May 2001Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /May01/

Cyril MOCKRIDGE and others
How to Marry a Millionaire * musical direction by Alfred Newman
Film Score Monthly Vol.4 No.2 * [70:03]
( Film Score Monthly, 8503 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, California, CA 90232.

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) was the first CinemaScope film, though the second released - the first into the cinema was The Robe with music by Alfred Newman. Here though Newman was responsible for musical direction, with the score being penned by Cyril Mockridge. This album is just one of two releases reviewed on Film Music on the Web this month from Film Score Monthly exploring the very early days of Fox CinemaScope, the other being Bernard Herrmann's Beneath the 12-Mile Reef. One thing all these scores have in common, because it was part of Fox's CinemaScope specification, is that they were recorded in stereo, and here the full score of How to Marry a Millionaire is presented with an astonishingly rich and well-defined sound-stage.

The film was a romantic comedy starring Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall and William Powell and both the film and the music are well documented in the booklet which is well up to the usual high standard of previous Film Score Monthly releases. In a way the score prefigures the contemporary use of pop music in romantic comedy, in that a small amount of actual score is interspersed with songs. However, the songs Alfred Newman chose were not simply pre-existing recordings dropped onto the soundtrack but fresh instrumental arrangements of various popular melodies assigned to different characters and relationships essentially as leitmotivs. In addition to composing new material Cyril Mockridge did the bulk of the arrangements while Edward B. Powell was responsible for the majority of the orchestration.

After the 20th Century Fox fanfare (the expected 'CinemaScope extension' so beloved of Star Wars fans did not arrive until later) the film presented a demonstration of the new stereo format, using 'Street Scene', a piece Newman composed for a film of the same name back in 1931. Then the film proper begins with the main title song, 'New York' a fine upbeat tune not to be confused with 'New York, New York'. A rousing number, the same cue minus the vocal track closes the CD as one of several bonus selections. The entire score, including plenty of delightful instrumental variations on 'New York', alongside other tunes which blend orchestral jazz and light romantic comedy scoring into a beguiling tapestry runs to 20 tracks and approximately an hour playing time. Given the date the sound is breathtakingly good.

The bonus tracks include one piano cue which is just five seconds long, which seems rather pointless and may be taking completism a bit too far! However, the cue 'Bachelorette Pad' is a piece omitted from the main score due to the tapes sustaining damage. The damage is actually minimal, and the cue can happily be programmed in its rightful place between tracks 3 & 4.

In an astonishing month for vintage releases this is something a little different to the heavyweight's from Herrmann and Alex North, but it would be a shame to overlook what is a superb album in its own right. If you fancy some light relief you'll find How to Marry a Millionaire is an impeccably crafted romantic cocktail.

Gary S. Dalkin

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