Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer
THE STORY ON PAGE ONE
and THE REWARD
Early Bernstein obscurities offer brief glimpses of composer at his best
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1959/65 Twentieth Century Fox; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
The sixth edition of Intrada's Special Collection series, released in 2002, presented two exceptionally obscure Elmer Bernstein scores from the 20th Century Fox archives, for virtually-forgotten movies. They're both unmistakably Bernstein, they're both Fox, and they're both very short, but that's probably all that they have in common. Unsurprisingly, there are no longer any copies of the album available from Intrada.
The Story on Page One was a 1959 courtroom drama (nothing to do with newspapers, despite the title) starring Rita Hayworth, written and directed by famed playwrite Clifford Odets. Bernstein's fully-orchestral score was used very sparsely in the comparatively long film, with the courtroom scenes which dominate the film left entirely unscored. Opening is "Freeway", a boistrous and dynamic piece featuring two pianos and lots of percussion; the middle section does contain some slightly turgid music perhaps resembling Bernard Herrmann, clearly an influence on the young Bernstein, and featuring some delicate flute solos, even though the overall mood prevents it from being entirely satisfying. The score concludes with a truly beautiful end title.
The Reward is even shorter, with just 12 minutes of original score, plus source music (all by Bernstein) which actually lasts just as long. It's a western, but a highly unconventional one, and as Bernstein himself notes in the brief interview in the liner notes, it sure doesn't sound like The Magnificent Seven! It's written for an extremely small orchestra, and even that becomes dominated by guitar solos. There's one gorgeous piece, "The Body", and quite a cheerful end title piece for flute and guitar. The rest of the score is all pleasant enough, but to be honest passes by before it's had much of a chance to leave a big impression.
There's nothing wrong with either of these scores, and they make for enjoyable little vignettes, but they're really quite unsubstantial, and given that over a third of the album's 43-minute running time is made up of source music, that means there's less than half an hour's original score here, spread between two scores. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does mean that the music has to work extra-hard to leave an impression, and apart from the outstanding title pieces at either end of The Story on Page One I'm not sure it quite manages to. Sound quality is OK (there's some damage to The Story on Page One, but nothing which makes it unlistenable) and liner notes are by the redoubtable Jon Burlingame.