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Hooray For Bernard Herrmann

It’s amazing how many great movies featured music composed by Bernard Herrmann. Here are some highlights:

Citizen Kane; The Devil and Daniel Webster; The Magnificent Ambersons; Jane Eyre; Anna and the King of Siam; The Ghost and Mrs. Muir;The Day the Earth Stood Still;The Trouble with Harry; The Man Who Knew Too Much; The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit; The Wrong Man; A Hatfull of Rain; Vertigo; The Naked and the Dead; North by Northwest; Journey to the Center of the Earth; Psycho; Tender Is the Night; Cape Fear; Jason and the Argonauts;The Birds; Marnie; Fahrenheit 451 and Taxi Driver. In addition, part of the score from a movie called Twisted Nerve was used by Quentin Tarantino as the theme for Kill Bill, Vol. 1. 

Think of that for a second: Herrmann was a direct link between Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver and an indirect one to Tarantino.

Obviously, being an Alfred Hitchcock favorite is helpful in compiling an impressive resume. Here is the beginning of Herrmann’s profile from The Bernard Herrmann Society. It was written in 1977 by Edward Johnson:

America has produced in the twentieth century many outstanding symphonic composers, but only one important music-dramatist: Bernard Herrmann. Whether he wrote music for a cantata, Moby Dick, or an opera, Wuthering Heights, or for any of his numerous films, a strong, explosive, individual and compelling dramatist shines through all of them.

For a while I worried that he spent too much time writing music for films, which after a short run disappear for ever – and the music with them. But a new period in his life proved that my concern was unfounded. He recorded nearly all of his important works on phonograph records, thus making them available to his countless admirers.

It is remarkable that this uncompromising individualist, who certainly did not belong to the clan of the Hollywood studio hacks, made such a splendid career there, at a place for which he never professed to have overwhelming love. From his very first film score on, he was acknowledged both by the producers and his colleagues as one of the outstanding figures of the Hollywood music scene and only when this Hollywood started to crumble away did he find it necessary to settle in his beloved England. As fate is often cruel, his last film was a Hollywood product and there, tragically, he died. (Continue Reading…)

Above is the “Psycho Suite” performed by the  BBC Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011. Below is “I Still Can’t Sleep/They Cannot Touch Her” from Taxi Driver. It is performed by Ensemble Contrastes.

Jim Lochner offers his take on top Bernard Herrmann scores at FilmScoreClickTrack.com.