Marjorie Morningstar/Max Steiner

August 21, 2006

 

For more years than I care to admit one of the few lp soundtrack releases I owned of Max Steiner was Marjorie Morningstar on the RCA label, albeit it was not a soundtrack as we know it today. Ray Heindorf of Warner Bros. recorded key tracks especially for the lp and while faithful to the soundtrack this new offering from Screen Archives/Chelsea Rialto Studios is a (2) CD from the original session tapes and includes everything except one track “Fame”, a college song about Hunter College sung by a chorus, done especially for the lp release. It by the way never appeared in the film.

The film itself never became the blockbuster Warner Bros. had hoped for although it did show a profit for the studio. The film received no Oscar nominations except for the signature piece “A Very Precious Love” written by Webster/Fain which ultimately lost to “Gigi.” The problem looking back seemed to be the casting of Gene Kelly in the lead role of Noel Airman. As described in the best selling Herman Wouk novel, Noel was a 28 year old not the 45 that Kelly was. For the musical numbers Kelly was way too good and as a romantic interest he lacked the swagger that a Cary Grant could deliver. A bit of an oddity is the fact that another famous song and dance man Fred Astaire also appeared in a serious role in “On The Beach” just a year later with much acclaim. Natalie Wood took the lead female role in stride and later on filmed “West Side Story” and “Splendor In The Grass” just two of her many successful pictures. While producer Milton Sperling was angling to get Alex North to do the scoring, director Irving Rapper prevailed. Max Steiner had done over 2 dozen pictures for Irving and this was no time to change regardless of the fact that Max Steiner was no longer under contract to Warner Bros.

 

Marjorie Morningstar was a departure from the usual style of score that Max had been known to write in the past. This was not “a wall to wall” work a term Ray Faiola used in his liner notes describing the typical Max Steiner score. In fact other than Uncle Samson (Ed Wynn) who is given an absolutely charming theme and an unforgettable one for Marjorie there are not the usual themes for the different characters in the film. You would have to include the love theme “A Very Precious Love” for Noel and Marjorie but that was written by Webster and Fain as explained earlier. Max does his usual excellent job incorporating it into the film just he did with “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca another tune he didn’t compose but made famous. There is a lounge scene in which Kelly sings the song to a nice solo piano arrangement. Gene is no Sinatra with his voice but he has a tone and style that is quite pleasant to listen to. At the time promotion seemed to be the big key to this movie and Warner Bros. was doing whatever it could to promote, thus Kelly singing it. What you do have in this soundtrack is a lot of source music! With the film running 128 minutes there is 95 minutes of music included from all types and styles. Chamber music, ballroom music, blues, and jazz are just some of the kinds of music included. In addition, Ray Heindorf also wrote several short cues and arranged others. But mixed in the 54 tracks are some of those wonderful Max Steiner trademarks cues such as the despair chord in “That Doesn’t Solve Anything” and so many others. It makes me recall so many of his other classic films.

One of the most important things about this score lies in the name of the company who brought it to market. Screen Archives Entertainment contains the word archives and through the effort of Ray Faiola and Craig Spaulding this soundtrack is preserved. Yes it is a mono mix from the stereo but the tape survived pretty darn well! There are a couple of brief hesitations but this is wonderful compared to some other older remastered material. Could this release have been reduced to one CD? The answer is yes but again that word archive crops up again in my head and all of the material needed to be preserved. Where the true mastery of Faiola comes in is on “Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart” a track that he actually re-created the last few bars because the tape had been ruined. If you are familiar with the piano playing of Bud Powell it sure sounded like his style from beginning to end with no hesitation or change at all. Who knows if he got a small quartet together for a few bars to complete it but however he did it perfect is the word to describe it. The liner notes (small book actually) give you all the information that you need to know about the director, producer, background, casting, and score. On each source track that Steiner didn’t write you are told who did and what film it was used in. In the thank you section John “human hollywood encyclopedia” Morgan is mentioned. If John doesn’t know he knows where to go to find out. In all of the years that this reviewer has been involved with scores if there is a question to be answered about an older score Ray, John, or Craig will have the answer!

In conclusion, there are many choices these days when it comes to purchasing soundtracks, hundreds in fact. This is the type of material that needs to be in your collection. If releases like this one are not supported then the answer in the future will be quite bleak indeed. Tapes eventually go bad even when stored under careful conditions and time is running out for some of this material. This was not the best effort from Steiner, but it doesn’t matter. Any effort of Max is worth having at least in the opinion of this reviewer. Recommended

Golden Scores Rating ***

Produced by Ray Faiola and Craig Spaulding

SAE-CRS-014

Track listing

Disc/Cassette 1

1. Main Title (01:38)

2. Uncle Samson Comes To Call (02:04)

3. Marjorie is Growing Up (01:55)

4. Haftorah (00:32)

5. Hunter College (00:23)

6. Sandy Strikes Out (00:15)

7. Something To Worry About (01:12)

8. Bugle Call (00:27)

9. “Oh, Tamarack” (00:37)

10. “Gotta Be This or That” – “Trade Winds” (03:36)

11. South Wind Blues (01:50)

12. Noel Shows Them How (01:17)

13. “A Very Precious Love” (01:48)

14. Marjorie and Noel Get Acquainted (01:23)

15. Dance Rehearsal (01:08)

16. Uncle Samson Goes To South Wind (01:22)

17. Too Young and Wholesome (02:05)

18. Lakeside (02:37)

19. Dinner in Noel’s Cabin (03:51)

20. “Shirley” (00:34)

21. South Wind Fiesta (00:55)

22. Rock Cucaracha (01:07)

23. “Would You Beleive Me” (04:04)

24. “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (03:16)

25. The World’s Greatest Torero (04:06)

26. “A Very Precious Love” (03:35)

27. “Just One Girl” – “For You” (01:41)

28. That Doesn’t Solve Anything (02:47)

29. Graduation (01:29)

30. A Speaking Part at Last! (01:15)

31. “Gee But You’re Swell” (01:33)

32. “A Very Precious Love” – One Last Dance (01:51)

33. Goodbye David (01:03)

34. Your Future Son-in-law (00:58)

35. All the Things I’ve Missed (01:22)

Disc/Cassette 2

1. “It Must Be Love” Opening (00:18)

2. Second Act Curtain (00:31)

3. Noel’s Inspiration (02:19)

4. Get Out of My Way You Rotten Tramp! (01:35)

5. Wally’s Second Kiss (00:30)

6. “L’Amour Toujours L’amour” (02:08)

7. “The Words are in My Heart” (02:00)

8. “Liebestraum” (02:42)

9. “Wedding March” (00:29)

10. Into Noel’s Arms (00:38)

11. Coming Home To Pappa (03:42)

12. Rehearsal For Princess Jones (01:14)

13. Princess Jones Opening (00:26)

14. After the Reviews (02:56)

15. Return To South Wind – Finale (05:33)

16. End Cast (00:40)

17. “Marjorie Morningstar” (02:44)

18. “A Very Precious Love” (01:37)

19. Trailer Finale (01:04)

Total Time is 1:35:04

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