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Artwork copyright (c) 2004 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Classic North fits any bill


While the collaboration between Alex North and John Huston is one of the most renowned composer/director partnerships in Hollywood's history, in reality the films they worked on together come in a slightly odd sequence: after The Misfits in 1961, they wouldn't work together for many years, before North would score all of Huston's final films. The Misfits boasts a cast and crew of extraordinary pedigree - director Huston, screenwriter Arthur Miller (one of North's closest friends, and the reason he scored the picture) and stars Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach. (It proved to be both Gable and Monroe's final film.)

The Misfits tells the complicated, adult story of three men lusting after one beautiful women, in completely different ways, and with completely different results; the story is told from the woman's perspective (unusual for its time!) and details her reaction to the men's attention. Regardless of the friendship with Miller, North was the ideal composer to score the film: the most intelligent of all the film composers, none has ever so successfully scored literary, adult-themed films.

North's main theme is one of his most familiar - a beautiful, lyrical piece for the character played by Marilyn Monroe. It's heard over the opening titles and also in a superb jazz arrangement in "Roslyn" and a tender, lilting arrangement in "Compassion".  Perhaps the most strikingly beautiful verson comes in "Love's Reverie", a piece of wonderful restraint yet great passion.  Of course, North is legendary as a composer of jazz and dance music: "Rendezvous" is a superb, lounge jazz piece; and "Paddleball" and "Reno Bar Dance" are great pieces of rock and roll source music.  In spades comes one of North's trademarks, his ability to write "source" music which also functions perfectly as dramatic underscore.  He did it countless times; I can't remember another film composer doing it at all.

Of course, there is a great deal of other excellent dramatic material.  The lighthearted "Love Idyll" is simply gorgeous; and the album's centrepiece is "The Round-Up Suite", consisting of four pieces written for the climactic sequence in which Monroe realises that rather than loving all three men as she had thought, in fact she dislikes them all. It is a typically rousing tour-de-force for the orchestra reflecting the characters' turmoil at the same time as the drama of the round-up of some wild horses in the Nevada hills.  It is simply breathtaking in every way, demonstrating as well as anything just what talent North brought to the world of film music.  No composer has ever come close to rivalling North at writing psychological scores like this, or delving into human emotion.

The score was first released on CD a few years ago by Rykodisc and, despite the music's brilliance, famously sold very poorly indeed, so it is quite a surprise to see it reissued (with identical musical content) by Varese, though highly commendable, because this is music which demands to be available.

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  1. Main Theme (2:20)
  2. Rendezvous (2:31)
  3. New Life (:44)
  4. Roslyn (1:58)
  5. Love's Reverie (4:05)
  6. Love Idyll (1:28)
  7. Paddleball (2:21)
  8. Remo Bar Dance (2:01)
  9. Compassion / Compassion for Guido (4:00)
  10. Help (3:19)
  11. The Round-Up (14:34)
  12. Trying for Freedom (2:48)
  13. Resolved (2:41)
  14. End Title (2:56)