It is not often that I review a compilation of movie music, mainly because the compilation has sadly become a thing of the past, remember the days when the compilation film theme album reigned, it was an ideal way of sampling styles of music and the central themes for movies so that you could gauge whether you might like the entire score before buying the LP release. It was also an excellent way to introduce people to film music, and compilations were brought by non movie score fans to add variety to their collection. I think United Artists records were very good at this market with their Best of Bond, Best of Francis Lai, Best of Ennio Morricone, Great War film themes and of course those famous Great Western Themes albums. Popular artists such as Henry Mancini, Ron Goodwin and Geoff Love also released a number of film theme compilations on labels such as EMI Studio Two and Phase four, with many of Geoff Love’s recordings being released on the budget label Music for Pleasure. In recent years Silva Screen records in the UK have issued a landslide of compilations but these were mainly re-recordings, some of which were a little shaky to say least. Then came the Tadlow music label issued a more expanded full score series again some of which failed to hit the mark with several collectors, but it is hard to recreate the original sound of many of this now classic film scores.
So, I was pleased to see this compilation which includes the original soundtrack cues from a few of the films of the esteemed and suave, British actor Dirk Bogarde. He was the epitome of what was seen as a British actor and regarded as being in the same class as the likes of David Niven and Sir Laurence Olivier. His films were varied and even controversial at times but always entertaining. My own personal memories of Dirk Bogarde stem from my Mother who was a great fan, and when she began to work in a cinema in Brighton I was often allowed to sit through the movies all day if I so wished. Best Dirk Bogarde Early movie themes, is not only a delight to have and hear but is also I think an important recording and hopefully will be the first of more that might see the light of day with music from his films being included. In a way it is a historical musical recording because it includes pieces from movies that I do not think have been released before in the context of a compilation, some however have seen re-recordings released onto compact disc and now on digital streaming sites, with labels such as Chandos commissioning reconstructions of various sections of the soundtracks. Because of the age of many of the tracks the sound quality is not digitally clean but in my mind this makes it an even more attractive collection as its sometimes distorted (not too badly if I may add) sound evokes those days in the late 1950,s and early 1960,s and of afternoons in the cinema watching Dirk in action on the big screen. The compilation contains nearly fifty minutes of brilliantly melodic and vibrantly robust British movie music with composers such as John Veale and John Wooldridge being represented. Two composers who in my opinion are sadly neglected for all the contributions that they made to world of British film music.
Doreen Carwithen also is represented, and it is a composition from her score for The Boys in Brown from 1949 that opens proceedings, the piece is also credited to Marcus Dodds who I presume was the conductor on this occasion as he was an in demand musical director at the time. All the tracks on the compilation are relatively short but that was the norm in the 1940.s and 1950,s.
The Boys in Brown -Main title opens the recording, and it is somewhat typical of the sound achieved during this period, with Carwithen’s dramatic and urgent sounding theme setting the scene for much of what is to follow on this recording, these were the days when Main Titles more or less straight away established the style and also the direction and pace in which the score would go, at times with the remainder of the score being modeled upon the thematic properties established within it.
Carwithen began working on films during the 1940,s` her first assignment being a documentary entitled This Modern Age in 1946. She was responsible for writing the music for just a section of the film as other composers such as Malcolm Arnold were involved on the project. The Boys in Brown was her first full feature film score and she continued to work steadily writing music for documentaries, shorts and movies through to the mid -1950,s her style is comparable to that of Sir William Walton, Elizabeth Lutyens, and her husband William Alwyn. who worked on numerous movies. She could easily turn her hand to any genre and write music that was, dramatic, romantic and filled with adventurous sounding themes, her compositions as well as being supportive of the films she worked on were also melodic and contained a rich musical persona.
Track number two comes from the 1950 movie, The Woman in Question, music courtesy of John Wooldridge. The composer was I think probably better known for his so called “Serious” music as in compositions for concert hall performance, but his contributions to the film music world were important and always interesting. The opening theme is included here which has a slightly apprehensive and somewhat foreboding mood to it, written for brass, strings, and percussion, it opens filled with drama but alters direction slightly becoming more thematic and less daunting. There is also a brief passage of music edited into the cue which I assume is the end or finale music but this is momentary and fades quickly. John Wooldridge, was a pupil of Sibelius and a contemporary and friend of Sir William Walton. He spent the second world war in Bomber Command flying mainly Mosquito aircraft. His promising career as a composer was brought to a sudden end when he died tragically in a car accident at the age of 47 in 1958. He married the actress Margarette Scott in 1948 and was the father of the actress Susan Wooldridge and the director Hugh Wooldridge.
His first scoring assignment was for the 1947 movie Fame is the Spur which starred Michael Redgrave and was directed by Roy Boulting. Other film music credits included Appointment in London which was released in 1953 and also starred Dirk Bogarde, Edward My Son, (1949) and Prescription for Murder (1958).
Track number three from the compilation is the work of composer Benjamin Frankel, So Long at the Fair was released in 1950. The film featured the likes of Jean Simmons, David Tomlinson, Andre Morell, and Honor Blackman alongside Bogarde, with the music for the movie being performed by Mantovani and his orchestra.
Again, Frankel was probably better known for his concert hall compositions, and would go on in later years to create a stunning score for the 1961 Hammer horror The Curse of the Werewolf, in which he employed a complex fashion of composing that was Avant Garde and referred to as the twelve tone method, which he had perfected whilst writing his classical music. The composer went on to work on the Hollywood blockbuster The Battle of The Bulge amongst others.
His musical score for So Long at the Fair is a far cry from those disjointed and lumbering sounds being a lighter affair compared with the style that we now mostly associate with the composer. The drama mystery was successful at the box office and co-directed by Terence Fisher and Antony Darnborough.
Track number three is taken from the 1954 movie The Sleeping Tiger, the movie marked the first British feature film to be directed by filmmaker Joseph Losey, after his encounter during the McCarthy era in the United States that would see many actors, composers and directors placed on the blacklist.. The music for this tense film noir was written by Malcolm Arnold and supervised and conducted by Muir Mathieson. In 1954 Arnold worked on eight movies and two documentaries, The Sleeping Tiger however was a dramatic and jazz influenced work, and one would struggle to identify it as being the work of Arnold if you were not already aware.
We go to 1955 for the next selection and to Simba, which was a propaganda movie presented in the guise of a drama focusing upon events in East Africa and a British family who get caught up in the Mau Mau uprising. Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, the music is by Francis Chagrin, who had become popular via his scores for movies such as Law and Disorder (1940), Helter Skelter (1949) and in the same year as Simba, The Colditz Story. Born in Romania to Jewish parents and at their insistence studied for an engineering degree in Zurich while secretly studying at that city’s music conservatory. The composer graduated in 1928 but when his family failed to support his musical ambitions, he decided to leave home and moved to Paris where he adopted his new, French-sounding name.
By playing in nightclubs and cafes and writing popular songs, he funded himself through two years, from 1933, at the Ecole Normale, where his teachers included Paul Dukas and Nadia Boulanger, he settled in England in 1936. The music for Simba was not only dramatic and driving but the composer added ethnic sounding percussion for effect which purveyed a sense of unease, there is a style present within the composer’s work for this movie that evokes the musical leaning of Clifton Parker and although brief it is a commanding and effective section.
Composer Clifton Parker is represented here also in section number fifteen H.M.S. Defiant which was released in 1962.
The score’s Main Title being included, this is a proud and sweeping soundtrack, filled with brass, percussion and lush strings, a beautifully crafted soundtrack conducted by Muir Mathieson. Selection number six is from the hilarious British comedy Doctor at Sea, the film which was released sixty-six years ago this year is a classic piece of comic cinema and boasts a score by Bruce Montgomery. Again, here we have a pairing of the opening theme and the end titles that have been edited together and although not ideal it does give one an idea of how quirky, fast paced and entertaining this score was. Montgomery was born on October 2, 1921 in Chesham Bios, Buckinghamshire, England as Robert Bruce Montgomery.
He is known, for his work on the early Carry On, movies plus he also enjoyed a career as a successful author writing Under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin, he penned a series of mystery novels and short stories featuring the character Gervase Fen. Also, as Edmund Crispin, he edited several collections of science fiction short stories.
The first, “Best SF” (1955), had a great influence on acceptance of the Sci Fi genre as serious writing in Britain. His Gervase Fen novel “Frequent Hearses” takes place in and around a British movie studio, and contains many insider jokes about actors, directors, musicians, and others in the business. Towards the end of his career his alcoholism became worse, which resulted in him not being able to meet deadlines and complete scores for movies, it was at this point that he enlisted the assistance of fellow composer Eric Rogers and Carry On producer Peter Thomas decided that Rogers should be the main composer for the films. Bruce Montgomery, passed away on September 15, 1978 in West Hampstead, London, England, which was a sad ending to a career that could have been even greater. Apart from his music for the Carry On, movies the composer wrote the scores to numerous other pictures, which included, The Brides of Fu Manchu and Doctor at Large (1957) for example which is also represented within this collection (track number nine).
Moving to a film that is possibly most associated with Dirk Bogarde, The Spanish Gardener from 1956, filmed in Catalonia and also at Pinewood studios in England, the movie was directed by Phillip Leacock, and based upon the novel by author A.J.Cronin. The movie featured Michael Horden and Jon Whitely alongside Bogarde and had a delightful score by John Veale. It was not only charming but contained a sense of grandeur in places, and had a style and sound to it that is comparable with that of composer Miklos Rozsa when he was scoring films for Alexander Korda in England.
The score was conducted by Muir Mathieson, and it is the Main Theme that is representing the powerful score within this collection. Born John Douglas Louis Veale in Bromley Kent on June 15th,1922, composer John Veale, is again one of the driving and original forces within British concert hall and film music who is at times sadly overlooked. Veale attended the Dragon School in Oxford from 1930 through to 1936, and then later went to Repton school which was in Derbyshire from 1936 up until 1940. After this Veale attended The Corpus Christi College in Oxford until 1942 where he studied History. During the second world war, Veale spent his war service in the Education Corps, and during this time he continued to study music unofficially with Egon Wellesz and had lessons from Sir Thomas Armstrong in harmony and counterpoint. It was during this period that the composer had his first works performed and completed his first symphony.
It was a piece of music from a production entitled Loves Labours Lost (1947) that began Veale’s involvement in writing for films, the composer sent a copy of his score for the production to Muir Mathieson, who after seeing it asked Veale to write music for The Crown Film Unit, it was via this assignment that Veale met conductor John Hollingsworth, who was assistant to Sir Malcolm Sargent. Veale then became friends and moved in musical circles with many of the most respected composers of that period, Elizabeth Lutyens, William Walton, Humphrey Searle, Constant Lambert, Alan Rawsthorne and poets and writers such as Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis. As the 1960,s dawned Veale and composers like him who wrote romantic and richly thematic music seemed to fall out of favour, the music fans at that time opting for the pop music revolution or the more Avant Garde and modern sounding music. With American movies starting to monopolize cinema audience, s attention. The decades of the 60, s and the 70, s were not kind to the composer. But interest in his music was rekindled when during the 1980, s and the 1990, s with Chandos records releasing a few of his non film music works. John Veale may not have written the scores to many movies, but the few he did write were impressive and filled with rich and lush material. He battled prostate cancer for many years finally having to leave Oxford and return to Bromley where he resided in a care home until he passed away on November 16th, 2006.
1957, saw the release of Ill Met by Moonlight, the American edition of the movie was nearly fifteen minutes shorter than the British and European releases, it was to be the last production by the writing and producing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Dirk Bogarde stars with a cast that features Marius Goring, David Oxley, and Cyril Cusack, the screenplay for the film was based upon 1950 book Ill Met by Moonlight :The Abduction of General Kreipe by W. Stanley Moss, which is a true account of events during the author’s service on the Greek island of Crete during World War II when he was an agent of the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
The score is by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis and was one of his first forays into writing music for film. It is in no way remotely in the same style of his later works such as Zorba the Greek (1964) but does share some of the attributes of his atmospheric score for Phaedra (1962) being mysterious and apprehensive. We are treated to a nearly four-minute suite of music from the score, and it is one of the highlights of this collection. Of course, Theodorakis went onto become one of Greece’s most prominent composers and won an Oscar for his score for the politically outspoken movie Z in 1969.
The Doctor’s Dilemma is a 1958 British drama film directed by Anthony Asquith starring Leslie Caron and Dirk Bogarde, with performances from Alistair Sim, and Robert Morley. It is based on the 1906 play by George Bernard Shaw and is a satire about the behaviour of the medical profession and its focus upon the treatment of wealthy patients. It contrasts their world of imperfect science, always bumping up against unknowns, with the endless spheres of romance, beauty and caring. The music is by Hungarian born composer Joseph Kosma and there is also a credit for British composer Charles Williams, who on this occasion was the musical director. Kosma was born in 1905 and passed away in 1969, His career scoring films began in 1936 and between then and 1969 he scored over one hundred and forty motion pictures. The Main credit’s theme is included on the compilation.
To the 1960’s for the next selection, and an Italian/American co-production The Angel Wore Red or to give it the Italian title, La Sposa Bella, this compelling war drama starring Ava Gardner and Dirk Bogarde and was a co-production between MGM and Titanus films. Directed by Nunnally Johnson and produced by Goffredo Lombardo with a screenplay by the director based upon the 1953 novel The Fair Bride by Bruce Marshall. The powerful and Hispanic sounding cue included on the compilation is credited to Hollywood composer Bronislaw Kaper, but the Italian release of the film was scored by Italian Maestro Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, this was often done with co-productions MGM probably thinking that the Italian score was not suitable for American audiences, and the Italian studio thinking the same way about the American score for Italian cinema goers. The track representing the score on this recording is a commanding one, filled with pride and bravado, with solo classical guitar being employed giving it a more Spanish flavour. Kaper went onto score Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and The Way West (1967), (plus many more big Hollywood movies). Lavagnino also scored hundreds of feature films as well as writing music for shorts and documentaries, he was originally chosen to score A Fistful of Dollars for Sergio Leone in 1963 but his music was thought to be too traditional sounding and replaced by the now iconic Ennio Morricone soundtrack.
This a compilation that you should own as well as the films I have mentioned there are selections from Victim, The Minbenders, The Servant, Song Without End, The Singer not the Song, and the delightfully captivating music of French composer Georges Delerue from Our Mother’s House. This is a wonderful look back at not just the music from the films of Dirk Bogarde, and the composers who fashioned it, but also it is a truly emotional way of remembering this wonderful actors presence and his flawless performances. Recommended.
I would like to add that this is released by Disques Cinémusique, who have also released a number of other compilations that contain music from the films of well known actors, these include James Mason, John Mills, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Peter Sellers and so many more, you can take a look at their catalogue here. disquescinemusique.com. I also see they have a number of compilations dedicated to various composers and a Don Banks Hammer score entitled Nightmare, some of the recordings do include effects and dialogue, but for the most part they are uninterrupted music, the quality is not highly polished or indeed flawless, but like the Dirk Bogarde compilation it is good to hear the original recordings. I did look through the catalogue and most of the titles are available on digital platforms.