Classical CD Reviews

MAX STEINER: Adventures of Don Juan; Arsenic & Old Lace – Moscow Sym. Orch./ William T. Stromberg – [TrackList follows] Tribute Film Classics (2 CDs)

24-carat film scores from Hollywood's Golden Age.

Published on October 17, 2012

MAX STEINER:  Adventures of Don Juan;  Arsenic & Old Lace – Moscow Sym. Orch./ William T. Stromberg – [TrackList follows] Tribute Film Classics (2 CDs)

MAX STEINER:  Adventures of Don Juan;  Arsenic & Old Lace – Moscow Symphony Orchestra / William T. Stromberg – [TrackList follows] Tribute Film Classics [screenarchives.com] TFC1009, (2 CDs) 59:57; 52:17 *****:

Another labour of love from Tribute Film Classics is newly released.  Film score parts years ago weren’t archived quite as well as one expects these days.  With some music written on the hoof,  re-scored at the last moment and stored in various locations,  John Morgan, Anna Bonn and William Stromberg had much research to do in the archives and some reconstruction of missing parts and cues to make before the complete score could be ready for recording.  This release includes a deluxe booklet running to 64 pages and in colour giving a great deal of interesting information about the birth of the scores and their development,  and the history of the making of the pictures, all making for some fascinating reading.

Adventures of Don Juan was a post-war Warner Bros vehicle for Errol Flynn, made in late 1947 and finished in the spring of 1948, ten years after The Adventures of Robin Hood, directed by Vincent Sherman and co-starring Viveca Lindfors and Robert Douglas.  The film was conceived just as The Adventures of Robin Hood was completed, as a re-make of the silent 1926 version of the Don Juan tale with John Barrymore.  The film also appears as  The New Adventures of Don Juan, presumably to avoid confusion with the Barrymore version.  Quite a long gestation period followed, much of it taken up with getting a good script ready.  When production began, it was a long slow haul involving some recasting and further rewriting.  Filming brought its own problems, too, some of them down to Errol Flynn’s not living up to his promise to behave, be on time and learn his lines, and suffering very poor health in the early part of 1948.  He was terribly drunk during the duel scene.  The editor,  Alan Crosland, is quoted:  “I had to cut from Errol every time his eyes crossed.  Which was often.”

Don Juan was to come across as the sadly misunderstood character whose carefree romantic bent merely got him into a series of only partly deserved scrapes, rather than a cold and vehement womaniser and rake.  Whether the audience bought that then or now is another matter altogether.

Max Steiner’s score is involved in around 80 of the 110 minutes of the running time, so getting on for a through-composed work which certainly shows in the end-results.  The variety of mood and action is conveyed in a highly professional and interesting way, the music well able to stand on its own without the pictures, a credit to Steiner’s craftsmanship.

The second CD in this set is completed with music for Arsenic and Old Lace and the trailer for House of  Wax (1953).   Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) starred Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane and Raymond Massey, assisted by Peter Lorre (who was also cast as Machiavelli in Adventures of Don Juan, a character dropped from the script) and directed by Frank Capra.  The play had opened with huge success in 1941, with Jean Adair and Josephine Hall as the Brewster sisters, parts they would re-create in the film three years later.  Raymond Massey plays the Boris Karloff part brilliantly, I think, though it’s well worth the while of those with a keen interest in the history of this picture to track down of the audio versions Karloff himself made over the years.  Steiner’s score captures the menacing comedy with its acid undertones brilliantly.

The Moscow Symphony Orchestra, by now very well versed in Hollywood scores from the Golden Age, are on top form under William T. Stromberg.  The results are quite in keeping with the original soundtrack, most definitely HIP, not only recreating the style of playing of the Warner Brothers’ orchestra, but also the acoustic of the sound-stages of the time.  Sonics are certainly up to TFC’s high standards.

There’s an authenticity about these productions which over time has not been diluted in the slightest, and the passion in recreating these scores has, to judge from the end result, filtered through intact to Mosfilm Studios during the recording in October 2010.  This is another highly recommended release in this excellent series.

TrackLists:

ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN =

Main Title / Balcony Rendezvous (3:46) Cecil Returns (:53) Adopting a Royal Escort (2:33) London Processional (2:54) Minuet / Diana Recognizes Don Juan (1:14) The Impostor is Arrested (3:28) Sent Home to Madrid (2:27) Don Juan’s Reputation (:33) Battle with the Press Gang (2:25) His Majesty the King (1:09) Queen Margaret of Spain (:32) Juan Presents Himself to the Queen (1:29)

A New Enemy for the Duke de Lorca (1:57) Kidnapping the Count de Polan (1:38) Remanded to the Dungeon (1:13) A Close Shave / Leporello is Unsettled (1:54) Fencing Master (:34) The Hall of Flags / Meeting With de Lorca (4:41) Paragon Among Queens (5:51) Donna Elena’s Advances (2:48)

Sebastian Pleads for Don Juan (2:18) De Polan’s Capture is Discovered (1:22) Juan Eludes Rodrigo and His Men (:43) Imprisoned (7:05) Juan’s Rescue (2:54) Battle in the Dungeon (1:44) The Royal Chapel (2:12) Palace Guards on Patrol (1:22) Pint-sized Decoy (3:28) The Patriots Vie for Freedom (1:58) Flaming Tapestry (1:40) Duel With de Lorca (2:15) Juan’s Victory / Finale (5:52) Trailer (2:37)

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE =

Main Title / Baseball a la Brooklyn (2:50) Brewster Bows Out (2:19) Just Look in the Window Seat (3:33) Mortimer’s Ghastly Discovery / The Prodigal Son Returns (5:26) Jonathan Becomes Disagreeable (1:18) A Frightful Sight at the Window (4:41) Silencing Elaine / Operating on Mortimer (2:50) End Title / End Cast (:52) Trailer Score (2:53) Baseball a la Brooklyn alternate (1:20)

—Peter Joelson




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