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84 CHARING CROSS ROAD
Lovely romance score brims with charm
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1987 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A gentle romance aimed at an intelligent, adult audience, no film like 84 Charing Cross Road would be made today, just 20 years later. Anne Bancroft plays a lonely New York woman who enters into correspondence with a London bookseller, played by Anthony Hopkins. They send letters to each other for years, without actually meeting. A charming, warm film, it is certainly worthy of your time, but seems so sedate in today's world it's untrue.
George Fenton was perfect casting for the film. His film composing career was still in relative infancy at the time, but his wonderfully rich, romantic music is ideal for this film. The opening title music is splendid - wistful, full of longing, and unashamedly "English" in a way little film music, even by English composers, has been for fifty years. It's a lovely little portrait of postwar London, and the theme is further expanded in even more romantic fashion in the utterly gorgeous "Book of Love Poems", one of the most attractive pieces of Fenton's career.
There isn't the lush sentiment familiar from Fenton's Hollywood romances here, though - it is full instead of gentle charm. The piano solo of "Dear Speed" could tug far more heartstrings than any wall of strings ever could. Fenton cleverly contrasts the very English nature of the music for the London scenes with equally-charming, but slightly jazzier music for the New York sections, with more than a hint of Gershwin gently interwoven. Perhaps the finest piece is "Pilgrimage - Helene and Frank", a profoundly moving performance of the main theme on Irish flute with subtle dulcimer backing.
This is wonderfully mature, rich, rewarding music. It is not the kind of sweeping romantic score which would appeal to many, but perhaps the English equivalent of those wonderfully charming Elmer Bernstein romance scores. It's not what you might call subtle, but it is full of charm and grace, evidencing Fenton's deft touch, an old-fashioned score full of a kind of innocence. A truly beautiful album, issued by Varese Sarabande on LP when the film came out, and now on CD thanks to their CD Club.