This twin-score CD, another in Chapter III Records' string of MGM releases, offers
two scores from Maurice Jarre's early, and best, period. The earlier of the two,
Grand Prix (1966), is the better work, although Ryan's Daughter (1970) is not without
a certain heavy-handed charm. In fact, Grand Prix comes from what arguably was Jarre's
single greatest year in Hollywood, when his output also included Is Paris Burning?
and The Professionals. That he was capable of producing three such scores immediately
following his Oscar-winning masterwork, Doctor Zhivago, is testament to his skills
during the early years of his career. (And yes, I agree that Zhivago suffers tremendously
from the over-use of 'Lara's Theme' -- but that was David Lean's fault, not Jarre's.)
Grand Prix was director John Frankenheimer's mega-sized, star-heavy paean to Formula One race
cars and the men who drive them. Apart from musically mimicking the sound of race cars' whizzing
by at the start of his overture, Jarre wisely avoids trying to compete with the eardrum-splitting
sound effects of this part of the story. His main
theme is a simple march (a major-key variation on his 'Liberation' march from Is Paris Burning?)
that effectively captures the pageantry and excitement of race day. Occasionally Jarre rolls out
percussion and brass for a race scene, but most of his effort is spent on the film's human drama
which, frankly, amounts to so much soap opera depicting the drivers' complicated love lives.
Fortunately, Frankenheimer has Jarre to help him here, so at least we can enjoy the music
(and photography) as Yves Montand motors hrough soft-focus, flowery landscapes in panoramic,
70mm splendor, meditating on his love for Eva Marie Saint (cue: 'Sarti's Love Theme') As a film
composer, Jarre is at his best when providing a lyrical touch to such scenes, and he is in top
form here. Occasionally he resorts to accordions, which heís been quoted as saying should never
sound sentimental. The effects here are more wistful and delicate, such as in 'Scott and Pat --
Sarti & Louise' and 'Sarti's Love theme' In a bow to the times, the original LP soundtrack
featured several bossa nova versions of these themes, both of which could have been jettisoned
from this CD release -- though they really don't offend, and may well have been source music.
On the plus side, both themes also appear, along with the march, as source music in waltz form
for the cue 'In the Garden.' It's marvelous, and somewhat reminiscent of Jarre's 'Student Café'
waltz from Zhivago. (Side note: One of my best friends in high school was the son of MGM music
editor Bill Saracino. One day during post production on Grand Prix, my friend remarked that his
dad had described Jarre's score as the loveliest he'd ever heard -- this, less than a year after
working with the composer on Doctor Zhivago.)
Grand Prix concludes as a bloodied but victorious racer (James Garner) slowly walks the finish line,
accompanied by a celebratory statement of Jarre's main theme, its simplicity here adding to its power.
Ryans Daughter was intended by David Lean to prove he still could make a small, intimate film after his
string of blockbusters that included Bridge of the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, as well as Zhivago.
Alas, the result was top-heavy and bloated, albeit brilliantly acted and photographed. The film is the
only one of Jarre's scores for David Lean that did not receive the Academy Award (nor even a nomination).
More significantly, its harsh reception by critics drove the director into a self-imposed exile for 14
Like the film, Jarre's score is rather problematic -- much quality is evident, but the end results are
not wholly satisfying, particularly as it works within the film. Among his criticisms of the score,
Films in Review critic Henry Hart called it 'non-Irish.' That's true (though Jarre does attempt a certain
Gaelic feel) but I don't think it's a problem here. Authentic Irish music would never fit a Lean film,
and any other attempt would most likely have produced musical clichés. No, the problem with Jarre's
Ryan's Daughter score is more its failure to find the dramatic core of the story itself (a failure that
begins with Robert Boltís script). Jarre's primary theme, for the young and deeply impressionistic
Rosy (Sara Miles), catches her yearning and, particularly in its tentative,
main title development, her awakening sexuality. But that alone cannot carry the film, and Jarre's three
other themes don't even come close. 'The Major' a British march that compares favorably with Kenneth
Alford's 'Voice of the Guns' from Lawrence of Arabia, doesn't really tell us anything about Major
Randolph, the shell-shocked soldier who becomes Rosy's secret lover. 'Michael's Theme' -- delineating
the town idiot (John Mills in an Oscar-winning role) -- is too quirky with its offbeat percussion
effects to be of any real use. Unfortunately, Jarre wrote no music for the film's two best characters
schoolteacher Charles Shaughnessy (Robert Mitchum) and the village priest, Father Collins (Trevor Howard) .
Finally, Jarre provides a stirring, martial anthem for the Irish rebels, which is heard to varying effect
in the cue 'Song of the Irish Rebels.' I say 'varying effect' because I distinctly recall my own
reaction to the scene in which the townspeople rally to help the rebels retrieve the weaponry cascading
in on the pounding surf. Jarre's music swells
magnificently with Freddie Young's memorable cinematography, capturing the spirit of the rebels' effort
-- but then ignores the sudden shift in their fortunes and continues in a heroic mode that's completely
inappropriate to the scene. (Hart's review, quoted above, also referred to the music as 'inapposite.')
To give credit, the film does contain one complex scene which I don't think would have worked at all,
if not for Jarre. The cue is 'The Shakes', and it takes place in a pub as Michael kicks his leg
repeatedly against a bar, causing a traumatic reaction by the young major. The music catches the
relentless banging tempo and at the same time mirrors the mental torment of the young man.
Bottom line: a worthy effort, albeit flawed.
Both of these scores are represented here as they were released on LP, which results in a rather nice
touch on Ryan's Daughter: Side One of the LP opened with the film's main title music, while Side Two
began with the overture. Keeping that same track order on the CD lets the overture function as an
entr'acte. Amy Rosen's liner notes provide ample comment on Jarre's career but, again, no specifics
on the two scores or individual cues. That continuing caveat aside, this is an excellent CD from
Jarre's golden age.