2)The Review and the Challenge
- Review of the Columbia Legacy original soundtrack recording of Tiomkin's
music for the 1960 United Artists film The Alamo that includes John
Heuther's remarks about the Shameful neglect of Tiomkin's work and Ian Lace's
challenge to the record companies
3) The Response.
Dimitri Tiomkin was one of the celebrated group of composers that worked
in Hollywood during its Golden Age scoring for some of the most important
films of that time. They included many classic westerns of the stature of
High Noon, Duel in the Sun, Red River, Rio Bravo, Friendly
Persuasion, and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral plus spectaculars
like Lost Horizon, The High and the Mighty, The Guns of Navarrone,
The Land of the Pharaohs and The Fall of the Roman Empire.
He also wrote some highly dramatic scores for Alfred Hitchcock: Shadow
of a Doubt, I Confess, Strangers on a Train and Dial M for
Murder and yet there are still yawning gaps in his discography.
The Review and the Challenge
EDITOR'S RECOMMENDATION April 2000
Dimitri TIOMKIN The Alamo
Legacy re-release CK66138 (64:48)
Why is Dimitri Tiomkin so disliked within the community of Golden Age film
music composers? Despite writing classic scores for any number of great films,
and working successfully with virtually every top director from Capra to
Zinnemann, his work is largely ignored while others' are resurrected and/or
re-recorded on an almost daily basis. (This Web site, for example, currently
offers reviews of 12 Max Steiner scores, but only 2 of Tiomkin's.) Perhaps
part of the problem lies in Tiomkin's early gift for self-promotion - a faux
pas of great magnitude among the normally self-effacing Hollywood studio
musicians. Worse still, his gift for tune-writing often resulted in hit singles
(such as 'Friendly Persuasion' 'The High and the Mighty' and High Noon's
'Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling.') Although this came decades before the
now pervasive theme-song tie-ins began imposing commercial considerations
on artistic film music decisions, perhaps Tiomkin's contemporaries resented
his commercial success.
In any event, he was the first and only choice of producer-director-star
John Wayne to score The Alamo, a three-hour-plus account of the 1836 Texas
siege in which a handful of defenders were eventually massacred by Mexican
forces. Tiomkin's score -- earthy, melodious, rhythmic, and ultimately
heart-rending -- ranks among the best ever written for any spectacle, Western
or otherwise. At the heart of that score are two themes, a ballad-like melody
that functions as a recurring motif throughout the score, and the gorgeous
'Green Leaves of Summer,' which functions both in underscoring and in lyric
form for the film's key scene the night before the final, fatal attack. Director
Wayne, perhaps reflecting his mentor, John Ford, wanted a song to illustrate
the men's awareness of their impending deaths. The result is hauntingly
beautiful, and its use in this particular scene is a highlight in this often
overblown, plodding film. Indeed, it is one of the best uses of a song as
underscoring I've ever heard in a film. After first introducing the 'Green
Leaves' theme in the overture with high strings, Tiomkin then offers it with
accordions -- the effect is both somber and sentimental -- in the main title
following a stunning solo trumpet version of 'De Guella,' this latter piece
borrowed from Tiomkin's score to Rio Bravo just one year earlier.
Also worthy of note is Tiomkin's reel-like music for Crockett and his
Tennesseans, which is jaunty as a coonskin cap and has the earthy feel of
a buckskin legging. Character and mood are communicated with immediacy as
well as economy. This same quality can be found in Tiomkin's simpler songs,
'Tennessee Babe' and 'Here's to the Ladies,' each offering a folk-tune beauty
and simplicity such as Stephen Foster might have written.
And if the above comprised the whole of the score for The Alamo, it would
be a stunning achievement. But there is more. Simply put, nobody ever wrote
action cues quite like Dimitri Tiomkin, and The Alamo contains perhaps his
best work of this sort. These include 'Raid for Cattle,' 'Santa Anna,' and
the combined, 7-minute cue depicting the 'Charge of Santa Anna /Death of
David Crockett /The Final Assault.' 'Raid for Cattle' is a virtual tone poem,
following the Texans'stealthy movements as they prepare to steal the Mexican
troops' cattle, patiently await the dawn's coming, and then spring their
attack amid an orchestral frenzy that never loses touch with its several
thematic parts. Listen, too, as Tiomkin's woodwinds whirl and his strings
snap, whip-like, to herald the approach of Gen. Santa Anna. And finally,
marvel at how he captures specific action amid the vast panorama of the film's
final assault scenes, ending -- as the score began -- with the trumpeted
'De Guella.' (Max Steiner, among others, could have taken lessons from Tiomkin
on how to punctuate action cues with trumpets.)
Didier C. Deutsch has done a commendable job producing this 1995 re-issue
of the original soundtrack, complete with 11 additional cues. Carryovers
from the original LP include several dialogue tracks (including music) featuring
speeches by Wayne in the role of David Crockett. Both are corny and could
well have been excluded, though his farewell speech to the girl Flaca, in
which he explains his reasons for remaining at the Alamo, is not without
a certain poetic charm. ("Had me some money, and had me some medals -- but
none of it seemed a lifetime worth the pain of the mother that bore me.")
It's also rather appalling that anyone would have considered using 'The Eyes
of Texas Are Upon You' for the ending, and its inclusion here adds nothing.
Nor, for that matter, does the Brothers Four version of 'The Green Leaves
of Summer' although I do rather like the pop-single version of the main ballad
by country singer Marty Robbins.
Deutsch's notes offer insight on the political controversies that helped
sink the movie's Academy Award prospects in 1960, as well as the score's
murky recording history. But there is no information on specific cues, nor
any credit on the excellent choral work which, I presume, was led by Jester
Hairston with whom Tiomkin frequently worked.
Eyesight problems limited Tiomkin's output in the years after The Alamo,
although he would score at least three more masterpieces: The Guns of Navarone,
55 Days at Peking and Fall of the Roman Empire. Although best known for his
Western movie scores, Tiomkin soon would be succeeded as the reigning master
in that genre by the young Elmer Bernstein, whose Magnificent Seven score,
ironically, was nominated for an Academy Award along with The Alamo in 1960.
Both lost, as did Alex North's Spartacus, to Ernest Gold's Exodus -- itself
the beneficiary of a highly popular song.
John Heuther has eloquently expressed much of what I want to say. Personally,
I could not place this western music above Tiomkin's scores for Red River,
Duel in the Sun or High Noon, but then, in the UK, the Alamo does not have
the same historical resonance. Nevertheless, this is a very impressive score
with all the sweep and excitement one could wish for together with the ravishing
melody that is 'The Green Hills of Summer'. All the well-loved Tiomkin musical
thumbprints are in place: the stirring pace, the sudden pauses and shifts
of key and accent, those thrilling jagged dotted rhythms and dramatic, trenchant
staccato two-note figures. As John observes there is that stunning solo trumpet
of 'De Guella' sounding far more bitter than sweet here than it did in Rio
Bravo. And the use of 'folk-tune' material is economical but telling. Highly
[John raises a very valid and important point about the neglect of Tiomkin's
music. Readers might recall my indignation about the very cursory mention
and treatment of Tiomkin in the Warner Bros 75th Anniversary Box Set issued
by Rhino. However, you will notice that Museum Music, in their tribute to
Alfred Hitchcock album, reviewed on this site, this month includes the Main
Titles and a good slice of the music, with unobtrusive sound effects, from
Strangers on a Train.
Nevertheless I am taking this opportunity of appealing to record producers,
SILVA SCREEN, VARÈSE SARABANDE, NONESUCH, RHINO, BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY
SCREEN ARCHIVES, SCREEN ARCHIVES and through MARCO POLO to John Morgan to
please re-examine the work of Dimitri Tiomkin and let us have a full appreciation
of his music in modern digital sound. If any of these companies would like
to respond to this appeal; I will be delighted to publish their message on
this site. Ian Lace]
The Tiomkin library of works available for concert performances and
new recordings is growing all-the-time. If you will go to our web site
http://tnv.net Click on 'concert works', then
'film scores' and finally 'Dimitri Tiomkin' you will see a representative
selection of his music which we are expanding all-the-time.
Just a reminder that there is also the RCA Red Seal CD "HIGH NOON" which
was the last projectundertaken by Tiomkin's orchestrator and biographer
Christropher Palmer. Recorded in Berlin under Maestro Lawrence Foster this
recording receivedGermany's highest record prize and includes extended Suites
from HIGH NOON, 55 DAYS TO PEKING, THE ALAMO and CYRANO DE BERGERAC. Although
never available in main-line record outlets like Tower or HMV, Screen Archives
Entertianment has made this outstanding import available in the US.
Christopher Palmer's extensive FRIENDLY PERSUASION Suite and Song Folio For
Orchestra and a number of other works restored by Patrick Russ will be included
on a new recording, conducted by Richard Kaufman for Koch International Classics.
Patrick Russ has just completed restoring the DUEL IN THE SUN Entr'Acte which
the Dallas Symphony, conducted by Richard Kaufman, will premiere in the fall.
I appreciated John's comments regarding the music of Dimitri Tiomkin, who
does, indeed, get a bad rap and short shrift from a lot of collectors, especially
It's long been a personal crusade on my part to get his music out. Sadly,
so much of it is gone, destroyed by the studios neglect. I recall about two
years ago, begging someone at Warners to include the isolated mono trax for
THE OLD MAN & THE SEA. No, the answer was a flat no. The sessions would
have to be mixed together and there was no money. The same for LAND OF THE
PHARAOHS and others. Missing is RIO BRAVO. Nick Redman put together a `More
Music from GIANT' that was to be released with the restored laser disc. The
LD and the CD were box axed.
John Morgan and Bill Stromberg both want to re-record the Big T. They love
him as much as we all do. Perhaps we'll sometime soon hear re-recordings
of RED RIVER and THE BIG SKY.
Speaking of RED RIVER, Howard Hawks did an uninspired re-cut of the film
in the 70s, cutting and respotting music. Apparently the music trax existed
as late as back then. But I have asked around for years and no one seems
to know now where the masters are. Also, a very good source tells me that
the music masters for THE THING... from another World does exist at Turner.
But that's another story.
Take care -- and remember, The Big T Rules.
Films in Review
In response to your plea for more Tiomkin, which my colleague Craig Spaulding
very kindly forwarded to me, you will be pleased to know that Screen Archives
Entertainment will be presenting the complete original soundtrack score to
THE COURT-MARTIAL OF BILLY MITCHELL in the fall of 2000. This is part of
our United States Pictures series that began with DISTANT DRUMS and is continuing
with Max Steiner's PURSUED.
I share your feelings about the lack of attention paid Tiomkin's scores during
this generation of resurgence. Perhaps the composer's talent for self-promotion
which you mentioned, rather than being a black mark, has merely provided
the misimpression that Tiomkin is well-represented in recordings. But like
most soundtrack albums of the 50's (and even more so Tiomkin's theme recordings
and the Fiedler DUEL IN THE SUN album), his scores were very poorly presented
- at least from the perspective of conveying the dramatic impact of the scores
and the musical progression of cues in the classical tradition. Tiomkin's
albums were commissioned on the strength of his pictures' theme songs, and
the selection of cues included seldom demonstrated Tiomkin's magnificent
talent as a musical storyteller (Tiomkin was certainly not alone, of course).
In fact, 36 HOURS is probably his best album because it is virtually the
entire score in proper sequence and the dramatic line is retained. Like Max
Steiner, Tiomkin was very conscious of the musical relation of one cue to
the next, and this will be borne out well on the BILLY MITCHELL album.
The main problem with recreations of Tiomkin's music is that it is damn difficult
to do. Those conflicting rhythms, many of them disguised until you hear someone
else try to conduct them (such as a recent recorded suite from DIAL M FOR
MURDER) and Tiomkin's penchant for fierce attack are perhaps a bit too precise
for some of today's more graceful reinterpreters (and let's not forget the
cost of production that usually results in lack of rehearsal time). Charles
Gerhardt's Tiomkin album was a masterpiece. So far only Morgan and Stromberg
or perhaps Joel McNeely give evidence of coming anywhere near it in future
Another problem is that, unfortunately, interest in golden age film scores
is on a steady decline. With each generation, the term "classic" takes on
new meaning. To many film score buyers, even though he is still active as
ever, Elmer Bernstein is considered a vintage composer! A great percentage
of today's film music consumers never even HEARD of Errol Flynn. On the other
hand, I couldn't hum a Howard Shore tune if my childrens' lives depended
on it! So we're sort of racing against the biological clock along with every
other obstacle we have to clear!
As you know, a few Tiomkin scores have been released in recent years by
bootleggers, which is very discouraging to efforts by those at the studios
who are trying to encourage official releases. But as those of us who are
doing licensed releases of original soundtrack material build up our portfolios,
perhaps the studios will be more conducive to arranging sublicense agreements.
This way scores which could never bring about the sort of income the studios
look for might be released in limited fashion to get more material out to
the fans and at least give the rights holders an avenue for getting the most
out of a decidedly ever-shrinking market.
Thanks for your efforts in this cause. I'm sure you know that Jack Smith
of Films In Review is the world's A-Number-One Tiomkin Fan (much to the disdain,
I'm sure, of Jack's late mentor Page Cook!). If anyone would have a few choice
words to say about the Dearth of Dimitri, it would be Jack.
I hope you will pick up our BILLY MITCHELL album when it comes around, as
well as give a listen to our other titles in the United States Pictures Series.
Very best wishes,
Great to hear you are carrying the torch for Tiomkin. We do plan to record
a score of his in the future. We are trying to find materials on RED RIVER.
I wanted to do a full CD from DUEL IN THE SUN, but the Selznick people are
impossible to work with.
We have also been remiss in not doing Rozsa yet, but soon that will be rectified.
We leave for Moscow April 1 for two more recordings, so I am horribly busy
right now, but will give you my take on the extreme difficulty of re-recording
Tiomkin when we return, but in short, if you don't also have the instrumental
parts, the restoration of his scores is terribly difficult. He would have
his orchestrators pretty much orchestrate everything TUTTI; and then on the
podium, Tiomkin would change and drop things and that would be his "concept".
So, even if you had the orchestrations and played them, they would be too
thick and not like what ended up in the film. It would probably take me 6
months to properly reconstruct one of his scores. Most recordings of Tiomkin
that are in common circulation are watered down arrangements.
In June, Marco Polo will release our ROY WEBB and Salter-Skinner albums.
The Roy Webb will include music from the Val Lewton films. The Salter-Skinner
will have a more complete GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, as well as SHERLOCK HOLMES
and the VOICE OF TERROR.
Recorded for release later this year are:
Waxman: OBJECTIVE, BURMA!
Steiner: THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE
Our trip next week will include:
Steiner: THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME/SON OF KONG
Arnold: THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN/DAVID COPPERFIELD
and later this year we will record:
Herrmann: FIVE FINGERS/THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO
So, we are keeping busy.....
Tiomkin has been my idol since the early days when I first discovered film
When I joined Legacy, in 1986, one of my first productions was to do a
compilation of tracks from the films Tiomkin had scored that had been released
by Columbia. That compilation, The Film Music of Dimitri Tiomkin (CK 44370),
has long been deleted from the catalogue, because there was not enough demand
for it to keep it active.
I concur with Ray Faiola that one reason few conductors want to tackle his
scores is that his tempi and nuances are very difficult to catch. Not only
did Tiomkin have a style all his own, his conducting was quite unique as
well. I don't think that the Gerhardt album on RCA, or the Willcocks one
on Unicorn-Kanchana are particularly good representations. On the other hand,
I was very impressed with the way David Newman seemed to capture the Tiomkin
flair in his recording of Miracle on 34th Street for Telarc.
I don't despair one day to be able to convince the powers-that-be at Sony
to reissue the six soundtracks in our vaults (Wild In The Wind, The Old Man
And The Sea, The Alamo, The Guns Of Navarone, 55 Days At Peking, and The
Fall Of The Roman Empire), but demand for those will have to be high if we
want to see the series succeed... and lead to other reissues.
Didier C. Deutsch
Over the years SILVA SCREEN RECORDS has recorded a fair amount of Tiomkin's
music, including suites from DIAL M FOR MURDER and STRANGER ON A TRAIN, plus
themes from THE ALAMO, GUNS OF NAVARONE etc.. plus I have just recorded an
orchestral version of "Thee I Love" from FRIENDLY PERSUASION. We also have
re-issued "original" recordings like MORE MUSIC FROM THE FALL OF THE ROMAN
EMPIRE. However, I would certainly agree that of late Tiomkin has been somewhat
neglected, although of course in the 1970's there was the Gerhardt "Lost
Horizon" album, and the two volumes of Tiomkin's music on Unicorn plus more
recently the BMG album of HIGH NOON and other scores. Personally I am a great
"fan" of his music and would love to record more but unfortunately the depressed
state of the CD market means that recording Tiomkin's music has become quite
"high risk", especially for small, specialist labels - bearing in mind that
most Tiomkin scores need a very large orchestra. Generally the only realistic
way for these albums to be recorded is if outside sponsorship funding can
be found or, as in the case of our recording of THE VALLEY OF GWANGI: The
Classic Film Music of JEROME MOROSS and the forthcoming volume 2 - THE CARDINAL
- if a certain amount of funding is forthcoming from the estate of the composer,
or even (although it is extremely rare) the publishers of the music. If someone
or some organisation wanted to record an album of Tiomkin's music, I would
be "first in line" to produce such a venture!
As per John Morgan's reply, when we recorded DIAL M FOR MURDER and The THING,
using the original scores, the music often sounded quite different from the
cues as they appeared in the final film. This is because of Tiomkin scoring
each cue for full orchestra and then taceting any section of the orchestra
that he or the director weren't happy with. This leaves modern recordings
with the problem of trying to sort out what he actually did tacet - the scores
and parts give absolutely no indication of this. In the end I had to take
the decision to record each cue as per the original score and Tiomkin's original
Producer - Silva Screen Records Ltd.
We will be releasing at the end of a May a new Citadel title called: Legendary
Hollywood - Dimitri Tiomkin This album features The Guns Of Navarone, The
Fall Of The Roman Empire, Wild Is The Wind, A Presidents Country, Rhapsody
Of Steel, The Alamo, Rawhide, Giant, Red River, High Noon, Duel In The Sun.For
more info on this album have a look at the Citadel web site
All the best
New York City