21 July 2007

(realização de Otto Preminger; música de Elmer Bernstein, 1959)

In 1955 composer Elmer Bernstein utilized a jazz idiom for the Otto Preminger film, The Man With The Golden Arm whose Main Title music was to become a popular success away from the film-much like Tiomkin's Main Title song for High Noon. "The score for The Man With The Golden Arm is not a jazz score. It is a score in which jazz elements were incorporated toward the end of creating an atmosphere, I should say a highly specialized atmosphere, specific to this particular film." So wrote composer Elmer Bernstein in his repeated attempts to discourage the idea that the score to The Man With The Golden Ann is a jazz score. One of the primary reasons it is not a jazz score is that the music is not improvised; improvisation is the lifeblood of jazz. What little improvisation does take place in the score is done by the drummer, Shelly Manne. The art of improvisation does not mix too well with the split-second timing requirements of a film score.
Up to this time the jazz idiom had been used most sparingly in films and the question of why Bernstein chose the idiom of jazz for this film is a logical one to pursue. Bernstein, in an article in "Film Music Notes", relates the ideas involved in his decision: "I told Otto Preminger, the producer, my intention after one quick reading of the shooting script. The script bad a Chicago slum street, heroin, hysteria, longing, frustration, despair and finally death. Whatever love one could feel in the script was the little weak emotion left in a soul racked with heroin and guilt, a soul consuming its strength in the struggle for the good life and losing pitifully. There is something very American and contemporary about all the characters and their problems. I wanted an element that could speak readily of hysteria and despair, an element that would localize these emotions to our country, to a large city if possible. Ergo, jazz"

Upon his decision to use elements of jazz in his score, Bernstein proceeded to gather in the talents of two brilliant jazz musicians, Shorty Rogers and Shelly Manne. Rogers arranged all of the band numbers, and Shelly Manne created his own drum solos where Bernstein had indicated them in the score. Since he had only twenty days in which to write the score he enlisted the talents of the orchestrator Fred Steiner.
Bernstein has made some general comments concerning the content of his score that are worth quoting here. About The Man With The Golden Arm, he says, "This is not a score in which each character has a theme. It is not a score which creates a musical mirror for dialogue. Nor is it a score which psychoanalyzes the characters and serves up inner brain on the half shell. It is basically a simple score which deals with a man and his environment. There are only three themes which are exploited in a compositional manner in the development of the score”.

(o genérico inicial de Saul Bass)

Bernstein's score for this film adds a tremendous amount of atmosphere and drama and there can be little doubt that Bernstein's choice of the jazz idiom was the right one to make the story more absorbing and the rather heavy-handed social commentary a little less obvious. But Bernstein could not have foreseen what would happen as a result of his choice of jazz for this particular film. The instrumental Main Title became a popular hit and Hollywood, true to form, began immediate production of a host of imitative scores using jazz elements.
(Roy Prendergast in Film Music/A Neglected Art)


Anonymous said...

Este filme impressionou-me bastante na altura - na altura em que a rtp 2 passava os clássicos todos. Já não me lembrava é - que crime!- o filme é com a (Oh Yeah!!!) Kim Novak...

Anonymous said...

E mais um "title sequence" do grande Saul Bass!

João Lisboa said...

Saul Bass, exacto. Tinha-me esquecido de o pôr nas labels. Vai já para lá!

E o detonador foi a tua série-Kim Novak... apesar de, no "tubo" do filme, ela estar lamentavelmente ausente. Mas a sequência do "cold turkey" é muito boa.

João Lisboa said...

Saul Bass nas labels e via-Tubo.

Anonymous said...

João, tenho algo que provavelmente te vai interessar, só preciso de saber o teu mail. Tenho o endereço do meu mail no blog.

Anonymous said...

Interessar MUITO. Isto no caso de não conheceres já.