- 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. ****