Stanley Kramer's Judgment at Nuremburg (1961) was set during the Nuremburg
War Crimes Trials of 1948. The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards.
It starred Spencer Tracy as an American district court judge sent to Germany
to act as chief judge for a tribunal against four German judges accused of
war crimes during World War II - the story provoking an interesting irony;
judges judging judges. Burt Lancaster co-starred as Ernst Jannings, one of
the accused, defiant, until he eventually relents and admits their mutual
culpability. The film also starred Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Maximilian
Schell, Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift.
Ernest Gold, enjoyed a successful collaboration with Stanley Kramer over
a period of more than 20 years and included scores for: The Defiant Ones,
On the Beach, Inherit the Wind, and It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
(the Ryko score for that film was reviewed on this site earlier this year);
proving his versatility in writing for such different screenplays. Gold was
always careful to absorb local colour and musical styles into his scores.
Interestingly, Gold was born in Vienna in 1921 and escaped to the United
States from the Nazi threat and eventually arrived in Hollywood in 1946.
Clearly, then, his early experiences were eminently suitable for writing
the score for this film.
The music for the three-hour Judgment at Nuremburg is relatively sparse and
Gold chose to underscore those scenes outside the courtroom underlining character
interactions, locale painting and giving warmth to the deliberations of the
The opening "Overture" introduces the main themes. After snare drums, the
opening heraldic trumpet figure, stunningly recorded with off stage echoing
trumpet calls, suggests both past military victories and the present importance
of the trial. This motif moves straight into a rousing German folk song,
brutalised to suit the ends of the Third Reich. This brutalisation of the
opening folk material reaches its twisted, vicious extreme in the cue
"Entr'acte". "Ghostly ruins" accompanies the American judge, Haywood's tour
of the ruined Nuremburg with eerie high woodwinds and mocking twisted fragments
of the bumptious introductory march. In "Sights and Sounds of Nuremburg"
we have warmer friendlier music associated with the people Hayward meets
in the streets. We hear street organs and a folksy tune in the market place
but when Hayward reaches the stadium ghostly strains of the Third Reich impinge
once more. "Schwalbenwinkel" is attractive, melodious restaurant music. For
the cue "Madam Bertholt's Story" Gold works poignant variations around the
song "Lili Marlene". Equally poignant is the "Liebeslied", a typical operetta
aria sung in the style of Richard Tauber of Nicolai Geda, in a restaurant
as Haywood dines with Bertholt (Dietrich). "Du Du" is a more upbeat beer
cellar song with stamping feet rhythms; while the breezy, and, in part, almost
ballet-like music for the cue, "Tea time in Berlin" emanates from a hotel
lobby radio which has just announced news of a Russian blockade between Berlin
and Western Germany. "Colonel Lawson's Mission" begins with Wagnerian,
noble/heroic overtones but proceeds with more personal emotional intensity
emphasisied by strings and woodwind as the Judy Garland character is persuaded
There has been some debate about the inclusion of dialogue in these Ryko
releases. But in this case I totally defend the inclusion of the two speeches
by Burt Lancaster and Spencer Tracy about the causes of the Holocaust and
the guilt and culpability of those involved; it's lesson is worth regular
revisiting. As usual we have the ROM content, poster material and intelligent,
eminently readable notes by Randall D. Larson, Senior Editor of Soundtrack
And Jeffrey Wheeler adds -
My brother, who has a genetic affection for all good things German, shall
probably abscond with "Judgment at Nuremberg" - a truly fascinating listen.
The use of traditional German songs is effective and symbiotic with the
underscore, although used a bit too often. The underscore itself makes nice
use of period sensibilities and works flawlessly. The narration is chilling,
and I cannot think of hearing the score without its presence. It belongs
alongside the score as a powerful recollection of film and international
history as well as a wonder for the ears.