With the opening of The Post, Steven Spielberg’s new newspaper drama with its score by the legendary John Williams, I thought it might be a good time to look back at past movies with a newspaper setting and the music that accompanied them (and added a bit of information and commentary for each). So for this week’s online Variety, I found YouTube videos of music from Citizen Kane, Sweet Smell of Success, The Front Page, All the President’s Men, The Paper and Spotlight. Comments from composers Elmer Bernstein, David Shire and Howard Shore are included.
I’ve begun a second season of introducing films scored by the late Elmer Bernstein at the magnificently restored Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif. We began last night with a screening of National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), which ushered in a decade of comedy scores by the Oscar-winning composer. Members of the Bernstein family attended, and the gales of laughter in the theater were demonstrable proof that the movie is still wildly funny 38 years later. Coming up in the 2016-17 season are seven more classics: The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) on Sept. 26, Summer and Smoke (1961) on Dec. 5, The Shootist (1976) on Jan. 9, Far From Heaven (2002) on March 13, The Ten Commandments (1956) on April 10, Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) on May 8, and Trading Places (1983) on June 19. Come join us if you’re in Southern California!
Last night I wrapped up my first season as host of the Elmer Bernstein Memorial Film Series at the historic Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, California. We screened The Age of Innocence, Martin Scorsese’s 1993 adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel that contains one of Bernstein’s richest and most memorable scores. The composer’s daughter, Emilie Bernstein, who orchestrated the music and was present at the recording sessions, joined me on stage for a lively Q&A on the scoring process. Granada management also announced next season’s lineup, eight more Bernstein classics including The Man With the Golden Arm, The Ten Commandments and National Lampoon’s Animal House. It’s a joy to introduce these great films from Bernstein’s 50-year career in the movies, and I hope those of you in the neighborhood will join us beginning in August (see dates on the poster).
With the support of Elmer Bernstein’s family, I have been asked to curate a five-film festival of classic movies scored by the great American composer. We launched the season Monday night at Santa Barbara’s beautiful Granada Theatre with a screening of Sweet Smell of Success (1957), among the most powerful of all of Bernstein’s jazz scores. The film, of course, overflows with brilliant dialogue (courtesy of Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman), much of it spoken in tense, confrontational moments involving powerful newspaper columnist Burt Lancaster and desperate press agent Tony Curtis. Still to come in the series: True Grit (Nov. 16), Hawaii (Dec. 7), Airplane! (March 7) and The Age of Innocence (May 9). Join us!
Oscar-winning songwriter Paul Williams asked me to join him on stage for a screening of The Great Escape as part of The Elmer Bernstein Memorial Film Series at the stunning, restored Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif. It was great fun talking about the composer as well as director John Sturges’ 1963 POW film with its now classic theme (a smart-aleck march suggested by Steve McQueen’s character). After the film, we did an informal Q&A for an invited audience that included Elmer’s widow Eve and three of his children.
One of my favorite year-end tasks is compiling a list of what I think were the best albums of classic film and TV music to be released during the previous 12 months. First-time-ever releases (like Leonard Bernstein’s original On the Waterfront tracks), re-recordings (John Barry’s The Betsy), reissues on CD (Jerry Goldsmith’s Our Man Flint and In Like Flint LPs), expanded classics (Michel Legrand’s The Thomas Crown Affair) and box sets of great film and TV music (Elmer Bernstein’s Ava LPs, Star Trek: Enterprise) are all included. I chose 20, and had to drop five or six more that I really liked because of limited space. Thanks to all the producers and label execs who work so hard to keep us film-music buffs happy.
I was thrilled to be able to put Elmer Bernstein on the front page of the Los Angeles Times‘ Calendar section. He was being honored by the Motion Picture Academy for his half-century of composing for movies. It was a great year for Elmer; he was celebrated around the world. This was a big feature I wrote that chronicled his career (at least, as much as you can do in 2,400 words). Interviews were conducted with Elmer, Gregory Peck, John Landis, Martin Scorsese, James Newton Howard and Leonard Maltin.
An unparalleled reference source and much, much more, Sound and Vision offers a detailed history of movie music on record and compact disc; up-to-date biographical sketches of composers throughout movie history; and annotated listings of the best-selling, award-winning or otherwise noteworthy soundtracks of the past and present — original film scores as well as movie musicals and song-compilation scores. It even provides a comprehensive index so that can instantly know if the music you’re looking for is commercially available.
From Leonard Maltin’s foreword: “There are few chroniclers of the film music scene as astute and accurate as Jon Burlingame, and this book is a valuable gift to anyone who’s just getting hooked on soundtracks.”
A few reviews:
“Anyone with even a passing interest in film music should have this book.” — Randy Newman
“Burlingame’s taste is impeccable, and film score fans exploring the range of the hobby will find the book a perfect checklist for what they should seek out. Sound and Vision puts their obsession in a cultural and commercial context they probably rarely consider.” — Jeff Bond, Film Score Monthly
“A fun and informative look at scores on disc… a perceptive and reasonable examination of trends and trendsetters, with a clear-headed business consciousness that should give readers a renewed understanding of the politics of the recording industry.” — Randall Larson, Soundtrack!
“Smart, comprehensive and fun to read.” — Daniel Schweiger, Venice magazine
“Sound and Vision is an absolutely indispensable reference book, with a fascinating history of soundtracks and a remarkably comprehensive listing of composers and their work.” — Fred Karlin, composer and author of Listening to Movies
“In an era in which books about film music are proliferating at a rapid rate, it is Jon Burlingame who speaks with the most clear and authoritative voice. He is a researcher willing to check the facts at the source. He speaks with great love for the art of composing music for film and is a kind and knowledgeable critic of the state of the art.” — Elmer Bernstein
“Jon Burlingame has approached this book with devotion and wide-ranging knowledge…. Every serious film buff should welcome Sound and Vision with genuine enthusiasm — Rudy Behlmer, author of Memo From David O. Selznick
“Burlingame has wisely chosen to chronicle those soundtracks that, by virtue of their quality, importance or popularity, should be made known to film music’s ever-increasing audience. His informative history of movie soundtrack recordings is alone worth the purchase price.” — Clifford McCarty, author of Film Composers in America
When Randy Newman was replaced by Jerry Goldsmith as the composer of the Harrison Ford thriller Air Force One, the Los Angeles Times asked me to write about it. It was news, of course, and I did interview both Goldsmith and director Wolfgang Petersen. But I tried to frame this unfortunate situation in a larger historical context by talking about the history of “rejected scores” including all the classics, from 2001 to Torn Curtain and The Battle of Britain. I also talked with Elmer Bernstein, no stranger to the phenomenon, and director Roland Joffe, who had tossed a couple of his own.