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SRS 2015

Artwork copyright (c) 1955 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall


Busy, romantic score is not vintage North

Henry Hathaway's 1955 movie The Racers, starring Kirk Douglas, is not remembered by too many; and those that do remember, don't tend to have very pleasant memories.  Telling the story of a racing driver who sacrifices everything in order to win, with predictable romantic results, it was unusual territory for Alex North, who usually scored intelligent films that required intelligent scoring.

Here, his role was somewhat reduced to providing a pretty standard type of romantic score from the period.  His main theme is very busy and exciting, certainly conjuring up nostalgic images of a 1950s race circuit, but much of what follows is either source music or somewhat melodramatic romantic material.  North didn't write this kind of thing often, and it certainly wasn't one of his strengths - I think he is the greatest of the Golden Age masters, but contemporaries like Newman and Waxman handled romance better.

The best cue - aside from the main title, the one that really makes the score worth getting for North enthusiasts - is the eight-minute "Decision", which scores a passage in which the driver's partner must decide whether a doctor should amputate his leg or not after a terrible accident.  Nobody was better than North at coming up with music to score the kind of anguished soul-searching that needed to go on during the film at that time, and he does not disappoint here, with a moving and emotional piece, though the love theme plays a prominent part and occasionally it does seem a little on the trite side.

As a bonus, North's ballet suite that he wrote for another 1955 movie, Daddy Long Legs, is included, and it would be easy to say that the bonus material is rather more impressive than the main material!  It is an original ten-minute piece for the finale of the film and was fully choreographed, to great acclaim.  North's ballet output has been somewhat overshadowed by his film scores, but it was fairly prolific for a while, so he was the ideal choice for the assignment, and he did not disappoint.  The first movement is chaotic; the second, jazzy; the third, exuberant and joyous.  It really is a fantastic work, vintage North.

The album was released by Masters Film Music in 2002 and is available from Varese Sarabande's website only.  Sound quality is reasonable considering the music was recorded almost 50 years ago, and Robert Townson's liner notes informative.  The Racers is that rare thing, an Alex North score that seems somewhat disposable, but Daddy Long Legs is worth the price of admission alone.


  1. Main Title (1:42)
  2. Monte Carlo (1:09)
  3. Much Too Close (1:03)
  4. Roulette (2:26)
  5. A Big Girl (1:44)
  6. Grand Prix (:56)
  7. Appartengo a Voi (1:38)
  8. Monte Carlo Samba (1:58)
  9. I Belong to You Peggy Lee (2:57)
  10. Decision (7:51)
  11. Truth (1:23)
  12. I Belong to You (piano) (2:57)
  13. Viendras tu ce Soir (Newman) (2:40)
  14. Gino and Nicole (2:04)
  15. 3am Blackjack (3:43)
  16. I Need You (2:37)
  17. End Title (:27)

Bonus tracks from Daddy Long Legs

  1. Paris (4:02)
  2. Hong Kong (3:21)
  3. Rio (2:44)