The Three Musketeers/Steiner

April 3, 2007

 

1935 was the first year since 1930 that RKO, the studio that put out The Three Musketeers showed a profit. The Depression was beginning to ease up a bit and their financial statement showed $684,000+ for the year. Merian “King Kong” Cooper was to leave as was Max Steiner, The Three Musketeers being his last picture for RKO. Originally it was to star Francis Lederer and be directed by John Ford but ended up with Walter Abel and veteran historical director Rowland “Count Of Monte Cristo” Lee. It also starred Paul Lukas, Onslow Stevens, and Heather Angel in one of the least popular adaptions of the Alexander Dumas novel which seems to cycle itself into a film every 10 years or so. While the film was not quite up to snuff the score is an entirely different matter. The florid score was a staggering 284 pages, a huge amount even for the man who felt that music should replace dialogue in film!

The “Main Title” almost immediately begins with the clanking of swords followed by a rousing song “Song of the Musketeers”, with lyrics also by Max. While it fits the film correctly I am sure the song never made the top 100 of the day. Nevertheless it is used as the dominant theme throughout the entire 70+ minute score. And while the words are silly one will find yourself humming and singing drink, drink, drink, to the musketeers__ we’re all for one,and one for all and all for one__. This reviewer would have enjoyed a printed page with all of the lyrics to the song as opposed to a photograph of the first page of the original score sheet with some of the lyrics. Both would have been very nice. “Leaving Home” is a proud and majestic theme which will be used later on and is referred to as the “family tradition” theme. “Adventure on the Road”, the latter part of the second track gives a obvious reference to a Kong sequence cue as does a small portion of “D’Artagnan Discovers Buckingham”. “Fencing Drill” is a wonderful march which could be played and enjoyed by marching bands all over the world. Steiner loved to create themes for many of his characters (leimotif method) and this score is certainly no exception. There are themes for Charlemagne (the horse), Planchet (his lackey), D’Artagnan (adventure theme), Cardinal Richelieu, Rochefort, D’Artagnan, the carrier pigeons, and Constance (their love theme), and the Buckingham and the Queen (love theme). As the film has comedy, tragedy, romance, danger and action so do the tracks non stop for over 70 minutes! As was the case in some of his scores he wrote key pieces for harpist Louise Klos (they married in 1936). This particular score he even went so far as to mention her name in notations on the score sheets to Kaun his orchestrator.

If you enjoy Max Steiner you are in for an additional 50+ minutes over what was previously available, that being the Naxos 8.557704 recording which also includes Captain Blood, Scaramouce, and The King’s Thief. Arranged (much of the score survived) by John Morgan, the six tracks give us the main themes in concert style in a modern digital recording well recorded and performed. The BYU recording is an OST and I am sorry to report that the ravages of time have taken their toll on the recording. Having listened to many recordings from the transfer master Ray Faiola I am confident he did what he could with the material that he had. At least it has now been preserved by BYU/SAE and is archived for all time. The mono recording has a lot of surface noise and it can be annoying to listen to at times. If you concentrate on just listening to the music some of the noise will at least go away in your mind. Other than the need for the music lyrics the liner notes, and photos are well done. John Morgan himself would be the first to tell you that his 1995 recording is far from complete thus this archival recording needs to be in your collection as part of your golden age collection. One star has to be deducted for the poor source material but regardless this cd is still recommended.

Track listing

1. Main Title (01:28)

2. Leaving Home/Adventure on the Road (03:41)

3. Count de Rochefort’s Plan (03:11)

4. Paris (00:56)

5. A Soldier’s Horse (00:59)

6. Fencing Drill (02:09)

7. The Three Musketeers/D’Artagnan’s Introduction (04:31)

8. Three Challenges (04:09)

9. Duel with the Musketeers (00:41)

10. Routing the Cardinal’s Guards (00:31)

11. D’Artagnan’s New Apartment/Planchet (02:03)

12. A Message for Richelieu (02:10)

13. Getting Ready for Bed (00:53)

14. Constance’s Deception (01:56)

15. D’Artagnan Discovers Buckingham/The Queen and Buckingham (02:27)

16. The Queen’s Pledge of Peace (02:37)

17. Safe Passage/Bernajou’s Treachery (04:03)

18. D’Artagnan’s Assignment (03:18)

19. On to Calais! (02:43)

20. London/Arrival at the Inn (04:20)

21. Carrier Pigeons/Calais (03:38)

22. Lady de Winter’s Secret (02:39)

23. Coach to Paris/Pursuit (09:18)

24. Reunion with Constance (00:35)

25. Suicide/The Anniversary Ball (02:40)

26. Duel with de Rochefort (00:35)

27. Treachery Revealed/Finale (02:04)

Total Duration: 01:10:15

Golden Scores Rating ***

Produced by James V D’Arc and Craig Spaulding

CD# is MS 117

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