Bernard Herrmann, génie de la musique de film (Vincent Haegele) | UnderScores

Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann

From 1955-1965, film director Alfred Hitchcock and music composer Bernard Herrmann worked together on eight films including “The Trouble with Harry” (1955), “The Man who Knew Too Much” (1956), “The Wrong Man” (1956) “Vertigo” (1958) “North by Northwest” (1959) “Psycho” (1960) “The Birds” (1963) “Marnie” (1964) and the final unused score for “Torn Curtain” (1966.)

Their artistic peak would be “Vertigo”, “North by Northwest” and the mother of all slasher flicks “Psycho”.

Vertigomovie restoration.jpg “Vertigo” (1958), shelved for two decades, then beautifully restored in 1996 may have been their mostly deeply personal film.  A tragic love story when a man falls for a woman who never existed and attempts to remake her with a lookalike.  The music, especially “Scene d’amour” is that long throbbing orgasm of musical release where the man meets his long lost love.  (Or does he?)

Northbynorthwest1.jpg “North by Northwest” (1959) starring Cary Grant at his most suavest, is the man accused for a murder he didn’t commit – a favorite topic of the director.  Contains the famous run across Mt. Rushmore and the train-thru-the-tunnel ending.  “North by Northwest’s” prelude over Saul Bass’ opening titles sum up the exciting sequences yet to follow.  Critics call this the precursor to the James Bond film series.

The poster features a large image of a young woman in white underwear. The names of the main actors are featured down the right side of the poster. Smaller images of Anthony Perkins and John Gavin are above the words, written in large print, "Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho". “Psycho” (1960.)  Herrmann’s most imitated score.  Can you imagine the shower scene without it?  Hitchcock’s dark, subversive look (combined with Joseph Stephano’s brilliant script) of a mother-son duo living in a Gothic mansion overlooking the Bates Motel.  (Or was it?)

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What ended the remarkable partnership of Hitchcock-Herrmann?

In the mid-1960’s, there was profit to be made by soundtracks and love themes, most notably Henry Mancini (‘Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and Mauri Jarre (Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago.)  Universal Studios wanted to dump Bernard Herrmann from their next collaboration because of the reaction to “Marnie”.  “Marnie” was poorly received and Herrmann’s music was called “old-fashioned”.  (The movie has since been regarded as the last classic Hitchcockian work.)

Alfred Hitchcock refused to fire Herrmann, but asked him to compose a score more commercially viable.  Herrmann agreed.

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After completion of the filming of “Torn Curtain”, Herrmann began to dub his orchestral arrangements over the film.  Hitchcock came to listen and immediately knew it was not what he wanted.  Herrmann couldn’t change his style and was fired.

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Bernard Herrmann’s score for “Torn Curtain” was intense, dramatic and better than the one that would replace it. Alas, it was not “commercial”. (Either was the one they ultimately used.)

John Addison was hired to replace him.  The new love song was never used.  “Torn Curtain” Hitchcock’s 50th film flopped, judged to be too flat and boring.

Although Hitchcock-Herrmann would go on with separate careers, Hitchcock’s soundtracks lost their former glory.

Text © 2022 – EricReports

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