’s Greenwich Village Follies and George White’s Scandals, became Broadway’s youngest-ever musical director at less than twenty years old.
Newman’s work in Hollywood resulted in 341 credits; forty-four Academy Award nominations; nine Oscars, including Oscars for Best Music and for Scoring.
On one movie (Broadway Melody of 1940), Newman was music director and helped give us a swinging version of a Cole Porter melody (“Don’t Monkey with Broadway”) that works because of the number’s tempo and harmony (the dancing isn’t too shoddy, either).
Robert Emmett Dolan (1908-1972) studied with international musicians and had a wonderful career on Broadway as a music director, both before and after his work in Hollywood. In Hollywood, he spent most of his time at Paramount Studios, where he worked as both a music director and a music composer. His significant number of credits include sixteen Bing Crosby movies.
This Decca recording is the closest we can come to the version that Crosby sang in the film Blue Skies, on which Dolan was musical director. If you love Crosby and Irving Berlin, you need to watch the entire movie (more dramatic and less crooning). It is worth your time and money.
In the 1942 movie, Holiday Inn, Dolan was able to capture the swing era with the rendition of the song “I’ll Capture Your Heart Singing” shown in this TCM clip.
Dimitri Tiomkin (1894-1979) was born in Russia and trained at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he studied piano with Felix Blumenfeld (teacher of Vladimir Horowitz) and harmony and counterpoint with Alexander Glazunov (mentor to Sergei Profkfiev and Dmitri Shostakovich). Tiomkin moved to Berlin and during the period from 1921 to 1923, he studied piano with Ferruccuio Busoni. He spent very little time in New York. His real success came in Hollywood, where he composed scores for a significant number of movies, including the memorable Red River (1948). Tiomkin received twenty-two Academy award nominations and four Oscars—High Noon (entire score, 1952), “Ballad of High Noon (song),” The High and the Mighty (entire score, 1954) and The Old Man and the Sea (entire score, 1958).
Tiomkin could compose for almost any circumstance, from the anti-violence movie, Friendly Persuasion, to the war epic, Guns of Navarone. Starting with Friendly Persuasion, the opening of the soundtrack (“Thee I Love”) provides us with the peaceful and pastoral nature of the Pennsylvania Quaker community. It was necessary to establish, at the outset, that the biggest issue facing this community was the bad behavior of the pet goose, so that the film could surprise us with the real purpose of the movie: could a pacifist enlist to fight in the Civil War. How better to introduce one of the bloodiest conflicts on American soil than with this theme song.
While Tiomkin’s body of work is prodigious and excellent in quality, no one piece of music sums up the talents of a composer writing for the stage and screen better than the “Ballad of High Noon.” At the beginning of the movie, we see a bunch of gunfighters gathering together, although we don’t know who they are or why they are meeting. Against this visual backdrop, we hear some music, sung by a revered country and western singer, Tex Ritter, toward the end of his career. The song highlights the long odds against the Sheriff, played by Gary Cooper near the end of his illustrious career. In just a few minutes, the music, the words, and gravely voice of the singer all tend to frame the issues of the movie: love, loyalty and individual responsibility.
Adolph Deutsch (1897-1980) was born and trained in London and spent very little time on Broadway. Mainly he conducted and composed in Hollywood for films, such as The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Some Like it Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960). He won Oscars for composing the background music in Oklahoma! (1955) and for conducting Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and Annie Get Your Gun (1950). He was nominated for the adaptations of The Band Wagon (1953) and the 1951 version of Show Boat.
As we look at Deutsch’s career, it is good to reflect on the near perfect score for The Maltese Falcon or High Sierra, both of which needed the right tone to be effective; however, none of the scores for his movies has a better theme than the one he wrote for The Apartment. The movie is mainly about hypocrisy; however, along the way toward career advancement, two people fall in love. Without an uplifting score, many of us may never have stayed to watch the final reel.