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Mommie Dearest
  • Composed by Henry Mancini
  • La-La Land Records / 2012 / 51:00 (score 32:12)

Mommie Dearest was based on the controversial book by Joan Crawford’s daughter Christina, telling the horrific story of the relationship between the pair.  The film won five Razzies and in 1990 won the honour of being named the worst film of the previous decade (one can only surmise that the voters had not seen many films made during the decade).  One aspect of the film absolutely beyond reproach is its score by the great Henry Mancini.  The filmmakers originally pursued Miklós Rózsa since they wanted a score reflecting Hollywood’s – and Crawford’s – golden age; after that proved impossible, the decision to hire Mancini was inspired.  His largely understated music is hugely impressive at walking a tightrope between passion and despair.  Those familiar with his indelible tunes may be surprised at the dramatic skill on offer here; to the cognoscenti, it will come as no surprise at all.

The score’s highlights come thanks to the composer’s mastery of the orchestra – the opening cue’s duet between flute and piano is sumptuous, his careful use of strings – brilliantly recorded to always give absolute clarity to the gentle wind and harp.  While there are deliberately no themes likely to be taken out and played at Pops concerts (Mancini careful to never overplay his hand by drawing attention to the music), the melodies are exquisite.  It’s like those great scores for serious dramas of the 1950s and 60s by North, Herrmann, Bernstein – and of course Mancini: delicate music whose emotional intent is subtle but in fact devastatingly direct.  There’s no finer example than in the heartbreaking finale “No More Pain”.  This is simply wonderful music, a great release from La-La Land with crystal clear sound and extensive liner notes.  Highly recommended.  **** |

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