Having raved about Film Score Monthlyís budget release of The Appointment, I find myself similarly endeared to another of the labelís recent issues, Toys in the Attic. Produced three years after Lillian Hellmanís award-winning play triumphed on Broadway, this subsequent film adaptation further examines the life of Dean Martinís idealistic Southern beau, Julian Berners, estranged from his wife and threatened by the underlying sexual yearning for him that will engulf the lives of his two spinster sisters. This second feature by acclaimed director George Roy Hill features music by George Duning, a vibrant musical dramatist whose music sadly remains under-represented on disc.
Duning, a much-respected composer following the Second World War is, perhaps, more known for his music for the Sixties television series The Big Valley. However, his career spanned some forty years and he produced many scores that effervesce charm and technical prowess. For that reason alone, one can draw comparisons between him and other skilled, progressive leading lights of the post-war era, such as British composers Kenneth Alwyn.
Toys in the Attic is imbued with a delicate portrayal of Julianís dreaming and his fragile relationships that is eventually shattered by the seeping lust and jealousy which play out against the seedy backdrop of New Orleans (Abetted by the virtuosic arranging talents of Arthur Morton, seen in 5M3-5M5 and collated on track 20).
Admittedly, Attic is very much a score of its time (very much romantic-Gothic Americana), relying heavily on then popular idiomatic motifs and instrumental combinations. But, it is a well-constructed work which works well devoid of the film and which represents the distinct voice of a great musician. In that respect, it is a work that sits many notches astride the vast majority of recent archival releases and deserves to sell well.
Film Score Monthly album details and promotional notes
Toys in the Attic:
- Main Title/Bourbon Street Beatnik/Lily Enters 5:20
- Lily Phones 1:41
- Carrie Remembers 2:43
- Carrie Excited 1:21
- The Attic/Julian 1:51
- Lily and Julian 2:06
- The Presents/The Tickets/More Presents/The New Ring/Why, Lily? 8:27
- Lily Goes Home/Motherless Child 2:43
- Morning at Berniers/I'm Sorry, Cyrus/Hey Gus/Lily Returns 2:31
- Now/Carrie Disturbed 1:40
- Carrie Listens/Anna's Accusations 2:14
- Julian, Don't Go 2:51
- Do It! 2:26
- Evil Carrie/Miss Anna/Dock Rumble/Who Told Him?/Get Out/I Heard Her 6:49
- Goodbye Carrie/End Title (short version) 2:49
- Total Time: 48:04
Toys in the Attic (vocal) 2:37
Additional Score Cues 4:18
Attic Jazz/Attic Beguine 2:54
Champagne Party/Waltz for Carrie/New Orleans Cafe/Bourbon Street Twist 3:49
Strip Stuff/More Strip Stuff/The Stripper Blues/Preservation Hall 3:17
Blues for Charlotte 2:58
Toys in the Attic (instrumental) 2:18
Total Time: 22:23
Total Disc Time: 70:27
FSM spotlights a wonderful Golden Age composer seldom represented on CD:
George Duning (1908-2000), a stalwart of Columbia Pictures (From Here to Eternity, Picnic, The Eddy Duchin Story) who later excelled in television (he scored the most romantic episodes of Star Trek). Presented here is one of Duning's most outstanding dramatic scores, Toys in the Attic (1963), his only picture for United Artists.
Toys in the Attic was based on a play by Lillian Hellman and directed by George Roy Hill, starring Dean Martin a perennial failure who retreats to his childhood home in New Orleans and spinster sisters (Geraldine Page and Wendy Hiller) when times get rough. The sisters actually derive great pleasure from comforting Julian, and it is the man's success (both in business and with his new bride, Yvette Mimieux) that ironically leads to tragedy.
Duning's score for Toys in the Attic is melodic and memorable, with a bluesy main theme (one of Duning's finest) and sweetly nostalgic Americana for the loving (if problematic) personal relationships. The "Southern family" genre led to exceptionally fine scores from composers such as Alex North (A Streetcar Named Desire) and Elmer Bernstein (Summer and Smoke), and Duning matches their sensitivity (using his own style) with rich and melancholy music, becoming dissonant only as the characters themselves push into obsession and desperation.
This premiere CD of Toys in the Attic has been mastered from the original 1/2" stereo masters, recorded at the famed Goldwyn Scoring Stage in Hollywood. The album presents the chronological assembly planned by the composer and Tony Thomas but never commercially released, followed by jazzy source cues, a brief suite of additional and alternate underscore, and a rare single (vocal and instrumental) of the main theme. Liner notes are by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall.