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Alfred Newman's parting work from his tenure at 20th Century-Fox is a score
I've labored in vain to enjoy. This is not because the score is ineffective
for its purposes in the film, which I'm sure it supports quite well. But as
a listening experience, its restraint eventually produces, for me, a sense of
Made in 1959, "The Best of Everything" was a sort of big-city Peyton Place,
telling the story of four young career girls working and coping in New York.
Newman keeps his score tightly centered around two principal themes, one representing
the city and the other a sort of multi-purpose love theme to which lyrics by
Sammy Cahn were added for the opening titles. (This was back when all movie
songs incorporated the film's title as a key refrain.) Interestingly, the score
opens not with Newman's signature studio fanfare but with a sharp statement
of the New York theme in brass. This leads quickly to the song voiced by Johnny
Mathis with a velvety lushness so representative of those times.
(Other examples of what might be termed a 1950s sound, offered up in muted
trombones in such cues as 'Gregg' could be another reason I have such difficulty
warming to this score. Perhaps it's because I am myself a child of the '50s, but rolled piano
chords, followed by swelling strings just sound so ... so dated! And the use
of what must be a theremin to depict one character's developing dementia only
adds to the problem.) To be fair, Newman's main theme, while hardly memorable
or even catchy, has a subtly insinuating quality. I may not have come to like
this score, but after a week of listening to the CD I couldn't get this theme
out of my mind!
All but a handful of the CD's 23 film cues are based wholly or in part on these
two themes. One exception, 'Barbara and Sidney,' written for two characters
whose subplot apparently was left on the cutting room floor, contains excellent
material that is never further developed. Likewise, the lovely waltz melody
for 'The Corsage.' (Nor is it likely that any such material simply was jettisoned
in the final cut, since this Film Score Monthly offering includes, as is typical
of FSM's output, a wide range of bonus cues.)
Interestingly, the final bonus cue offered here is a mild version of Newman's
classic 'Street Scene,' which apparently was used as part of "Best's" temp score.
Its presence here to conclude this CD is a fitting touch by FSM, which has given
us a wealth of outstanding Newman scores over the past several years. This one,
however, should appeal mostly to Newman completists.
Gary S. Dalkin says:-
The Best of Everything (1959) was a 20th Century Fox CinemaScope
melodrama of the sort which used to be called a "women's picture", detailing
the lives and loves of a group of women who worked in a New York office. Produced
by Jerry Wald, the film followed in the tradition of his Peyton Place
91957) and The Long Hot Summer (1958) and was designed as a film to compete
in length, if not scale, with the epics then in vogue. The film was scored by
Fox's head of music, Alfred Newman, and was released at a more conventional
122 minutes. No music was recorded which did not appear in the finished version,
yet one theme only appears once, in the cue "Barbara and Sydney", suggesting
Newman composed a longer score some of which was discarded before the music
ever reached the recording stage. Of greater significance, The Best of Everything
proved to be Newman's final score for Fox, the composer ending his long association
with the studio as the decade turned.
This is a quietly understated score, both urban and urbane. There is a title
song, sung by Johnny Mathis and co-written with Sammy Cahn, which is developed
throughout into romantic, sometimes nostalgic underscore and a second theme
of similar character, the two so often counterbalancing each other as to be
more variations than entirely separate melodies. Whether in pastoral, nostalgic
mood, as in "The Kiss" or offering the cool, mellow jazz "source" cue which
ironically scores "The Rape", Newman's score functions very much as backdrop.
Never does it draw attention to itself, being light, dreamy and melodic.
The main score is presented in 23 cues totalling 48 minutes, and will be enough
for most listeners. The stereo sound is generally excellent for the period,
the characteristic Fox strings coming through bright and clear. However, there
is some distortion and minor pitch fluctuation on a few tracks, though nothing
to spoil anyone's enjoyment if they put the music first. There are 11 bonus
cues, including mono recordings of four tracks, a demo of the title theme, and
Newman's classic "Street Scene", which was used as temp music. Other cuts are
source music, such as period standards "Something's Gotta Give" and "Kiss Them
For Me", or else an incomplete version, i.e. missing some tracks, of "The Cafeteria".
Presented with Film Score Monthly's usual painstaking attention to detail,
this is as fine a presentation of this score as is ever likely to be released.
Not as much fun, and nowhere near as varied as the Newman supervised
How to Marry A Millionaire (1953), this is still a notable score. It won't appeal to everyone, as this
is closer to light MOR '50's jazz than the world of Herrmann and Rozsa, but
those who appreciate this style of film music will not be disappointed.
Gary S. Dalkin