Released on Quartet records QRSCE010, in 2010.
THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
The Charge of the Light Brigade was a notorious incident that took place at the battle of Balaklava (Ukraine) during the Crimean War in the October of 1854. It is still considered to be among the most supreme military blunders in history, and one of many that befell the British military during the reign of Queen Victoria, the events of the episode being immortalized in the celebrated poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
The expedition to the Crimea was marred by an incredible lack of forethought, tactics or preparation by both the British and French military and their respective governments. The two then super powers had formed an alliance in order to aid Turkey in their struggle against superior Russian forces who had invaded their country in an attempt to gain control of the Dardanelles. Russian jurisdiction over this particular area would have badly affected British and French sea routes that were vital to both countries economies.
Inadequate weapons, camouflage, food supplies, health care, weather conditions and lack of even basic communications hampered the expeditionary force and many soldiers fell ill or perished before they even reached the battlefield. Diseases such as cholera took a heavy toll upon the ranks. By the time they arrived on the battleground much of their equipment had been either lost, or was no longer in working order. In the final battle, all the soldiers had to protect themselves was their nerve, unwavering patriotism and faith.
As Tennyson put it:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismayed ?
Not though the soldier knew
Some one had blundered:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Tony Richardson’s movie is an archetypal analysis of the futility of war and the horrors inflicted on the average but courageous man who goes to fight in the name of his country and sovereign only to be let down and forgotten by both. The film was completely removed from the Americanised, cliché-filled original big screen treatment of the events on that fateful day. The Hollywood version released by Warner Brothers in 1936 was basically a vehicle for screen heart-throb Errol Flynn, who was the movies principal player. Although referred to as a classic, it is by today’s standards rather subdued, containing wooden performances and also grossly historically incorrect in places. Its saving grace being the spectacular charge of the brigade filmed by Michael Curtiz, which was realistic and stirring.
Richardson’s vision of the story purveyed war to be what it is in reality – brutal, bloody, pointless, chaotic and full of carnage and mayhem, eschewing any Hollywood glitter or dressing up of events. Richardson wanted to call the movie THE REASON WHY, maybe in an attempt to un-glorify the events of the day and highlight its pitfalls and deadly mistakes. The director did however, manage to infuse segments of comedy and snippets of satire which lightened the mood of the movie and bought an air of normality to the proceedings. Richardson also grasped upon every opportunity that was possible to show the inept and erroneous policies and practices of the British government of the time, who were willing, it seemed, to entrust the lives of thousands of soldiers to inexperienced officers who in many cases had not earned but purchased their commissions in the army. Buying Commissions was something that happened regularly in Victorian England. Wealthy individuals with no military understanding at all would at times go as far as buying the regiment that they wanted to be associated with, appointing themselves as commander. These individuals were full of their own importance, never giving a thought for the down rankers who looked to them for guidance and support.
Three such characters were portrayed wonderfully by esteemed British actors in Richardson’s movie. Sir John Gielgud is annoyingly convincing as the incredibly imperceptive, aloof and near senile Lord Raglan (Fitzroy James Henry Somerset), who was ultimately held responsible for issuing the order for the brigade to charge the Russian guns. Trevor Howard and Harry Andrews play squabbling brothers-in-law (Lord Cardigan and Lord Lucan respectively). Both are excellent and true to life; their characters more concerned about who gives the orders to whom and who is in overall command, rather than concentrating on the battle itself or giving thought to the men they are supposedly in charge of and responsible for. Their constant bickering becomes so intense that their respective staff’s refuse to co-operate and an order sent to Cardigan from Lucan is misinterpreted sending the light brigade into a situation and an engagement that was not only disastrous but also one that went against all military codes and practise.
“IT IS MAGNIFICENT. BUT IT IS NOT WAR”.(French Marshall in the Crimea, Pierre Bosquet)
David Hemming’s takes on the role of Captain Louis Edward Nolan, who is it seems, to be the only glimmer of sanity and reason amongst all of the chaos, ineptitude and slaughter, and ironically in the movie is the first fatality in the charge, struck down before the brigade has reached a gallop. In reality Nolan was a respected officer and a great supporter and believer in the power and strategic usefulness of British cavalry. Properly led, the British Hussar and Dragoon could in his mind break squares, take batteries, ride over columns of infantry, and pierce any other cavalry in the world as if they were made of straw. It was Nolan who took the order to the brigade and according to eye witnesses on the day when asked by the brigade commander “ Where are we to advance to”? Nolan pointed in the direction of the Russian lines and said “THERE ARE THE ENEMY, AND THERE ARE THE GUNS”.
“A FEAT OF CHIVALRY, FIERY WITH CONSUMATE COURAGE, AND BRIGHT WITH FLASHING COURAGE”.
(Benjamin Disraeli in the House of Commons 15 December 1855)
A fresh faced Vanessa Redgrave provides the love interest as Clarissa, who embarks on an affair with the Hemmings character. The presence of Vanessa Redgrave,( the director’s wife from 1962 to 1967), in the role of one of the prim Victorian ladies, is itself amusing as Redgrave was then and still is a dedicated left-wing actress who has never disguised her support of a variety of political causes. There are also a number of familiar British actors in the cast who take on minor but important roles, Peter Bowles for example who plays the irritatingly pompous popinjay paymaster, Captain Henry Duberly, who is it seems very good at talking military matters but has little experience of them. Ray Pattison as the rough and ready (but loyal) regimental Sgt Major and Jill Bennett as Mrs Fanny Duberly, who constantly lusts after Lord Cardigan.
Director Richardson’s expertise behind the camera brought out the best in these actors, with their roles made more realistic and credible because of the film-makers down to earth approach. The movie was filmed in a fashion that fused feature film and documentary styles to great effect, which again added depth, realism and atmosphere to the films storyline and visual/aural content. This technique drew attention to the social levels of the period and fixed upon the observations and comments however insignificant of individual officers and their underlings. It highlighted the stark and broad gap between officers and soldiers and made comparisons between the pompous and luxurious lifestyle of the wealthy as opposed to the basic and impoverished day to day struggle to survive of the common man.
It also focused upon the bullying that was experienced by younger officers by so called veterans and the prejudices that were rife within the upper classes of the time. The production was filmed in various locations, but the all important Charge Of The Light Brigade and battle of Balaklava was filmed in a valley near Ankara, Turkey. The director had wanted to film at the site where the actual battle took place, but Russian authorities refused permission, saying that the location was too close to a missile site. Richardson’s production company Woodfall, rented a 700 acre area from the Turkish government which cost approx £20,000 and were aided greatly by the Turkish Presidential guard which acted as extras and whose commander provided the production with 600 horses. In return for this co-operation Richardson’s production company transformed the valley into a fully irrigated area of agricultural land, as well as paying the locals double what their harvest would have brought in and they also installed electricity to nearby villages which were their base during filming. Things however did not run that smoothly, and the villagers and soldiers who were extras would often clash over various occurrences that arose. For example it had been agreed that the land in the valley would not be farmed whilst filming was taking place, but the villagers would at times plough up areas which made it difficult and also dangerous for the horses, the soldiers would then get angry with the villagers and arguments would break out on a regular basis.
After the cameras ceased to roll all of the improvements were left behind for the people of the area to benefit from. The production was also aided by the utilisation of some excellent animation, which was made up of images of achievements in the industrious Victorian age, and also propaganda related illustrations. This striking imagery was the work of Richard Williams, who based his etchings upon original material published in the PUNCH magazine. Williams created the Pink Panther cartoon character for the opening of the Blake Edwards comedy movie which was far removed from the work he did on The Charge of the light Brigade. The clever and strategically placed animated sequences acted as an adhesive of sorts that bound the movie together, (showing simply what was happening and what was being carried out in cartoon form as opposed to attempting to do this with actors etc,) linking episodes of the story together. These animated sections featured characters and items such as the British Lion, who is awoken from its slumbers by France and Austria and donning a policeman’s helmet proceeds to square up to the Russian bear after the bear not only attacks but plucks and throttles a terrified looking cartoon of a Turkey, which represents the country.
In the directors memoirs he recalled the production of the movie, and a number of instances that occurred during the actual filming both dangerous, silly and humorous. There was for example an incident that took place involving the Turkish military who were supplying the extras for the film. Richardson recalled, “ Every day brought some new emergency, we had managed to persuade the relevant authorities to let the young recruits grow beards and moustaches etc to fit in with the soldiers of the period. One evening a high ranking officer arrived on set, and not understanding what the film was about or having no idea of the time period in which the story was set, took one look at the recruits and ordered them to shave immediately, the next day was a nightmare as we were desperately phoning, Rome, Paris and London to contact hairdressers and suppliers to replace the devastation caused by the officers orders”. The filmmaker also recalled how merciless he was whilst editing the movie, he discarded whole sequences and cut complete sub plots from the film, he even omitted the charge of the heavy brigade. The editor Kevin Brownlow had hinted to Richardson that maybe the sections that had ended up on the cutting room floor could at some stage be re-introduced into the film, and then the movie could be re-released as a four and a half hour special edition, sadly this idea did not come to fruition and the edited material was destroyed. Interesting trivia that is related to the movie includes. Actor Laurence Harvey was given a role as a Russian Prince, but his scenes were cut completely, although he can be seen briefly in the scene in the theatre sitting near Trevor Howard. Harvey had wanted to produce the movie originally before it was taken on by Woodfall films and even went to the extent of buying the bugle used during the charge when it went up for sale in 1964. Giving him a part in the movie was part of a settlement the actor had with Woodfall when they took over the project. Also the movie was the first on screen role for Natasha Richardson and the Hussars tunic that was worn by David Hemming’s in the movie was later owned and worn by new romantics performer Adam Ant during his Prince Charming video. Tony Richardson who was well known for being notoriously difficult at one point had insisted on the Guardsman wearing blue tunics during the battle of Alma instead of scarlett because he thought it looked better, it was only when the historic advisor on the movie Boris Mollo threatened to resign that the director backed down.
The musical score too was an important and also an integral component of the movie. The at times grand sounding soundtrack was the work of British born composer John Addison. His anthem-like themes enhance, support and ingratiate both live action and animated footage in Richardson’s film. But at the same time his music is intimate and gracious. The music from the film was originally issued on a long playing record in 1968 on the United Artists label. Forty one years later the soundtrack received its first compact disc release, when it was issued as part of a box set of MGM/UA Soundtracks released by American record label Film Score Monthly.
This edition of the score on Singular Soundtracks is the first time that it has been released as an individual item on compact disc and although it contains no extra music it is still a worthy addition to any film music collection. Addison’s music is mysterious and even low key at times, but more often than not it is patriotic, driving, majestic and brimming with sheer Britannic pomp and bravado. The love theme which he penned for Nolan and Clarissa is not as one would expect for a story set in the romantic era of Victoriana. It is neither lush or overly melodic, instead the composer utilises a lilting woodwind motif that is subtly underlined by understated strings in an almost veiled fashion, creating a slightly fragmented theme, which although gentle is at the same time portentous. John (Jock) Addison was born on March 16th 1920 in Cobham Surrey. He was educated at Wellington college and also at the Royal College of music from 1938 to 1939. His studies were interrupted by the start of WW ll, Addison enlisted in the army as a cavalry officer and was attached to the xxx corps, an armoured division who would be involved in the ill fated operation market garden which was fought against German forces in Arnhem Belgium. This engagement would have disastrous results for the British and inhabitants of the town. Addison did not actually take part in the operation, but felt a strong connection with the men in the corps. Addison was actually wounded at Caen during the Normandy landings in 1944. It was fitting that many years later Addison would score Sir Richard Attenborough’s big screen treatment of the Arnhem expedition, A BRIDGE TOO FAR.(1976), which garnered Addison a BAFTA for best original score. The composers music acting as a tribute to the fallen troops on both sides.
After the war had finished and Addison was de-mobbed in 1947 he returned to his studies at the Royal College of Music and in 1950 became a professor of composition there. Addison’s first classical composition dates back to 1948, this was Three Terpsichorean Studies for orchestra. But his involvement with music for films began two years previous to this when he arranged the songs for BRIGHTON ROCK (1946). His first actual scoring assignment was for THE GUINEA PIG in 1948. The composer did originally set out to write music for the stage and this aspiration began when he scored the four hander revue CRANKS in 1955, and although his music for this was acclaimed and said to be adventurous and highly original, it is music for film that Addison will be best remembered for, he worked on numerous motion pictures in Gt. Britain, during the 1950,s through to the late 1970,s and was responsible for providing the soundtracks to countless movies that established the British film industry as a force to be reckoned with throughout the world. During the 1950,s Addison was associated with films such as, SEVEN DAYS TILL NOON (1950), THE RED BERET (1953), THE MAGGIE (1954), THE COCKELSHELL HEROES (1955), PRIVATES PROGRESS (1956), REACH FOR THE SKY (1956), I WAS MONTYS DOUBLE (1958) and CARLTON BROWNE OF THE F.O. (1959).
During the decade of the 60,s the composer provided the scores for groundbreaking and box office success’s alike, such as, THE SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS (1960), THE ENTERTAINER (1960), A TASTE OF HONEY (1961). LONELINESS OF A LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (1962), TOM JONES (1963), GUNS AT BATASI (1964) and caused quite a stir in Hollywood when he replaced composer Bernard Herrmann on Alfred Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN in 1966. As the 1970’s dawned the composer remained busy scoring movies and television projects such as MR FORBUSH AND THE PENGUINS, SLUETH, LUTHER, SWASHBUCKLER, JOSEPH ANDREWS and THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION. Mid way through the 1970’s the composer relocated from his native England to the United States, firstly settling in Los Angeles, but then moving to Vermont in 1990 where he remained until his death in 1998. During his time in America Addison became widely known for his television scores and in particular for his infectious theme for the series MURDER SHE WROTE, which opened the show on over 250 occasions. During 1978 thru to 1979 Addison worked on all twelve episodes of the NBC TV series CENTENNIAL. His workload remained steady during the 1980,s and he was involved with other projects such as ELLIS ISLAND, GRACE QUIGLEY, STRANGE INVADERS and TO DIE FOR. Addison passed away on December 7th, 1998, after suffering a stroke.
The music tracks on this compact disc are not in order of how they appeared in the movie, they are in order of the long playing record release.
THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE.The opening track is a modern sounding pop orientated song, performed by fashionable sixties band Manfred Mann, who execute lines from Tennyson’s poem set to music. The song never appeared on the films soundtrack, and was I suppose an early example of record labels and film companies including songs on disc releases in an attempt to boost sales. Or maybe it was destined for inclusion on the score and was not used. It is not clear if the music is by composer John Addison or members of the band that perform it.
John Addison’s regal sounding central theme for the movie is given its most full working in this cue. The composition begins slowly its atmosphere being almost foreboding. The mood of the cue soon alters as the tempo is increased and the composer introduces the strident and regal theme. The music accompanies the stunning animated images of Richard Williams, which depict the achievements, inventiveness, wealth and also the poverty of the Victorian age.
THE SIX HUNDRED.
This cue is heard just before the Light Brigade ride into the valley of death, and is heard as Captain Nolan (David Hemmings) rides out to the waiting Light Brigade with Lord Raglan’s orders that will send the Brigade to assured death. The composition includes a different arrangement of Nolan’s theme, which is performed in the main by the brass section, supported by urgent sounding strings.
In the movie we hear this theme for the first time when Captain Nolan visit’s the barracks of the 11th Hussars, he talks to stable hands and officers alike and shows no prejudice or signs of class snobbery. Which does not sit well with the upper echelon members of the regiment. Addison utilises to great effect woodwind and strings which are interspersed and punctuated by hesitant sounding trumpet flourishes. This theme and style of scoring is repeated throughout the film when Nolan is on screen.
WAITING FOR THE CHARGE.
This music is heard just before the fateful charge of the hussars into the valley, Russian soldiers steal the British guns and are seen to be moving them towards their own positions, the British cavalry stands watching and not being utilised in anyway to stop them. Captain Nolan is incensed by this act and harasses the British commander Lord raglan into sending an order to the light brigade to engage the enemy. The composers supporting music is a mixture of Nolan’s theme as he persuades Raglan to send the order and also tense and suspense filled martial sounding motifs and passages that include a subdued trumpet fanfare of sorts which is punctuated by the use of rolling timpani that perfectly depicts and accompanies the incompetent and indecisive British commanding officers who are attempting to reach a decision of how to best deal with the Russian infantry that have stolen the guns.
GO GENTLY (SEBASTOPOL).
The British and French alliance continue to make very little headway and are struggling to even make an impression upon the Russian defences, but the British newspapers and reporters with the expedition, exaggerate the truth and imply that the campaign is going well and that victory has been achieved in Sebastopol. This is a gross and unwise twisting of the facts, and the animated sequence lays out this victory in all its patriotic and pompous glory. The composer rises to the occasion and provides the images with some suitably overblown and majestic writing, that is introduced by music that is light and at times near celestial, performed by both orchestra and choir.
SEBASTAPOL (GO GENTLY).
Whilst training in a London park, a young raw officer(Captain Morrison, played by actor Mark Burns), who is a friend of Nolan’s becomes unseated from his horse and is made fun of by other members of the regiment. Nolan arrives and takes control of the excited animal plus he also cuts short the ridicule being dished out by the other officers. The music present in this cue is not fully utilised within the film, the introduction which is the excitable music that accompanies the horses disobedient capers is not in the film, but the arrangement of Nolan’s theme that follows it is heard as Nolan takes charge of the horse and assists his friend back into the saddle.
This a unashamed piece of propaganda, Addison’s music is heard over a cleverly put together animated sequence. Urgent and almost fraught cries of THE RUSSIANS !
THE RUSSIANS ! open the cue and are interrupted by a forthright and urgent cry of, POOR LITTLE TURKEY ! A forthright and threatening theme is heard as we see a cartoon image of the Russian Bear approach Turkey and subsequently attack and abuse it. The composer accompanies this with some suitably Asian and colourful sounding music. The mood and atmosphere of the composition changes once again as The British Lion and French Rooster join forces and forge across the map of Europe to retaliate against the Bear to assist the beleaguered bird, Addison introduces segments of the French National Anthem and combines it with the scores central heroic theme to create a pompous and typicaly imperialistic tone.
ACROSS THE SEA.
Another animated sequence that is richly and inventively illustrated by Richard Williams. Addison’s music again is the perfect partnering for the images and creates a superlative enhancement, it supports, punctuates and becomes an important and integral component of the proceedings. The British fleet sails out to war supported by a stirring “RULE BRITTANIA”, which segues into a full bodied chorale rendition of the scores principal theme, this is interpolated by a brief but conspicuous introduction of
“LA MARSEILLAISE”, that represents the French fleets involvement as it joins the British. The allies arrive in Constantinople and it is at this point that the composer introduces a comical sounding and jaunty version of a nautical shanty which accompanies a caricature of Lord Cardigan who has seemingly fallen behind the rest of the fleet and is arguing with his brother in law Lord Lucan. The fleet sails on from the Turkish capital into a dark storm clouds, the music finishes at this point as animated images shift back to live action, the fleet battling against the elements in a violent maelstrom, where many men and horses perish.
VALLEY OF DEATH.
Addison’s vigorous and vibrantly energetic music for this sequence was not used in the finished film, the director opting for the sound of battle instead of that of an orchestra.
In hindsight this was probably a good choice by Richardson. As the spectacle of the charge did not really need any musical accompaniment. Addison produced a fast paced pulsating and proud sounding cue that relied primarily upon a variation of Nolan’s theme, a variation that suggested desperation and anger and futile adversity as the six hundred strong brigade launched itself into a situation that many of them would not return from. Brass flourishes are supported by driving and urgent strings that are embellished by the utilisation of timpani and other percussive elements. It is an impressive composition and one that conjures perfectly the confusion and outrage of war.
NOLAN AND CLARISSA (THE FIRST KISS).
Captain Nolan and his best friends fiancée Clarissa walk together in the woods. It is obvious the pair have an attraction for each other, but both also realise it is wrong to feel the way they do. Addison’s music reflects the almost tormented and uncomfortable atmosphere that is present within the sequence. It is not until the actual kiss that the couple share that the composers music turns very slightly romantic, but it still posses a style that is tinged with an atmosphere of uncertainty and hesitance.
LADY SCARLETTS BALL.
Addison composed some wonderfully elegant and authentic Victorian dance cues for this sequence in the movie. It is during this scene that the director takes the opportunity to introduce a handful of the movies principal characters, Captain Nolan, Lord Cardigan and Mrs. Duberly among them.
MARCH ON THE ALMA.
The march on Balaklava takes a deadly toll upon the British and French forces, many of the men being stricken with the deadly cholera. Addison’s music underlines the pain and desperation that is felt by Nolan as he watches many of his comrades fall foul to the illness and the relentless sun that beats down upon them. Nolan’s realisation of the desperate situation reaches its apex when he is scared by the thought of sharing his water bottle with a man that has collapsed from heat exhaustion. Addison provides the sequence with a desperate and tormented sounding composition that lends it’s support to the unfortunate soldiers and officers in their hopeless plight.
AFTER THE BATTLE.
After the British and French have had their first encounter with Russian forces, Nolan stands and surveys the field of the dead. A mournful and guarded down tempo variation of Nolan’s theme is heard underscoring the futility of the situation and Nolan’s thoughts and feelings.
ANGER AND REFLECTION.
Following a disagreement with Cardigan in which Nolan accuses the officer of having others spy upon him, Nolan goes to the stables to reflect upon his situation and also ponder on the future of the British army. Addison’s music is low key but effective by giving the scene support but never being intrusive.
Addison’s regal and proud sounding end credits music was not used in the film, instead Richardson relied on a silent credit role and a quite graphic image of a beheaded horse, which was neither proud, or filled with glory, this static image on screen was enhanced by the sound of flies buzzing. Giving departing audiences something to ponder upon.
John Mansell © 2010.
WHEN CAN THEIR GLORY FADE ?
O THE WILD CHARGE THEY MADE !
ALL THE WORLD WONDER’D.
HONOUR THE CHARGE THEY MADE !
HONOUR THE LIGHT BRIGADE,
NOBLE SIX HUNDRED!