June 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

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

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips  
Music composed and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
Music conducted and supervised by John Williams
  Available on Film Score Monthly (FSM Vol 9 No 6) (3 CD set)
Running Times: 71:47, 69:35, 78:53
Amazon US

There is commonly used adage in the UK – possibly in other countries too – that you can wait for ages for a bus to arrive, then three come along all at once.  The same might be said of Goodbye Mr Chips in that we have all waited ages for a CD to be released, then we get three at once – albeit in one glorious box set!

And before I start I had better confess a certain affinity with the 1969 Goodbye Mr Chips - it is one of the very few films that never fails to move me to tears.  Oh well, there goes my macho image!   OK, the end of E.T. also gets me every time – but that may have something to with the involvement of a certain John Williams – and he has a great deal to do with what goes on here too.

But before we get to Mr Williams, a history lesson (perhaps preferable to being tutored in Latin by dull-as-ditchwater Mr Chipping)!  In the wake of the enormous success of The Sound of Music, Hollywood thought it prudent to invest in a new era of musical films – and undaunted by the failure of Star! at the box-office they persevered, enjoying occasional success with, say, Finian’s Rainbow, but the budgetary extravagances of Hello Dolly! and Doctor Dolittle presaged dwindling financial returns, and the studios became ever more cautious of musical extravaganzas.  MGM did persist with their song-infused production of Goodbye Mr Chips, although their original dream casting of Rex Harrison and Samantha Eggar was not to be realised – perhaps a good thing, as in the completed film Peter O’Toole surely gives one of his finest performances, and that in a gallery of exceptional portrayals, and as his wife Petula Clark is luminous.  But Goodbye Mr Chips did not deliver the expected – or hoped for – box office returns – and apparently MGM cancelled another music project in development, that of Sherlock Holmes, with music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and the anticipated casting of Rex Harrison as the famed detective, although Mr Bricusse’ musical did finally debut on the London stage.

Goodbye Mr Chips, based loosely on James (Lost Horizon) Hilton’s novelette and the original MGM film from 1939 (which garnered Robert Donat an Oscar), is an original screen musical, incorporating attractive if fairly lightweight songs  – this is not Rodgers and Hammerstein. There are those who value playwright Terence Rattigan’s incisive (and almost wholly original as to invention) script for Goodbye Mr Chips so highly they feel the film could have dispensed with songs altogether and be played just as straight drama.  But Goodbye Mr Chips is a musical – and to be fair, and to its considerable merit, it is of a unique kind.  There are moments when characters burst into song before our eyes, but for the most part the songs are presented as “streams of consciousness” – the hidden thoughts, dreams and desires of the given character(s).  This ploy works very well, and, of course, is an unusual tack for a musical.

Here composer and lyricist Leslie Briccusse is nothing if not adept and clever – and some would argue for ‘brilliant’ as well.  His school song ‘Fill The World With Love’ would serve as an anthem for any academy, and if lyrically his more romantic numbers – like ‘And The Sky Smiled’ - are a little trite in places, they do seem to be heartfelt, and are never less than pretty. His more introspective compositions work splendidly – from the poignant ‘Where Did My Childhood Go’, as Mr Chipping ponders the onset of middle age, and how he finds it difficult to communicate with his pupils, to the astutely observational ‘When I Am Older’, in which schoolboys, contemplating the rigours of a long term stretching before them, do at least, as privileged public school pupils, ambitiously look forward to rewarding adult lives and careers.  Bricusse has always possessed a winning way with melody – just listen to the seamless flow of ‘What A Lot Of Flowers’, sung by Chips who, after marrying Katherine, suddenly sees much beauty in the world – but we also have the delightfully raucous ‘London Is London’, a music hall ditty belted out by Katherine in her soubrette days.  Musically there are probably no directions Leslie Bricusse cannot jump in.  I guess that makes him multi-talented – or perhaps many-faceted – or possibly even ambidextrous?  Well, probably all those – and more!

OK – so MGM Records kindly gave us an LP of the film’s songs at the time of movie’s release – and a few of these tracks even made it on to an EMI CD in the early Nineties – but what do we have here?  Well, it’s best to step back a few paces to allow room for this cornucopia of goodies.  This is a three disc set – and it is crammed.  More than that, I’m certain some of the music was inadvertently trickling from the CD case as this ambitious set sought to contain the mass of material FSM had stuffed into it!

The first disc presents a basic ‘reconstruction’ of the music as heard in the film – the delightful songs, plus orchestral gems as much attributable to John Williams as Leslie Bricusse – the ‘Overture’, ‘Pompeii’, ‘Katherine Overhears’, ‘First Act Finale’, ‘Fifteenth Anniversary’, ‘Chips Accepts’, ‘Very Pleased’, ‘Katherine’s Death’, ‘The Boy’s React’, and the ‘Exit Music’.   And indeed much of the focus for this new CD set will be concentrated on John Williams’ contribution – whose career portfolio has bulged since Goodbye Mr Chips was produced.  Williams’ influence is everywhere here, from the magnificent orchestrations and arrangements to the aforementioned ‘background score’ elements.  There are even extended instrumental ‘intermezzi’ in the middle of songs to be discovered here but which were previously denied us via the original LP.  So, this disc may be a celebration of the art of Leslie Bricusse (let’s not forget that he created all the thematic material here) but it also provides an important insight into some earlier pioneering work by John Williams that may have been unfairly overlooked until now.  Oh, and the first CD also features alternative takes on a number of cues:  the ‘Main Title’, ‘First Act Finale’ and the ‘End Title’,

Disc two presents us with something obviously bequeathed by a judicious bit of archive rummaging – an early ‘demonstration’ album master for the proposed soundtrack album – but there are significant variances here both in the vocals (inclusive of some verses cut from the final film) and in orchestral accompaniments to those prepared for the final album master by MGM Records.  Also to hand are a number of alternate versions of cues and some pieces of source music, plus we get one more variation from Mr Williams for the ‘End Title’ cue.   And just so nobody gets bored, also peppered about this second volume are a series of short pithy contemporary interviews given by both Peter O’ Toole and Petula Clark.

And when perhaps you get to thinking that all this was more than generous you then stumble upon disc three! Here we have the MGM Records master – an important addition even given all that has gone before on this CD set as here we discover that four of the songs contain material not heard elsewhere – and to round things off we are treated to nine tracks of alternate takes and unused songs! Does the word ‘definitive’ spring to mind?

I should also mention the accompanying booklet, although ‘bible’ might be a more apt description.  Forty-eight pages of absorbing background information, a track by track analysis of the music – and there are a lot of tracks to analyse – colour stills and posters – and a most charming shot of Leslie Bricusse and John Williams together in latter years.

The five star rating is deserved here for all manner of obvious reasons, but for those who don’t care for musicals, or indeed for this one in particular, just use a black marker pen to scribble over whatever you think is the inappropriate number of stars on your screen.

David Wishart

Rating: 5



Film Score Monthly News Release:

FSM releases its first film musical in a spectacular and unprecedented 3CD edition: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), featuring songs and music by Leslie Bricusse, conducted and supervised by John Williams.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips was Arthur P. Jacobs's musical remake of M-G-M's acclaimed 1939 drama, based on a novel by James Hilton about a stuffy British schoolmaster and the woman who brings love to his life. Peter O'Toole starred as Mr. Chips, alongside formidible musical talent Petula Clark as Mrs. Chips. The film was unconventional in that the characters do not " break out into song," but perform as a kind of psychological counterpoint to the story.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips was the first of John Williams's three large-scale musical adaptations (the others being Fiddler on the Roof and Tom Sawyer), a massive creative undertaking in which he was solely responsible for the film's underscore, conducting, orchestrations and source music. For Williams, this was an all-encompassing effort which helped forge his legendary " blockbuster" sound familiar on such later films as Superman and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

Although the Goodbye, Mr. Chips production came in under-budget, it had a long and colorful history of " development hell" in which multiple composers, directors, and stars were attached -- and a wealth of music generated. This comprehensive 3CD set focuses on Bricusse's and Williams's involvement with a definitive chronicle of their recordings:

Disc one features the complete score as it was intended for the finished film (including several unused Williams score cues).

Disc two features an " alternate narrative" of the story through different versions of the songs (many of which were included on a " demo" LP of the soundtrack), source cues, score alternates, and promotional interviews given by the film's stars.

Disc three features the original 1969 soundtrack album, followed by yet more demo and alternate versions of songs, including " Tomorrow With Me," sung by Petula Clark and orchestrated by Williams and one of Bricusse's favorite unused songs.

The 48-page booklet features a definitive account of the movie and soundtrack's creation, written by album producer Michael Matessino (of the Star Wars Trilogy Special Editions and other Williams CD restorations).

The album is almost entirely in stereo, with interview tracks and a few source and demo cues in mono.

If you do not have any movie musicals in your collection, Goodbye, Mr. Chips is an ideal first purchase: the soundtrack was a major project for John Williams, and foreshadows his famous " epic" sound. For fans of the film, this 3CD set is a definitive presentation of the many songs and alternate versions that have been in circulation since 1969.

Track Listing:

Goodbye, Mr. Chips:
Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
Music Supervised and Conducted by John Williams

Disc One

Film Score Reconstruction
1. Overture 4:00
2. " Fill the World With Love" (Main Title) [Chorus] 4:33
3. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" [Chips] 3:46
4. Flossie from Fulham Overture and Play-on 0:57
5. "London Is London" [Katherine & Chorus] 3:29
6. Pompeii 2:46
7. "And the Sky Smiled" [Katherine] 3:14
8. Know Yourself (" And the Sky Smiled" Reprise) [Katherine] 1:50
9. "Apollo" [Katherine] 1:19
10. " When I Am Older" [Boys] 3:11
11. " Walk Through the World" [Katherine] 4:10
12. "Fill the World With Love" (Assembly) [Katherine & Chorus] 1:44
13. Katherine Overhears 1:30
14. First Act Finale 1:39
15. Entr'Acte and " What Shall I Do With Today?" [Katherine] 3:39
16. " What a Lot of Flowers" [Chips] 2:20
17. A Lesson (" What a Lot of Flowers" Reprise) [Chips] 1:47
18. Fifteenth Anniversary 3:13
19. The Postcard (" And the Sky Smiled" Reprise) [Katherine] 2:23
20. "School Days" [Katherine and Boys] 1:53
21. "When I Was Younger" [Chips] and Chips Resigns 3:20
22. " You and I" [Katherine] 2:20
23. Chips Accepts 1:25
24. Very Pleased 0:44
25. Katherine's Death 1:26
26. The Boys React 2:09
27. " Fill the World With Love" (Finale) and End Title [Chips & Chorus] 3:28
28. Exit Music (" You and I" Orchestral Reprise) 2:26
Total Time: 71:47

Alternates
29. "Fill the World With Love" (Main Title) (film version) [Chorus] [including Prelude and Fugue in G minor, J.S. Bach] 4:12
30. First Act Finale (alternate) 1:37
31. End Title (film version) 1:01
Total Time: 7:04

Total Disc Time: 78:51

Disc Two

Narrative Sequence of Alternates and Source Music With Interviews

32. "Fill the World With Love" (Main Title) [treble version] 2:49
33. Interview Segment #1 -- Peter O'Toole 2:31
34. " Where Did My Childhood Go?" (alternate) 3:10
35. Interview Segment #2 -- Petula Clark 2:01
36. "London Is London" (alternate) 3:25 37. Savoy (source) 3:53
38. Pompeii (alternate) 2:26
39. "And the Sky Smiled" (alternate) 4:06
40. " Apollo" (alternate) 1:20
41. "When I Am Older" (alternate) 2:56
42. " And I Would Love You" (source) [Diana Lee, Jerry Whitman] 1:08
43. "The Perfect Man" (source) [Diana Lee] 1:50
44. Katherine's Party Piano (source) 5:29
45. "Walk Through the World" (alternate) 3:11
46. " Fill the World With Love" (Assembly) [solo version] 1:43
47. "Integer Vitae" (source) [Boys] 2:02
48. First Act Finale (alternate #2) 1:24
49. " What Shall I Do With Today?" (alternate) 1:28
50. Ursula's Party (source) 1:34
51. Ursula's Memory (source) 1:43
52. Interview Segment #3 -- Peter O'Toole 0:43
53. "What a Lot of Flowers" (alternate) 2:17
54. "O Worship the King" (source) [Katherine & Chips] 0:43
55. "What a Lot of Flowers" Reprise (alternate) 0:53
56. Interview Segment #4 -- Petula Clark 1:42
57. "School Days" (alternate) 2:22
58. " When I Was Younger" (alternate) 1:01
59. " You and I" (alternate) 2:52
60. Interview Segment #5 -- Peter O'Toole 2:50
61. " Fill the World With Love" (Finale) (alternate) 1:46
62. End Title (alternate) 1:00

Total Disc Time: 69:35

Disc Three

Original 1969 Soundtrack Album

63. Overture 4:00
64. "Fill the World With Love" 2:10
65. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" 3:12
66. " London Is London" 3:29
67. " And the Sky Smiled" 4:05
68. "Apollo" 1:21
69. "When I Am Older" 2:48
70. "Walk Through the World" 3:09
71. Entr'Acte and " What Shall I Do With Today?" 3:38
72. "What a Lot of Flowers" and Reprise 3:14
73. " School Days" 2:23
74. "When I Was Younger" 1:01
75. "You and I" 2:50
76. " Fill the World With Love" (Finale) and End Title 3:10
77. " You and I" Orchestral Reprise 2:26

Total Time: 43:35

Interview Segments
78. Peter O'Toole on Location 6:33
79. Petula Clark on Location 4:49

Total Time: 11:32

Additional Alternates and Unused Songs

80. "Fill the World With Love" (demo) [Ian Fraser] 1:15
81. "The Roll Call" (demo/unused) [Leslie Bricusse] 2:08
82. "That's a Boy" (demo/unused) [Leslie Bricusse] 3:20
83. "Today" (demo/unused) [Ian Fraser] 2:30
84. " No One's Ever Been in Love" (demo/unused) [Ian Fraser] 2:15
85. "Walk Through the World" (demo) [Petula Clark] 3:19
86. "London Is London" (original playback) [Petula Clark & Chorus] 4:24
87. " Tomorrow With Me" (unused) [Petula Clark] 2:36
88. End Title (demo/alternate) [Chorus] 1:18

Total Time: 23:45

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