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Hitchcock's Music by Jack Sullivan
Yale University Press, paperback, 354 pages.
ISBN 978-0-300-13618-0
Experience Classicsonline

This is a long overdue tribute to Hitchcock's musical perspicacity. It demonstrates his uncanny ability to manipulate audiences not only with his striking, frightening images but also his adroit use of music, of all kinds, to heighten suspense, atmosphere and drama. He also knew when to employ silences [or musical rests as he would suggest] to maximum effect. 'Some of his most distinguished composers, such as Arthur Benjamin, credited him with being far more serious about music than any other director.' Hitchcock was a cultured man. He had no formal music training yet was a fervent music-lover and keen concertgoer.

Such was the respect in which he was held that the cream of Hollywood's composers queued up to be employed by him. Excepting the pioneers, Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Hitchcock used practically all of them. As evidence, here's a list of his Hollywood years films and composers:-

Bernard Herrmann: The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 version), The Wrong Man, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds (sound design), Marnie
Dimitri Tiomkin: Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, I Confess, Dial M for Murder,
Franz Waxman: Rebecca, Suspicion, The Paradine Case, Rear Window
Miklós Rózsa: Spellbound
Roy Webb: Notorious
Frank Skinner: Saboteur
Richard Addinsell: Under Capricorn
Leighton Lucas: Stage Fright
John Addison: Torn Curtain
Ron Goodwin: Frenzy
Maurice Jarre: Topaz
John Williams: Family Plot

Hitchcock's early British productions were graced by music by Louis Levy including: Young and Innocent, Sabotage and The 39 Steps. Additionally, Hitchcock used the talents of Delius's amanuensis, Eric Fenby, for Jamaica Inn and Francis Poulenc for Rope. Arthur Benjamin's Storm Cloud Cantata formed the climactic Royal Albert Hall scene in the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much with the film's original score, composer, Bernard Herrmann, shown conducting it. Music by Delius (Summer Night on the River) is played by the blind pianist, in Saboteur and waltzes by Johann Strauss are the subject matter of Waltzes from Vienna; and Cole Porter songs feature in Stage Fright.

The book offers insightful analyses of Hitchcock's use of the music for all these films and covers the notorious clashes between himself and Bernard Herrmann and Henry Mancini. Covered in some detail, are the three-way struggles between David O Selznick, Franz Waxman and himself on such films as Rebecca and The Paradine Case and Selznick, Rózsa and Hitchcock on Spellbound.

Just one or two small gripes. There is no table of composers and films, such as mine above. There is no list of recommended recordings and no bibliography. I suggest interested readers should look up Varèse Sarabande record company for some of the best recordings. And the binding is very tight making the retention of open pages difficult. The paperback cover itself is flimsy and curls easily.

Altogether an indispensable addition to the literature on Hitchcock and a treasure to those who admire so much of the music that went with his films.

Ian Lace 



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