Monday, February 15, 2016

Movie Music and More #44 : "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938)

I (Hamlette) am here today to discuss a film score that is a classic in every possible way a soundtrack could be.  From long ago, still enjoyable today, and something others might try to imitate but can never duplicate.  And it even comes with an adventure story of its own, separate from the one in the movie it accompanies!

Composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold and his family escaped Vienna just before the Nazis invaded in 1938 thanks to this film score.  According to the liner notes of my copy, Korngold was offered the job of composing the score for The Adventures of Robin Hood in Hollywood, and he took his wife and younger son along, leaving his older son with family in Austria.  They arrived safely in California, where Korngold promptly turned down the job because there was too much action in the film!  He wrote operas and scored romantic movies, not action films, and he didn't think he could match the studio's needs and expectations.  But they prevailed on him to try, so he stayed, and wrote the entire score in six weeks.  During that time, Hitler invaded Austria, and they learned that their other son had escaped with his grandparents to Switzerland just in time.

This score went on to with Korngold his second Oscar, which is amazing when you think that he wrote it in a relatively short time-period and didn't want to write it at all at first.  It's a very sweeping, lyrical score, one I enjoy listening to on a glum morning to help boost the mood for me and my kids.  They're actually the reason I bought this album in the first place -- they love the movie and kept asking why I didn't have the soundtrack.  Well, I didn't have it because the original recording isn't available -- all you can get are re-recordings.  I did some research and consulted with a knowledgeable friend, and learned that the 1988 recording available from the Varese-Sarabande label is the best available, so that's the one I got.  It was produced by George Korngold, the composer's young son who accompanied him to Hollywood on the trip to compose the score.

When we listen to this, my kids will tell me exactly what's happening in the movie during different parts of the music, and sometimes act it out :-)  Very fun, though sometimes a bit disruptive of breakfast.

The first cue, "Prologue (Main Title)," begins with a lot of rollicky, boisterous prancing that lets you know this is the sort of movie that will make you bounce up and down in your seat and cheer.  Then the mood shifts and a softer theme weaves its way in, alerting the audience to the fact that yes, there will be a love story here too.  But that doesn't last long -- the piece ends with a some bold and vaguely regal flourishes.

This score has some of the most cheerful action music you'll ever hear.  "Escape from the Castle" is a joyous romp from start to finish, lots of flourishes and musical galloping.  

My favorite track is "The Archery Tournament."  It's brash and playful and ready to have a good time.  Rather like Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) in this version, come to think of it.

This is a really fun movie.  If you haven't seen it, I strongly encourage you to!  You can read James' review of it here (on this blog), and my own thoughts here (on my own blog) if you want to know more about it.

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