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Bernard Herrmann Edit Profile

composer

Bernard Herrmann was an American composer. Famous for composing for motion pictures.

Background

Herrmann, Bernard was born on June 29, 1911 in New York City.

Career

The list: Citizen Kane (41, Orson Welles), including the “opera”; The Magnificent Ambersons (42, Whiles); Jane Eyre (44, Robert Stevenson); the lurid, hammering piano for Hangover Square (45, John Brahm); Anna and the King of Siam (46, John Cromwell); The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (47, Joseph L. Manldewicz); The Day the Earth Stood Still (51, Robert Wise); brilliant alarums and brooding excursions for On Dangerous Ground (51, Nicholas Ray); Five Fingers (52, Manldewicz); The Snows of Kilimanjaro (52, Henry King); rich underwater effects in Beneath the Tivelve Mile Reef (53, Robert Webb); Die Wages of Fear (53, Henri-Georges Clouzot); White Witch Doctor (53, Henry Hathaway); The Egyptian (54, Michael Curtiz); a resonant stereo score for Garden of Evil (54, Hathaway); King of the Khyber Rifles (54, King); The Kentuckian (55, Burt Lancaster); The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (56, Nunnally Johnson); and Prince of Players (55, Philip Dunne).

Herrmann worked with Hitchcock for the first time on The Trouble with Harry (56), and he actually played the Albert Hall conductor in The Man Who Knew Too Much (56). He also did the bass-broodv score for the storv of a wronged bassist. The Wrong Man (57, Hitchcock); A Hatful of Rain (57, Fred Zinnemann); The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (58, Nathan Juran); The Fiend Who Walked the West (58, Gordon Douglas); and The Naked and the Dead (58. Raoul Walsh).

Then came Vertigo (58, Hitchcock), music that pioneered a blending of fatal romance, mystery, and horror—it was a uniquely psychological score; Blue Denim (59. Dunne); Journey to the Center of the Earth (59, Henry Levin); North by Northwest (59, Hitchcock); Psycho (60, Hitchcock), with slv borrowings from Beethoven’s Eroica—Norman’s favorite music; The Three Worlds of Gulliver (60, Jack Slier); Mysterious Island (61, Cy Endfield); Cape Fear (62, J. Lee Thompson); Tender Is the Night (62, King); The Birds (63, Hitchcock), where the music is indistinguishable from the overall sound design; Jason and the Argonauts (63, Don Chaffey); Mamie (64, Hitchcock); Joy in the Morning (65, Alex Segal); Fahrenheit 451 (66, François Truffaut); The Biide Wore Black (68, Truffaut); The Night Digger (71. Alastair Reid); Endless Night (71, Sidney Gilliat); Sisters (73, Brian De Palma); It’s Alive! (74, Larry Cohen); Obsession (76, De Palma); and Taxi Driver (76, Scorsese).

Personality

The author pleads guilty to any charge that “subsidiary” arts have been poorlv treated in this book. Scripts and writers are hugely important—and yet, beyond that, writers are feeble bystanders (and many of them know it). And the best cameramen know how many millions can take good pictures.

It is in the nature of movies to be melodramatic. They need just you and the night and the music, and there was music long before there were sound tracks. There is an extraordinary skill or trick in writing snatches of music that enhance the mood and life of a film. And there is art in making music a raf t on which the whole movie may sail away. A great movie music always harmonizes with the voices and the sound effects: was the sound of arrows at Agincourt in Henry V Olivier and/or William Walton, and when did feathers in the air become music?

Nearly every great composer is left out of this book. There is no Erich Wolfgang Korngold, with transcendent flourishes as men ride through the forest in The Adventures of Robin Hood (38, Michael Curtiz and William Keighley).

One should add all those composers whose music comes by the yard and the mile, illustrious names with a hundred credits each, and so plain that they prove how nearly any music works in the dark with any film.

You may notice, on reflection, that music was written for Camelot by Alan Jay Lemer and Frederick Loevve. Equally, The King and I occupied Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for many moons. Call Me Madam was from a show by Irving Berlin, who had much to do with Alexander’s Ragtime Band, too. You go back to Mr. Newman’s list and you recollect, gratefully, that lovely, soupy song, “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing”—written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster (they got an Oscar for the song).

So music is a funny business. The great and indispensable Bernard Herrmann won just once—for All That Money Can Buy (41, William Dieterle). That was the beginning of Herrmanns movie career (the Dieterle film beat out Citizen Kane). At its close, Herrmanns score for Taxi Driver (76, Martin Scorsese) lost out to Jerry Goldsmith’s for The Omen.

He had an overall theatrical sense: he had worked with Orson Welles in radio, and he supplied the lazy, "live and louche sounds of Ramón Raquello from the Meridian Room in the Park Plaza in The War of the Worlds. But, more than that, Herrmann gave himself to the art of W;elles, Hitchcock, Truffaut, and Scorsese. He knew how to make music that came not just trom the action we are seeing or the characters, not just from the heart of a film or the incoherent dream of its director, but from the unique marriage of a particular film and the large medium. Herrmann knew how lovely the dark should be, and he was at his best in rites of dismay, dark dreams, introspection, and the gloomy romance of loneliness. No one else would have dared or known to make the score for Taxi Driver such a lament for impossible love. Try that film without the music and the violence is nearly unbearable. Yet the score for Taxi Driver is universally cinematic: it speaks to sitting in the dark, full of dread and desire, watching.