True Grit/John Wayne Films/Elmer Bernstein

May 15, 2006


True Grit


Elmer Bernstein


Before proceeding with the actual review of this score let's set the record straight on a very important item. THIS IS A NEW DIGITAL RECORDING OF THE COMPLETE SCORE! This recording includes over 25 minutes of unreleased material but is not the original soundtrack. While this material is presented for the very first time, taken from the original orchestrations of Leo Shuken and Jack Hayes it is a new recording. The recent release on Varese Sarabande is not an original soundtrack recording either, but a re-release of a recording Elmer Bernstein did with the Utah Symphony in 1985. The original release on Capitol contained only 20 minutes of soundtrack material if you subtract the singing of Glen Campbell. This new Tadlow recording is also a limited edition recording of 3000 units which will likely mean that it will sell out at some time given the popularity of Elmer Bernstein. Hopefully that explains everything without too much confusion.

The 1969 film starring John Wayne, Glen Campbell, and Kim Darby was a success. Campbell was at the height of success and Wayne was perfectly cast as a two fisted drinking one eyed US Marshall who along with Darby were all seeking revenge in the hunting down of a murderer. Henry Hathway, who was 71 at the time and himself a veteran of such films as Prince Valiant, Nevada Smith, and Call Northside 777 directed the film. Robert Duvall, Strother Martin, and Dennis Hopper all contributed excellent supporting roles. Wayne won the Oscar as the best actor and the song True Grit with lyrics by Don Black was nominated but lost out to Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Black had previously collaborated with John Barry providing the lyrics to such films as Born Free and Thunderball and Elmer was at the height of his career having already composed the likes of The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, and To Kill A Mockingbird just to name a few titles. His days of being "gray-listed" from the McCarthy era were way behind him. To be "gray-listed" meant you while you weren't banned, you were kept off major projects.

The True Grit theme is an infectious melody presented in a number of different ways in this score. Fitzpatrick chose to use the 1985 arrangement that Elmer used in his own re-recording with the Utah Symphony for True Grit-Instrumental and End Credits The last track True Grit-Instrumental (first orchestration) is a rendition of the original orchestration which features a trumpet solo from Marek Zvolanek and harmonica from Steve Lockwood. Similiar sounding to the first track but less of a concert sound and more pop oriented it was still apparently not pop enough for Glen Campbell The first track of True Grit-Instrumental still has a trumpet solo from Marek but there is also harmony from the other trumpets and no harmonica present or at least one that you cannot hear noticeably. Businesslike Mattie is classic Bernstein underscore. The National Geographic specials come to mind with the proud trumpets with the sliding slur of the trombones in the background but it quickly changes to an adagio version of the True Grit theme again in Papa's Things. Ruffled Rooster begins with a magnificent majestic Magnificent Seven style theme (repeated from Where there is Smoke) right into a hint of Rhapsody in Blue followed by a wonderful cartoon style sequence complete with the glissando harp and a loud crash! This is a scene in the film where Rooster (Wayne) has had too much to drink and passes out. Snake Pit is one of those cool eerie almost dissonant tracks(features 2 bass flutes) and coupled with Lift Out and Sad Departure which add to the tension makes for a great underscore track. All in all Bernstein has learned the craft extremely well of writing for westerns and it shows in this score. In addition to True Grit you also get themes from (5) additional John Wayne films-The Sons of Katie Elder, The Shootist, The Comancheros, Cahill: United States Marshal, and Big Jake(concert suite). These are merely appetizers as the main entree is still True Grit and the 15 tracks it has to offer. The lyrical version of True Grit is well put by Don Black: "How come Marilyn and Alan Bergman get titles like 'The Way We Were'?" Sung in a professional manner by Keith Ferreira it is something that one has to be in the right mood to listen to or a country western fan.

To give the recording a more authentic sounding style Fitzpatrick chose a different style of miking technique. As explained in the liner notes it is a 65-35 split between ambient and individual instrumentation miking and it works very well. The seating arrangement of the orchestra where the first and second violins are separated also makes a difference. You can hear a small difference in them as opposed to a more unison sound. Coupled with the Dolby Surround the "mike in the back of the room" Prague recording is not evident, a pleasant surprise indeed! Fitzpatrick seems to have a way of conducting this orchestra that brings out the enthusiasm so necessary in a soundtrack recording. Jan "It's All My Fault" Holzner did a good job in recording and microphone placement. Completely gone is that feeling of a concert hall that Silva has used in the past. This sounds like much more like a soundtrack albeit sounds a little slow. As James explains perhaps the transfer to DVD and the frames per second timing is slightly off and thus the pitch is a little higher and quicker sounding. Does it sound like an original soundtrack recording? No but it sounds nice enough to want to listen to over and over again and again. Recommended.

Produced by James Fitzpatrick

Mixed and Mastered by Gareth Williams at Pickles Studios

Recorded by Jan Holzner

CD# is Tadlow 002

Total Time=69:44

Performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by James Fitzpatrick

Track listing

1. True Grit; Instrumental (01:41)

Tracks 1 -16 from "True Grit"

2. A Dastardly Deed / A Stiff Job (02:13)

3. Businesslike Mattie / Papa's Things (02:00)

4. Pony Mine / Rooster and Le Boeuf /Runaway Races Away (04:04)

5. Chase / On Their Way (01:45)

6. The Big Trail (01:07)

7. Where There is Smoke / The Dying Moon (04:13)

8. Preparation Dugout / Dugout Stakeout / Shots Galore! (05:25)

9. Ruffled Rooster (01:40)

10. Bouncing into Danger /Over Bald Mountain (04:18)

11. Rooster in the Meadow / Meadow Fight / A Long Shot (03:23)

12. The Snake Pit / The Lift Out / Sad Departure (06:42)

13. The Pace that Kills / A Ride for Life (02:58)

14. A Warm Wrao-Up (01:54)

15. End Credits (00:54)

16. True Grit; Vocal (01:49)

17. Concert Suite (04:32)

from "Sons of Katie Elder"

18. Opening Sequence (03:11)

from 'The Shootist

19. McBain / Main Title (02:38)

from "The Comancheros"

20. Necktie Party (04:05)

from "Cahill: U.S. Marshal"

21. Concert Suite (06:44)

from "Big Jake"

22. True Grit; Instrumental (first orchestration) (01:51)

from "True Grit"


One Response to “True Grit/John Wayne Films/Elmer Bernstein”

  1. Very interesting site… I wish I could build one like yours!nancy

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