Gunfight at O.K. Corral/Tiomkin
January 2, 2014
LIMITED EDITION 2000 UNITS
(audio clip of main theme)
Dimitri Tiomkin was born in the Ukraine and studied at the Moscow Conservatory under the well known Russian Composer Alexander Glazunov, a favorite of this reviewer. His first breakthrough score to the film “Lost Horizon (1937)” certainly shows the extreme classical talent that Tiomkin had. At the time of the making of “Gunfight at O.K. Corral (1957) he had already won Oscars for “High Noon” and “The High and the Mighty” and been nominated for several more. He became associated with westerns as a result even though this was not really the case.
The Ross Hunter film directed by John Sturges starred two of the bigger stars in demand at the time Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster with a fine supporting cast consisting of Lee Van Cleef, Martin Milner, Jo Van Fleet, Dennis Hopper, John Ireland, and Rhonda Fleming. Today I can look back and recall the film along with the highly popular “Tombstone” with Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell, the Kevin Costner epic “Wyatt Earp” and chuckle to myself that this was all about a 30 second gunfight and a pretty dull one at that. Hollywood sees things differently than history!
The theme “Gunfight at O.K. Corral” as explained by Frank DeWald, CD liner notes writer, is broken down into five parts as this melody is heard on many of the tracks. The opening growl of the dissonant harmonic brass tells you it is Tiomkin in the first five seconds. It follows with a whistling tune (prelude to the Frankie Laine vocal) which turned out to be a chart making song. The style and singing of Laine with a steady flow of the use of two words at a time such as O.K. Corral, boot hill, and your love makes this a very distinctive song with unique rhythm. It follows with a male chorus singing the words before it comes to conclusion.”Remorse” is a track that is classical in nature. It begins with the trademark Tiomkin growl from the brass and a motif of yearning. Listen for the nice harmony from the reed section. “Wyatt Earp” the other half of the track returns to the main melody with the hero sound. “Ed Bailey’s Death” is a fine example of how well underscore works. There is a quick slashing motif and the knife has been thrown. It makes you jump a little out of your seat. “The Ambush” features a nice harp glissando as well as a gallop version of the main title. “A Romantic Interlude” shows the softer side to Tiomkin, the exception rather than the rule in this soundtrack. It plays behind a scene with Laura and Wyatt. Another softer track is “The Love Scene” where they kiss for the first time. Once you get through listening to the first nineteen tracks of the score there are another nineteen bonus tracks including some surviving stereo tracks, source material that came from other films, and two additional demo tracks of the gunfight theme sung by Rex Allen and Tony Romano. In other words, this is a complete 73+ minute CD of all of the material.
Previously the Elmer Bernstein Collection (FSM Box 01) offered sixteen minutes of material with lyrics by Frankie Laine. The complete score gives the listener so much beyond just the main theme that it is a joy to listen to Tiomkin, a master of the monothematic theme weave so much material around the one theme. I believe that his classical training from the Russian masters allowed this kind of theme. If you don’t like the theme this is probably one that you should pass on. However if you’re a Tiomkin fan especially of his western material you’ll enjoy this soundtrack as much as I do.
Total Duration: 01:11:42