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HILDA CRANE / THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER
Exceptional pair of 1956 treasures
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Hilda Crane composed by
The Revolt of Mamie Stover composed by
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THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Two of the most prolific (and, for that matter, popular) composers of the Golden Age, David Raksin and Hugo Friedhofer are not well-represented on disc (indeed, until very recently they were barely represented at all, and even now there are slim pickings, to say the least). Fortunately for fans of both composers - and of Golden Age film music in general - Intrada has released this intriguing pairing of Raksin's Hilda Crane and Friedhofer's The Revolt of Mamie Stover - and just to show what interesting times we live in, producer Nick Redman got the idea of pairing the two scores on the same disc from a poster at one of the internet messageboards!
The album opens with the Raksin score. Hilda Crane is about a woman (called Hilda Crane, would you believe) who grows tired of the city life and returns to her roots. She's a glamorous lady, and Raksin captures that in his resplendant music, unusually blessed with emotion and passion. The main theme is a sweeping delight, but the score's true quality lies in its more low-key moments when the composer strips the music down to a smaller, more intimate setting, with some glorious violin solos in particular standing out. The five-minute piece "The House" tugs at the heartstrings and succedes in leaving them aflutter. "What Are You?" is full of real desperation, longing, and ultimately joy - a tremendous piece of music. The whole score is also full of the unmistakable flourish brought by conductor Alfred Newman - it's incredible really that I find it hard to tell modern film composers apart even by the music they write - and yet I can instantly identify the conducting style of someone from fifty years ago. There must be a lesson in there somewhere!
Brilliant as the Raksin score is (and it is certainly brilliant), Friedhofer's The Revolt of Mamie Stover is arguably even better. The film is about a woman (called - now, calm down, I'm about to reveal it - Mamie Stover) who gets kicked out of San Francisco for misbehaving. Friedhofer's main title theme is an instant masterpiece - smokey, dirty, sexy, sassy, gorgeous. The score reminds me a bit of Alex North's celebrated super-smart jazzy efforts - he manages to conjure just the right kind of atmosphere using a very deliberate combination of soloists and orchestra, anchoring everything not just around exquisite melodies but also the splendid orchestration - but of course, you would never mistake the music for something North might have written (back in 1956, film composers actually sounded different from each other, to continue my grouchy witterings from the previous paragraph). Mixed in with Friedhofer's score are a few songs by celebrated songwriters of the past - including Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster's "If You Wanna See Mamie Tonight", included in both an instrumental version, a vocal version sung by Rush Adams and even a performance by the whole Fox Chorus; and the same duo's "Keep Your Eyes on the Hands" sung by the movie's star Jane Russell.
Not only is the music stellar (and the sort of thing almost guaranteed to bring a smile to the listener's face), but since this is a Nick Redman and Douglass Fake production, there is a certain guarantee of quality elsewhere, from the impressive (fifty-year-old stereo) sound to the great liner notes by Julie Kirgo. Fake himself likes to end his little reviews of albums he likes by saying "This one gets a bullseye!" Well, let me say - this one gets a bullseye!