Raintree County/Green

February 20, 2007

 

Johnny Green is yet another “golden age” composer who some of you are not familiar with. Johnny, was the head of the MGM musical department, and while he was primarily known for his wonderful adapting techiniques of bringing broadway musicals to the film world, he did compose drama soundtracks from time to time, Raintree County being his shining star. While his fine score received an Oscar nomination the Arnold score to Bridge on the River Kwai prevailed that year. The 1957 film was more or less a disappointment as far as MGM was concerned yet the Motion Picture Herald in February of 1958 deemed it one of the six most profitable films of January 1958. Go figure! It had an all star cast featuring Eva Marie Saint, Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Directed by veteran director Edward “Caine Mutiny” Dmytryk and filmed with the new MGM Camera 65 (like Todd AO and Cinerama) all the ingredients seemed to be in place. And opinions of the film are as varied as Coke vs Pepsi vs 7up as to how you liked it. Many feel it was way too long with Montgomery Clift giving a lackluster performance due to his accident during the filming or a poor screenplay. Others felt the “great american novel” did not translate to the screen. Still others consider this a minor masterpiece! There is an entire website devoted to it at http://www.raintreecounty.com. There was a book (OOP) by Ross Care, a biography of the author by his son recalling the tragic suicide of his father (took his life within two years of the release), a 50th Anniversary celebration in Raintree County, and a reprinting of the 1000+ page novel.

Whatever problems the film might have had did not carry into the score in anyway. From the opening Copland influenced “Overture”, to an introduction of the raintree theme, to more Copland, to the hugely romantic love theme “Never Till Now” you are off on a 2+ hour journey of Johnny Green. The “Main Title” with lyrics by Webster is sung by veteran Nat King Cole in a heartfelt romantic ballad version of the theme. Does it really belong in the film? Green I am sure pondered this question for quite a while and with likely a shove from MGM went along with the High Noon/Tiomkin popular song concept. It is a theme that while certainly not overused, will be heard in many different arrangements and cues on the (2) CD’s. “Freehaven” is another tribute to Copland’s style of Americana giving us the theme of Flash Perkin with twin picking banjos and clarinets. “Freehaven” and “Swamp” are excellent examples of good solid underscore with something a lot more to offer than some of the landscape filler of today. “Johnny’s Crown”, if you listen carefully to the beginning, will give you a mini Waxman tribute with its saxophone which seques right into the love theme, another theme you will selectively hear in the score. Some of the scores today you are fortunate if you can leave the theater with one theme you can remember. This one has at least three memorable ones if not more! Some may listen and consider it schmaltz in the same vein as Wuthering Heights or Now Voyager. This reviewer doesn’t in the least. They are nicely crafted melodies that are properly arranged and orchestrated. The vocal of Cole was likely pushing the limits but this was the Hollywood way at the time. The Webster lyrics seemed a bit forced in parts not quite the smooth flow of a really popular song. Contract issues had Cole recording it for Capitol and RCA releasing it as a choral piece which seems like a small can of worms anyway. You hear Cole in the film, purchase the RCA soundtrack not knowing he isn’t included. Seems like really poor customer service to me. Either way, you get both versions on this CD, a bit of a nice coup for Lukas Kendall to be able to include the Cole track on the release.

True to what Film Score Monthly usually does if at all possible is include all of the alternate takes, and source material that didn’t necessarily end up in the finished product for a variety of different reasons. While the majority of the score is contained in the first CD there are (7) cues on the second CD before the bonus material starts. For the collector who wants all of the recorded material this is a dream come true. The Ross Care written liner notes (26 pages) are really a small book written by one who is extremely knowledgeable about the making of the film, the book, and of course the Green score. This will make a fine addition to your collection of golden age material and will likely be your first entry from Mr. Green. Highly recommended

Golden Scores Rating (****)

Produced by Lukas Kendall

Remix by Michael McDonald

Mastering by Douglas Schwartz

CD# is FSM Vol. 9 No.19

Track Listing

Disc/Cassette 1

1. Overture (03:30)

2. Lion/The Song of Raintree County (Main Title) (02:44)

(Vocal by Nat King Cole)

3. Nell and Johnny (03:42)

4. There’s Another Tree (02:29)

5. The Swamp (03:41)

6. Nell and Gar/Freehaven/Prelude Segue/Meet Flash and Susanna (02:59)

7. Johnny’s Crown/Look at the Birdie/First Meeting (05:28)

8. First Meeting (film ending)/Nell’s Huff/Pursuit of Happiness/July Swim/Tell Me About the Raintree/Nell Insert/Your Exact Location (06:11)

9. Going Home/Train From the South/I Had to Come Back/Fare Thee Well/River Wedding Night (07:37)

10. Burned Mansion/Susanna’s Obsession/Lament for Henrietta (05:02)

11. Cousin Bob’s Plantation (00:47)

12. I Lied/Country Road/Johnny’s Book/Best Friend (05:00)

13. You Hate Me/What Did I Do Wrong?/Where Is Susanna?/Where Is That Doll?/It’s Happened (06:56)

14. Be a Pig’s Eye/It’s a Boy/Back in Freehaven (05:57)

15. Dearest Thing/It’s the House/What About the Fire?/I Don’t Know/They Can’t Follow Me (07:33)

16. Judby/She Was Going Home (02:26)

17. First Act Finale (Roadshow) (01:13)

Disc/Cassette 2

1. Entr’Acte (02:51)

2. Brand New Pants (01:14)

3. Battle Montage/War Commentary (03:31)

4. Fairweather/I Don’t Believe It/Night Ambush/Flash Dies (08:40)

5. Johnny’s Escape/War’s End/I’d Like to Try/Lincoln’s Funeral Train (06:10)

6. I Still Love Him/You’re Not Sick/Surprise for Daddy/Ask Daddy/Search (09:42)

7. Susanna’s Death/Jeemie’s Raintree/The Song of Raintree County (End Title) (04:09)

(Vocal by Nat King Cole)

8-25 BONUS TRACKS:

8. The Song of Raintree County (Main Title) (02:40)

(chorus version)

9. Freehaven (film version) (00:32)

10. Freehaven (alternate) (00:32)

11. First Meeting Part 1 (alternate) (01:23)

12. First Meeting (song version) (02:39)

(Vocal by Carlos Noble)

13. Pursuit of Happiness/July Swim/Tell Me About the Raintree (alt. ending) (03:39)

14. Going Home (alternate) (00:27)

15. Polka at the Party (00:47)

(Bronislau Kaper)

16. Why No One to Love — Party (02:34)

(Stephen Foster)

17. Why No One to Love (00:42)

(Stephen Foster)

18. Cousin’s Bob Plantation (alternate) (00:46)

19. Best Friend (alternate) (01:46)

20. Best Friend (film version) (02:50)

21. First Act Finale (Day Date) (01:07)

22. Jeemie’s Raintree/The Song of Raintree County (End Title) (chorus version) (02:41)

23. The Song of Raintree County (instrumental) (02:20)

24. The Song of Raintree County (04:20)

(Vocal by Bill Lee)

25. Jeemie’s Raintree/The Song of Raintree County (End Title) (film version with chorus) (01:18)

Total Duration: 02:22:35

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