Film Fact File 2014


Film               :           The Sound of Music

Year                 :           1965

Composer        :           Richard Rodgers

Richard Rodgers (1902–1979) & Oscar Hammerstein (1895–1960) wrote many famous stage musicals, which later became films, including Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel, and others.In the theatre, they worked with the stage director and the musical director. However, in film, there is a team of people involved in the music – the composer; music editor; music supervisor; orchestra contractor; copyist; sound designer.Each of these has very specific responsibilities. Their names usually appear in the credits at the very end of the film. For example, Irwin Kostal was a studio musician who worked on some of the orchestrations, (although not credited on the film), for The Sound of Music (1965), and other films such as Mary Poppins (1964) and West Side Story (1961).In 1982, the soundtrack for Disney’s “Fantasia” (1940) was famously re-orchestrated and re-released in digital stereo, conducted by Irwin Kostal. Usually, changes are made between the stage musical and the film, as the piece is adapted from one medium to the other. Two additional songs were composed by Rodgers & Hammerstein for the film version – Something Good and I have Confidence.

Film               :           Pinocchio

Year                 :           1940

Composers      :           Leigh Harline & Ned Washington

Pinocchio (1940) was the second successful animated film from the Walt Disney studios, following Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). It was the first animation to win an Oscar. In fact, it won two – both for the music. One for Best Music – Original Score and the other for Best Music – Original Song. The song was ‘When you wish upon a star’, which went on to become closely associated with the Walt Disney brand. The story of Pinocchio is based on a children’s novel, from 1883, by the Italian writer, Carlo Collodi. In the film, the character Jiminy Cricket sings the song during the opening titles and then introduces the story. The story begins in Tuscany in the toymaker’s workshop, where the Blue Fairy visits during the night and brings Pinocchio to life. The film follows his adventures as he tries to become a ‘real boy’ by being brave, unselfish, and truthful. He finds being truthful very difficult, but telling lies causes his nose to become longer and longer. However, his wish does come true. Cliff Edwards – a popular singer/actor in the 1920s and ‘30s, was the singer in the movie.

Film               :           Star Wars

Year                 :           1977

Composer        :           John Williams

John Williams has written the music for the six Star Wars films – the Original Star

Wars trilogy (Star Wars 1977; The Empire Strikes Back 1980; Return of the Jedi 1983) and the Prequel trilogy (Star Wars Episode 1 : The Phantom Menace; Star Wars Episode 2 : Attack of the Clones; Star Wars Episode 3 : Revenge of the Sith.)

His main theme was used in Star Wars : The Clone Wars (2008), for which the music was written by Kevin Kiner. The most recognisable melody from Williams’ scores is the heroic theme for Luke Skywalker. Specific themes are also given to other characters. Williams calls this “melodic identification.” These are examples of ‘Leitmotif’ – a term that is given to musical themes that recur, usually in operas, underlining the dramatic action by identifying the character or the symbol. The composer most associated with ‘Leitmotif’ (the German word ‘leading motive’) is Richard Wagner, who famously wrote a set of four operas on the epic saga from the Norse legend of The Ring of the Nibelungen. J.R.R. Tolkien insisted that his Lord of the Rings was not inspired by Wagner’s Ring, but not surprisingly comparisons are made. The Disney studio recently bought the Star Wars franchise, although the creator, George Lucas retains control about the development of the storylines.

Film               :           Jean de Florette

Year                 :           1986

Composer        :           Jean-Claude Petit (Verdi)

The French film, Jean de Florette, is set in Provence, and tells the story of a man who brings his wife, Elizabeth and daughter, Manon, to live there after he inherits some land. However, some local people conspire to make him leave by sealing up the water supply. Elizabeth was an opera singer, so the composer Claude Petit chose music from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera The Force of Destiny and re-arranged it, giving the theme to the harmonica. Gerard Depardieu starred in the film. The sequel was called Manon des Sources – (Manon of the Well) in which the daughter takes on her father’s challenge to find the spring. Her name has another operatic connection. It comes from the title of a famous opera, Manon Lescaut, by Giacomo Puccini. Many of the themes in opera are heard in the overture, played by the orchestra before the curtain rises in the theatre. The music in the overture to La Forza del Destino provides the perfect drama and sad, poignant theme to underscore the action in Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources.

Film               :           Out of Africa

Year                 :           1986

Composer        :           John Barry (Mozart)

The English composer, John Barry (1933 – 2011) became known first for his work on eleven of the early James Bond movies. He is credited with giving the Bond films their distinctive musical sound. The Bond Theme was actually written by Monty Norman but was arranged by John Barry for the first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962. (James Bond was created by the novelist, Ian Fleming, in 1953.) John Barry has Irish connections. His father was a cinema projectionist, from Cork, during the silent film era. He moved his family to England and went on to own a chain of cinemas, which was a big influence on his son, John, who had inherited his mother’s musical talent. He won five Academy Awards – for Born Free (two – for original score and best song); The Lion in Winter; Dances with Wolves; and Out of Africa. His lush orchestrations and big melodies provide a perfect accompaniment to the scenery in Out of Africa, a true musical picture of the wonderful colours of the African landscape. He also uses the Clarinet Concerto by Mozart to great effect in his score, to underscore the beautiful Safari scenes. The film starred Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. In one of her lines, Meryl Streep says “he even took the gramophone on Safari; three rifles, supplies for a month, and Mozart.” This line provides Barry with a perfect opportunity to use the broad melodic lines of the slow movement of the concerto to complement his own writing.

Film               :           Schindler’s List

Year                 :           1993

Composer        :           John Williams

The music for Schindler’s List shows a very different side to John Williams as a composer when compared with his blockbuster action movies like Jaws, Indiana Jones, Superman, Jurassic Park, E.T., Star Wars, and Harry Potter. His closest working relationship in the cinema has been with Steven Spielberg, director of Schindler’s List, Jaws, and E.T., each of which movies earned an Oscar for John Williams. The story for Schindler’s List is based on a true story of the World War Two holocaust, during which nearly six million Jews were killed. It was written as a novel by the Australian author Thomas Keneally. Oscar Schindler was a German business man, who saved the lives of over a thousand Jewish refugees, by persuading the Nazis to allow them to work in his factories. The Irish actor, Liam Neeson, plays the role of Oscar Schindler. Williams, who describes his scores as “almost operatic accompaniment”, says that “part of the musical assignment of Schindler’s List was to make a statement that even in those years of unspeakable tragedy, there were loving aspects and beautiful aspects of Jewish life.” He does this to great effect in the violin solo, the theme for Schindler’s List, written especially for violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Film               :           The Bridge over the River Kwai

Year                 :           1957

Composer        :           Malcolm Arnold (1921 – 2006)

British composer, Malcolm Arnold won an Academy Award for this film, in which he cleverly used the Colonel Bogey March as a counter-melody to his own original march. Many people confuse the two marches and think the Colonel Bogey March is the same as The Bridge over the River Kwai March. He wrote the music for 80 films – but not Colonel Bogey’s March.

Written in 1914, the ‘Colonel Bogey March’ has remained hugely popular. The composer was a British military bandmaster and director of music for the Royal Marines, Plymouth. He was Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (1881–1945), but he had to publish his musical compositions under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford, as army personnel were not meant to work outside the services. The story behind the title is that was inspired by another military man, who was a keen golfer. Instead of shouting “fore” as a warning on the golf course, it seems that the man would whistle the two-notes (an interval of a minor third) that opens the piece and recurs throughout. (‘Bogey’ is a golfing term that means one shot over par.)

Film               :           Modern Times

Year                :           1936

Composer        :           Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin was one of the great legends on the era of the Silent Movie. ‘Smile’ was originally an instrumental piece, written by Chaplin, for the 1936 film Modern Times. It was given a title and song lyrics by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons in 1954. The first recording of the song was by Nat King Cole that year. It has been recorded by many artists since then, notably by Michael Jackson. It was said to be his favourite song. Chaplin did not write the music down, but gave the tunes he wrote to the studio musicians to orchestrate. He said, “I la-laed and Arthur Johnston wrote it down. (..) It is all simple music, you know, in keeping with my character…Nothing is more adventurous and exciting than to hear the tunes one has composed played for the first time by a fifty piece orchestra.”

Film               :           The Lord of the Rings

Year                 :           2001, 2002, 2003, 2012 (The Hobbit)

Composer        :           Howard Shore


Howard Shore is a Canadian composer. His biggest achievement to date has been his scores for the Lord of the Rings films, earning him three Academy Awards. The films are based on the books of the English author J.R.R. Tolkein. He wrote The Hobbit in 1937 and work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy between 1937 and 1949. The books, set in the fictional world of Middle Earth, have sold over 150 million copies. The films were shot in New Zealand, where the director Peter Jackson was born.

Film               :           Harry Potter

Year                 :           2001

Composer        :           John Williams

John Williams is recognised as one of the greatest composers for film of all time. He won his first Academy Award in 1971 for the additional music he composed for the film version of the stage musical Fiddler on the Roof. He wrote the music for the first of the Harry Potter films in 2001. He also conducted the orchestra. Some additional work was done on the orchestrations by Conrad Pope, who works alongside many of the most famous film composers. Pope also worked on the scores for later Harry Potter movies. Superman and Star Wars are among his other ‘blockbuster’ movies. John Williams has been nominated 49 times for Academy Awards, making him the most nominated living person. Walt Disney holds the record for most nominated person in the history of the Oscars, with 59 nominations, of which he won 22 awards.

Film               :           Pirates of the Caribbean

Year                 :           2003

Composer        :           Klaus Badelt

Klaus Badelt is a German composer who went to work in the studio of Hans Zimmer (composer of Gladiator, Hannibal, and over 100 film scores) in Santa Monica, California, in 1998. It was through Hans Zimmer that he came to work on the score of Pirates of the Caribbean. Zimmer, also from Germany, had spent an important time of his life in England, before moving to the United States. In England, he worked alongside Stanley Myers (composer of the Deer Hunter and many other films). He went on to encourage the mentorship and teamwork that he experienced with Myers in the studio he set up in California, a sort of ‘think-tank’ where all the team contributes ideas. Zimmer was always interested in combining old and new technologies, and that is also the style of the many successful composers who have emerged from his studios – combining electronic music, computer generated music, and live orchestras. Zimmer recommended Badelt for Pirates, and collaborated with him on several of the themes. On many of the scores that come from Zimmer’s studio, there are several composers credited with the writing. Klaus Badelt has now set up his own studio, also in California. He wrote the music for the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and worked on several interesting projects since then in China.

Film               :           Titanic

Year                 :           1997

Composer        :           James Horner

The music for Titanic was composed and conducted by the American composer James Horner. The soundtrack of the film sold over 30 million copies. The film’s director James Cameron had hoped to contract the Irish singer/composer Enya to write the music, so when Horner was chosen after his huge success with Braveheart, he composed some of the music with Enya’s style in mind. The vocal music in the score was recorded by the Norwegian singer, Sissel (a Norwegian version of the name Cecilia), except for the song My Heart Will Go On, with lyrics written by Will Jennings for the closing titles of the film. The singer on this track was Celine Dion, who had a huge hit with the song. The film music also featured lots of Irish tradition music, in the scenes with the passengers in the lower decks, and European dance music by Johann Strauss and others, in the ballroom scenes with the wealthy passengers. The hymn Nearer my God to Thee, which was reputedly played by the bandmaster, Wallace Hartley, as the ship was sinking is also included.