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The Rat Race
  • Composed by Elmer Bernstein
  • Kritzerland / 2012 / 53:08

Robert Mulligan’s second film, The Rat Race is an adaptation of the play by Garson Kanin.  Tony Curtis stars as a musician who moves to New York to seek his fame and fortune, where he meets and strikes up a friendship with Debbie Reynolds, before seeing his dreams rather shattered.  Having scored the director’s Fear Strikes Out three years earlier, Elmer Bernstein was on hand to provide the music (and three years later, the same partnership produced one of the finest films and finest scores – To Kill a Mockingbird).  Despite Bernstein’s popularity at the time (this was the same year he scored The Magnificent Seven) and the fact that the film was reasonably successful, his score was never released (just a re-recording of the theme).  Over half a century later, that has been rectified by Kritzerland, a record label that has championed this wonderful composer since its inception.

The theme’s the thing, here.  Bernstein wrote so many great jazzy themes – The Man With the Golden Arm, Walk on the Wild Side and so on – and this dynamite theme is right up there.  Its presence is felt throughout the score (which runs about 36 minutes – the balance of the album being source music and demos) – but it’s not always in the dynamic, jazzy form with which it announces its arrival at the start.  As well, Bernstein deconstructs it to its basic melody and presents numerous extremely tender variations for small orchestra – the lighthearted “Popsicles”, romantic “Spaghetti and Wine”, anguished “Peggy is Cynical”.  While all formed from the same musical DNA, these pieces are a million miles from just repetition – there’s always something new waiting round the corner.  This is a wonderful album, the finest Elmer Bernstein release for some time.  **** |

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  1. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Sunday 21 October, 2012 at 16:45

    I always thought it a little funny that Bernstein wrote a rejected score to the unrelated 2001 film “Rat Race.” He was *this* close to having them both!

  2. André - Cape Town. (Reply) on Sunday 21 October, 2012 at 19:02

    There are few composers, James, able to conjure up SLEAZE through the jazz genre the way ELMER BERNSTEIN can [other than Alex North & Georges Delerue]. I’ve always admired RAT RACE’s compelling machismo title theme and recently heard the one minute downloads supplied by Screen Archives’ samples. These included the morphing of the main theme, via chamber orchestra & sax, into a poignantly wistful melody…my copy is on its way. BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL {also directed by Mulligan} was released earlier this year, but was a clone of the LP release…regretably Bernstein’s dramatic score was also omitted on the CD. A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE’s CD has been out of print for decades – and a release of this magnificent BERNSTEIN score is HOPEFULLY being considered. If so, the CD producer must include, AS EXTRAS, the iconic Main Title as heard on the movie’s soundtrack (it segues into a stunning guitar cue as Jane Fonda & Laurence Harvey meet each other). And, of course, BROOK BENTON’s vocal of the title theme [ heard in the Bordello & over the closing titles] must make it on to a new expanded CD > the song was deservedly nominated for an Oscar.

  3. Sam Juliano (Reply) on Saturday 1 December, 2012 at 04:35

    Yes indeed. I am a huge Bernstein fan for decades, and have played this Kritzerland CD to death, even in the car to members of the family who know this propensity of mine. The label has released numerous Bernsteins including some fabulous doubles like LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER/A GIRL FROM TAMIKO and FEAR STRIKES OUT/THE TIN STAR.

    Yes, the theme here is one of Bernstein’s most ravishing and that’s saying quite a bit when you factor in MOCKINGBIRD, POMPEY’S HEAD, PROPER STRANGER, FAR FROM HEAVEN, THE GREAT SANTINI and numerous others. The deconstruction you speak of is indeed what makes this score so unforgettable as the solo instruments give it some quiet beauty and rapturous lyricism.

    This is truly one of his finest scores, ands you have done it full justice here!

  4. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Saturday 28 June, 2014 at 17:18

    I’ve been waiting, IMPATIENTLY, for your review of “Elmer Bernstein – THE AVA COLLECTION” James. My grateful thanks to INTRADA’S Douglas Fake & Roger Feigelson for mastering the audio & releasing titles that have been out of print for decades. At long last WALK ON THE WILD SIDE…THE CARETAKERS…MOVIE & TV THEMES & TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD are again available.. and BERNSTEIN’S talent for remarkably sleazy jazz themes, fragile gentle cues & propulsive primary titles can be celebrated and appreciated. Although THE CARPETBAGGERS & BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL were released not so long ago, they’re also included on this 3xCDs Album. The sound is SUPERB on a presentation that is a must for collectors, Remote Control & other incipient composers and directors. I’m still hoping that Douglas Fake will release the original orchestral cues for BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL > For the AVA release, BERNSTEIN adapted his beautiful instrumental music for a pop orchestra! While the result is an amazing retro trip to the pop culture of the 1960’s, the final track hints at the heart-rending beauty of the orchestral score that accompanied director, Robert Mulligan’s images. Hopefully, some of WALK ON THE WILD SIDE’S themes, as heard on the movie’s soundtrack [BERNSTEIN rearranged a few cues for the 1962 LP release] can also accompany the orchestral music for BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL.