Casablanca – Classic film scores for Humphrey Bogart
Max STEINER (1888-1971)
Casablanca (Warner, 1943) [8:36]
Passage to Marseilles (Warner, 1944) [3:55]
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Warner, 1948) [7:46]
The Big Sleep (Warner, 1946) [2:41]
The Caine Mutiny (Columbia, 1954) 2:33]
Virginia City (Warner, 1940) [4:15]
Key Largo (Warner, 1948) [5:12]
Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967)
To Have and Have Not (Warner, 1944) [1:43]
The Two Mrs Carrolls (Warner, 1947) [4:26]
Frederick HOLLANDER (1896- 1976)
Sabrina (Paramount, 1954) [2:53]
Victor YOUNG (1900-1956)
The Left Hand of God (20th Century Fox, 1955) [3:39]
Miklós RÓZSA (1907-1995)
Sahara (Columbia, 1943) [2:36]
The National Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Gerhardt
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 6-7 September 1973
RCA RED SEAL 88697 77937 (distributed by Sony Music Entertainment) [51:07]
This compilation was first released in 1974 in the old LP format as RCA ARL1-0422. It was one of the first in a series of 13 recordings. It ran to 15 if you include Gerhardt’s recording of John Williams’s Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind – and more specifically, in this context, of classical film scores from Hollywood’s halcyon days. The latter was a collection of excerpts from the 13 LPs plus extras like Studio fanfares and Dimitri Tiomkin’s music from The Thing, Bernard Herrmann’s King of The Khyber Rifles music and that of Daniele Amfitheatrof for Salome. This latest reissue boasts a new remastering. The sound is very good but then so it was back in the 1970s when Kenneth Wilkinson was in charge of its production in London’s Kingsway Hall. The packaging has been redesigned presumably to differentiate it from the earlier CD reissues - surely it cannot compare with the striking original LP design reproduced on the back cover of this present album’s booklet and shown above.
The films of major Warner Bros stars were assigned equally significant musical support, scores written, more often than not, by Max Steiner who tackled some 155 films over 30 years at the studio. The best of these are now committed to disc and this album includes some of his most impressive contributions. Those of us of a certain age are treated, at the commencement of the first and last selections, to Steiner’s stirring Warner Bros fanfare. This was heard behind their Shield logo before the film’s opening credits rolled. Shame we are not treated to this fanfare for today’s Warner films? Max Steiner was a master at setting a story’s atmosphere, heightening its drama and manipulating the emotions of the audience.

Casablanca, one of the most successful films ever, is really a collection of arrangements of patriotic tunes and variations on the Herman Hupfield song ‘As Time Goes By’. Similar musical treatments underscored Passage to Marseilles. More representative of Steiner’s original music are the remaining scores here. The Caine Mutiny has one of Max’s most memorable and rousing marches. The Big Sleep has a sweeping romantic waltz tune for this tale of murder and mayhem. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has a magnificent colourful score for this adventure story set in Mexico with music suggestive of the greed and madness for gold that underlies the tale. He also picks up on the story’s comedy, sentimentality, nobility plus the skirmishes with bandits. Steiner scored some 30 westerns and they are represented here by Virginia City which starred Bogart as a snarling half-breed outlaw pitted against Errol Flynn and Randolph Scott. The ‘Stagecoach’ sequence heard is very evocative and the Love Scene is another of Steiner’s tenderly romantic creations. My personal favourite amongst these gems is the score for Key Largo. There we had Bogart and Bacall up against ruthless gangster Edward G. Robinson. Here Steiner (shown above) creates a towering score that has great nobility and material suggesting a battle against dark maelstrom forces.
Franz Waxman is here in the evocative ‘Main Title: Martinique’ from To Have and Have Not. His music for the The Two Mrs Carrolls follows: the mad artist, Bogart is a wife killer and the music is sinister and sinuous. This is one of the most tensely melodramatic scores for any film noir. It’s another case of the music being far superior to the film. The lovely Audrey Hepburn starred opposite Bogart as a crusty old bachelor in the romantic comedy, Sabrina for which Frederick (or Friedrich) Hollander wrote an enchanting fairy-tale score. Included here is the Main Title and ‘The Larrabee Estate’. Victor Young, who wrote some of the loveliest melodies for Hollywood, is represented by the sweetly sentimental ‘Love Theme’ from The Left Hand of God. Miklós Rózsa’s music for Sahara, another wartime adventure, is very redolent of wide and desolate desert expanses under a merciless sun; the film’s ‘Main Title’ evocative and heroic music is included here.
The album booklet has the original LP liner notes written by Rudy Behlmer but unfortunately without all the film stills that decorated the LP’s back cover.
A very welcome return to an early release in the much-admired series of Classic Film Scores. An ideal introduction to film music of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Ian Lace
An ideal introduction to film music of Hollywood’s Golden Age.