"Flabby, relentlessly boring remake of the 1930 movie of Edna Ferber's sprawling novel." – Halliwell's Film, Video & DVD Guide.
M-G-M's 1960 remake of Cimarron proved to be something of a disaster. (It had previously been filmed in 1930 starring Richard Dix and Irene Dunne and it won the Best Picture Academy Award for that year.) The author of the book, Edna Ferber, loathed the 1960 film. It was an early example of studio anxiety, and too much executive interference at a time when TV was becoming an ever-increasing threat. One of the main problems was miscasting. Rock Hudson had been first choice for the role of Yancey Cimarron, while the finally cast Glenn Ford was past his sell-by-date. The unsympathetic heroine, Sabra, played by Maria Schell, was seen as a European émigré rather than a southern belle as in Ferber's novel, to minimise offence and maximise attendance at Southern States theatres.
This was Franz Waxman's final score at M-G-M and it has to be said that, thematically, it is not one of his best although, undeniably, there is all his usual refined craftsmanship in the dramatic and atmospheric writing. The 'Main Title' music bows towards M-G-M producers' over-eager striving for popularity (see my remarks above) and has the 'Cimaron' song delivered by the Roger Wagner chorale in an amiable cantering rhythm after a semi-fanfare, all of which is quite underwhelming. The trumpet solo and tremolando strings that follow give a nice sense of wide vistas; and the following modulation to sad, intimate figures signal that this sprawling western is, after all, a love story. But this CD's 'Main Title' music did not impress this listener and it was only when I listened to the outtakes suite at the end of this album that I fully realised its potential and, perhaps, Waxman's intentions? In these outtakes there was another version of the song by the Roger Wagner Chorale that was more processional in character (but of course less commercial) that might have been more in character with the screenplay and, better still, a play-through of the main theme song in purely orchestral dress that was powerful and lusty and would have made a much more potent main title.
Of course Waxman grasps every opportunity to colour and point up the Cimarron characters and events and his music must be regarded as one of the few saving graces of this film. A few examples. The Oklahoma 'Land Rush' sequence is big and bold and reminiscent of Waxman's 'The Ride to Dubno' music from his Taras Bulba score (United Artists, 1962). The music associated with Yancey's romance with Sabra uses a warm rendering of the main theme and, appropriately, another theme based a German folk song. Waxman had first hand experience of racial intolerance and he reserves some quite mean and vicious music, rasping brass, strident, crushing rhythms and heavy percussion for the 'Hanging Scene' (you can hear those jack-boots!). At the opposite end of the scale is the subtle use of the spiritual 'O Redeemer' characterising Yancey's sentimental optimism in 'Night Camp'.
Not the best of Waxman but even second drawer Waxman contains enough gems to make for a most satisfying listening experience.
Music Composed and Conducted by Franz Waxman
- Main Title* 3:30
- Goodbye Father 3:12
- Meeting Tom Wyatt 3:23
- The Villain 2:15
- Night Camp 2:07
- Getting Ready 4:35
- The Land Rush 6:24
- Pegler's Death 3:41
- Mrs. Pegler Carries On/Don't Go Yancey/A New Town 3:36
- Hanging Scene 1:49
- The Villain's Death 1:52
- A Son Is Born 2:13
- Wanted/Billy and His Pals 2:56
- They Got the Kid/After Billy's Death and Funeral Parlor 5:42
- The Wrong Man/Goodbye to Dixie/The Telegram/A New Territory 7:21
- Alaska/Yancey Is Back/Oil, Oil 4:58
- Tom's Betrayal 1:11
- Osage Street Scene/Cim and Ruby/Yancey Goes to Washington 4:29
- Washington Hotel 2:26
- Surprise Visit 3:04
- Memories and Finale* 3:05
- Outtakes Suite* 5:07
Total Time: 79:37
*Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
Sung by The Roger Wagner Chorale
FSM Press Release
M-G-M's Cimarron (1960) -- the second screen adaptation of Edna Ferber's novel of the same name -- was an epic western telling the history of Oklahoma settlers through the lives of newspaper publisher Yancey "Cimarron" Cravat (Glenn Ford) and his wife, Sabra (Maria Schell). While the film is known for its massive depiction of the Oklahoma Land Rush, one element stands above all others: Franz Waxman's classic music.
By the time he scored Cimarron in 1960, Waxman was nearing the conclusion of a brilliant career as one of the undisputedly great composers of Hollywood's Golden Age. After stints under contract to Universal and Warner Bros., and a period as highly respected freelancer, Waxman was able to pick and choose his projects. Cimarron provided an opportunity to work once again with director Anthony Mann, with whom he had collaborated on The Furies (1950).
Franz Waxman's stirring title song for Cimarron, which figures prominently through the course of his score, features lyrics by Paul Francis Webster and is sung by the Roger Wagner Chorale. Waxman also employs a European folk song (which Sabra sings to Yancey early in the film) as a love theme for the two principals, and supplies colorful themes for various supporting characters. The film's great set-piece, the Land Rush sequence, benefits from one of Waxman's most exciting action cues, rivaling his own "Ride to Dubno" from Taras Bulba. Another highlight is Waxman's moving setting of the spiritual "O Redeemed", a cue omitted from the film entirely.
This CD features Franz Waxman's complete underscore to Cimarron, remixed from the original 35mm three-track stereo masters. In addition to a suite comprising alternate versions of three cues, many tracks include music that was either mixed at a very low level or severely truncated in the finished film. Christopher Husted's liner notes reveal details of the film's production and Waxman's involvement in the project. After a four-decade wait, one of Waxman's greatest scores is finally available in definitive form.