Fall 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings/ Fall [1]/

DVD Review

Peyton Place  
Music composed by Franz Waxman
  Directed by Mark Robson
Starring: Lana Turner, Arthur Kennedy, Hope Lange, Lee Philips, Lloyd Nolan, Diane Varsi, Russ Tamblyn and Terri Moore
  Available on 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Studio Classics F1-SGB 0185501009
Running Time: ? minutes
Amazon UK   Amazon US

This DVD is one of a series of re-releases on DVD of major 20th Century Fox films.  The 1957 film of Peyton Place was based on Grace Metalious's sensational, scandalous (for its time), best-selling and immensely popular novel was filmed in 1957, with Lana Turner, Hope Lange, Russ Tamblyn, Arthur Kennedy and Diane Varsi in the central role of Alison MacKenkie. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards (although, incredibly, Franz Waxman's score was not, and, in the event, all nine nominations were unsuccessful.) Peyton Place went on to spawn three cinematic sequels and a 514 episode, thrice-weekly, prime time ABC network television series starring Ryan O'Neal and Mia Farrow. It might be said that Peyton Place launched the soap opera. (One wonders if the similarly themed King's Row, with that wonderful score by Korngold, might have done so if television was so widespread in its day)

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the film was Franz Waxman’s score and it is good to see it in the context of the film in this fine CinemaScope and stereophonic sound refurbishment, the New England countryside colours so brilliant.

To give an appreciation of this score, I append below my review of the Varese Sarabande  recording of the score that appeared on this site.

2000 CD Review: Peyton Place [Visit for album info.]

During the recording sessions for Peyton Place, the film's producer, Jerry Wald wrote:- "Every musician on the lot is highly enthusiastic about Franz Waxman's score for PEYTON PLACE, from Alfred Newman on down to the members of the orchestra who recognize the score as a masterful job and a great achievement in scoring. Mr Waxman is one of the few musicians I know who does not think that the film is accompanying his music --- he makes his music work for the picture. He adds dimension to the story-telling by his sound effects in music. He also has the dramatic insight which tells him when to stop the music. When people view the 'Chase in the Woods' for instance, they will find that suddenly, at its height, the music stops and all that is heard is the breathing of people involved in the chase and the natural sounds in the woods at night."

As the composer's son, John Waxman, has perceptively said, "He (Franz Waxman) captured the new England mood exquisitely." And another observer remarked, "Franz Waxman's music is a lyric poem to the beauties and pitfalls of life in nature and in spirit." All this is true; the music speaks eloquently of life in a small, closely-knit community that is small town America -- and of its surrounding countryside.

The difficulty with this score, especially for older generations, is over-familiarity. The big theme that became the best-selling song, "The Wonderful Seasons of Love" has been played over and over and over. [It was recorded by Rosemary Clooney (lovely lady but who remembers her today?) for the film's sequel Return to Peyton Place] Now, this valuable new recording gives us the opportunity to hear it with open ears and really appreciate its beauty and elegance -- and of the whole score.

The Main Title is rich indeed. A light but lively bell-like theme leads into another theme that speaks of small town pride and its day-to-day busy activity after which that lovely tune is stated, dressed in rich glowing harmonies. This opening track closes with a cosy, tranquil, almost nocturnal pastoral evocation and the mood is carried over into the opening of the following cue, 'Entering Peyton Place'. Here, however, the tempo soon quickens and Waxman presents a beautiful vivid evocation of the bustle of small town everyday routine cleverly counterpointed with the main theme so that we are given a sense of stability and warm affection. The following track 'Going to School' is another gem - beginning as a fugue the music then becomes a jazzy, joyful, carefree caper. But in 'After School' we realise that all is not sweetness and light, shadows begin to manifest themselves and the big tune takes on a sadder more reflective tinge. The music of this cue ends with lovely introspective solos from violin, oboe and horn and a long-held sighing chord on upper strings.

'Hilltop Scene' is another very impressive creation and at nearly seven minutes duration the most significant cue of the album. It is, as would be expected, predominantly pastoral but it encompasses contrasting moods. It opens playfully with folk tune material and an air of nostalgia. The music even nods a little towards Rodgers' Oklahoma! Then the pace slows, the music becomes pensive, and a lovely horn passage suggests wide vistas. Waxman takes bits of his main themes and weaves subtle variations with them embroidering into them bird calls and other countryside evocations. Suddenly his music becomes strongly influenced by the pastoral/mystical style of the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. This beautiful cue ends with the big tune reasserting itself with even more varied and rich harmonies.

'Rossi's Visit' is gentle, sweet romance with a saxophone solo adding to its air of sadness and tingeing it with jazz blues. This colouring spills over into 'After the Dance' that precedes 'The Rape', both speaking of beauty and innocence betrayed. The music becomes turgid and sinister with the rape music shot through with screeching, screaming brass. 'Chase in the Woods' is chillingly evocative with some brilliant writing for pizzicato strings, low woodwinds and brass. Notice how Waxman creates as much terror and tension by employing just one, or a very few instruments, and by thinning out his textures to silence [Some younger film music composers could learn a thing or two by studying this cue!]

'Swimming Montage' is another significant cue lasting over five minutes. This is contrastingly sunny music and somewhat Italian and I was reminded of Respighi in his quieter pastoral moments. It has an appealing chirpiness and again birdsong is apparent, at one point a woodpecker is insistent. Inventive as ever with his big tune, it surges here to a triumphant romantic climax with warm burnished horn calls.

'Constance's Story' is anguished and its pathos is communicated by solo cello and lower strings. The next few tracks use material from the beginning of the Main Title as associated with the town. 'Alison's Decision' has a heavy tread, 'Leaving for New York' is equally full of regret and is laced with a jazz blues. But it is 'Peyton Draftees' that is so richly evocative. The town theme here has tragic overtones and is accompanied by bugle calls to arms and snare drums. 'Honor Roll', with its heavy tolling bells, heavy tread and bugle's Last Post, is an eloquent Requiem and a sadder statement of the school music reminds us that youth has been cut short all too soon.

The air of tragic loss in 'Love Me, Michael' is gently brushed aside by harp arpeggios to make way for an affirmatory restatement of the opening chords of the Main Title that now becomes 'End Title'. The album closes with 'End Credits' a rather subdued version of the big tune. This cue together with 'After the Dance' , 'Summer Montage' (warm and glistening -- and the only cue I have not mentioned in the above analysis because it interrupts the flow of the musical narrative) and 'Leaving for New York' are all world premier recordings.

This underrated score is fully deserving of the detailed analysis I have given above. It is beautifully and most sensitively performed by the RSNO under Frederic Talgorn and I wish it all the success it deserves. The booklet, by the way has insightful notes by Robert Townson and John Waxman plus an interesting picture of the cast and crew of the film in addition to that of Waxman conducting and included with this review.

Ian Lace


Return to Reviews Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: