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New Score To John Ford's FOUR SONS (1928)


gagman66
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I just received the new John Ford Silent's set today. I watched about the first 10 minutes of FOUR SONS, and all can say is so far I do not like the new score by Christopher Caliendo at all! This is nothing whatsoever like the Vintage track that I am used to hearing with this film!

 

Firstly FOUR SONS is not a War Movie. World War One and it's effect on the simple Bavarian Bernle family is a center piece of the story, but it is not the central premise of the film. The new score makes it appear to be primarily a War film. The Main title, is very Military like, when it shouldn't be.

 

Secondly, The Mother Bernle Theme is absolutely critical to the story. I just can't imagine the film without it. Though it appears that it was not retained? There might be some additional footage to this print, over the one AMC aired back in 1998, I am not sure?

 

In my opinion, the Vintage Movie-tone track just could not be improved upon! I am therefore shocked that the original scoring of FOUR SONS, wasn't at least offered as an alternate track? Generally speaking, I feel when a complete, or near complete track for a Silent-Hybrid still exists as was the case here, than the film should be presented with it's original release score in-tact.

 

 

The pictorial quality is good, but definitely not up to the same standard of the new restoration of THE IRON HORSE. I do understand though that Fox utilized the best surviving footage of FOUR SONS.

 

Again I am let down, Izcutter had claimed that both the new score by Caliendo, and the older Photo-play Productions score by John Lanchbery would both be included with THE IRON HORSE? Well, that does not appear to be the case?

 

I sincerely do hope that Caliendo's score improves beyond the first 10 to 15 minutes? Or hopefully, music found on 3 BAD MEN, and HANGMAN'S HOUSE is significantly better, than it appears to be on FOUR SONS? I enjoyed Caliendo's score to THE IRON HORSE very much, even though I did not feel in any way that it was superior to the John Lanchbery effort. Unfortunately, his Music for FOUR SONS is a vast disappointment!

 

I am interested in others views on this subject. If you have the Box set, and have seen FOUR SONS with it's Vintage track (and I know that some of you have), do you feel that the new version is anywhere near as effective?

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Again I am let down, Izcutter had claimed that both the new score by Caliendo, and the older Photo-play Productions score by John Lanchbery would both be included with THE IRON HORSE?>>

 

Jeffrey,

 

I was going by information that I was reading and getting from those closer to in the know than I. That the Lanchbery score is not part of the Iron Horse disc, saddens me as I was looking forward to both versions.

 

Likewise with Four Sons after listening to you wax poetic about the Vintage track, I was hoping that Fox would offer both.

 

It may have come down to rights issues over the scores, I don't know.

 

As for picture quality, the vault fire back in the mid to late 1930s that destroyed most of Fox's silents and early talky negatives and fine grains has made it hard for Fox to always find negatives in good shape.

 

But I hope you enjoy the Silent set. It is a monumental undertaking by Fox and the critical reviews have been very favorable which will hopefully, combined with good sales, convince Fox to open more of their vault and offer more of their silents on DVD.

 

I'm sorry that you feel mislead by my posts. That was never my intention.

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There is absolutely no justification for a new score when an original is present. It was the intended way that the film's creators made it. I once thought they had to abandon the original tracks, no matter how integeral/beautiful it was because it forced them to run the silent film at the proper speed instead of the dragging, gooey 18fps so desired by those who see it as making something more serious, or arty. My pet example is THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES, which had a lively jazzy track and run at 24fps, and was released last year with a boring ameturish dirge and run at the "art" speed. But perhaps the idea was that to get to make a track appealed to them more than other considerations. Quite a fuss is being made of these tracks, as some sort demi-stardom for the composers/performers behind them is in the offing. This is leading to a serious problem, as we see in the "improved" FOUR SONS. The tail is wagging the dog. Any oppurtunity to be creatively associated with these films (the stepping blocks to the aforementioned "stardom") must be taken, and damn the original scores. If they get in the way, just cast them aside with an arrogant "It's too old-fashioned for a modern audience" as was said of the BATTLE film.

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I thought I read somewhere that not all the sound discs survived for BATTLE OF THE SEXES, which is why the Mont Alto Orchestra recorded a score for it. As for FOUR SONS, I agree, I was not happy that both scores were not offered, like they were with Fox's DVD release of SUNRISE.

The scores for HANGMAN'S HOUSE, 3 BADMEN sound decent and I think will probably work.

Although I have only spotted a few chapters of each.

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Scottman,

 

Regarding the score to 3 BAD MEN, Dana Kaproff apparently tried to make the music sound like a 1960's "Spaghetti Western" or something? Portions of the scoring really caught me off guard?

 

I only glanced at HANGMAN'S HOUSE, but Tim Curren's score appears to be among the better one's in the collection, if not especially memorable.

 

In any event, I sincerely do hope that if Fox, or the BFI release a Janet Gaynor set, with SEVENTH HEAVEN and STREET ANGEL as was rumored last year that they stick with the vintage scores? They are not Old-fashioned in any way, they are Timeless! Simply put, I can not Imagine SEVENTH HEAVEN without "Diane", or STREET ANGEL without "Angelia Mia"! Perish forbid! No new scores for these unforgettable films please!!!

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Jeff/Scott..... as we've discussed many times the "young" composers tend not to have much feel for what silent film music sounded like in the teens and 20s. So their music is usually overly orchestrated stuff that intrudes and competes with the film. If there score sounded like "spaghetti western" stuff, Jeff, it was probably meant to be derivative (but unlikely appropriate to the film).

 

For anyone interested in scoring for silent films, they should WATCH some and then listen to the great scores written by Carl Davis, Robert Israel, and others.

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Ed,

 

Well, some of the new score to 3 BAD MEN is OK, but much of it is powerfully awful! I have two other versions of this film, one with a Piano score, and the other being Theater Organ. Both are much better than this is, though none of them are what I would call great.

 

This new score though seldom corresponds to what is happening on screen? I just don't get it? The music detracts from the story, rather than enhances it? No way that should ever be the case with a proper Silent film score!

 

In-fact, I would much rather that they used all vintage music in these scores

like Robert Israel generally does, than to compose something new if it's going to sound this cruddy! While there are a couple of decent themes, those are just not enough for a complete score.

 

The best music found to 3 BAD MEN is probably a couple of jaunty Piano rags, that sound so much snappier than the music for the rest of the film. The remainder is rather downbeat by comparison. Though Piano rags don't exactly correspond to the time frame of the movie.

 

Christopher Caliendo is talented, I really liked his score to the Norma Shearer feature A LADY OF CHANCE (1928), but the other Composers who's work appears on this set I have never heard of before? In my opinion, none of them seem to be in the same class, that the TCM Young Film Composers Competition Winners, have been from what I have heard?

 

The past three or four winners of this Annual contest have all been truly exceptional. I am looking forward to hearing the latest winners work next month when TCM debut's Barrymore's BEAU BRUMMEL (1924).

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Jeff... to me less is more when it comes to scores for silent films. Maybe that's based a lot on my limited piano playing ability (lol)... but I get truly annoyed by the clashing John Williams-like scores they attach to silent films.

 

I'd rather listen to snippets of unoriginal music that fit the era of the film than new stuff that's anachronistic or overwhelming.

 

As much as the "organ music" is a cliche for silent films, I've certainly heard some terrific and heartfelt music that carries the viewer along without overwhelming the visuals. One recent film (can't remember which on) that I saw had organ accompaniment by someone named Rosa Rio (or something like that) and she was great. The opening credits came on to the surging organ music, and it was great.

 

I remember a series (maybe a local presentation of Boston's WGBH) back in the 60s (?) that was titled "The Toy That Grew Up" and it featured a pianist name Lita Burlingame. I have no idea now whether her stuff was original or she just played the piano, but she was fantastic. I still remember parts of the music.

 

Scoring a silent film is NOT the same art as scoring a talkie. We're talking souffle vs. omelette.

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Rosa R?o, is a music theme by Astor Piazzolla (a film composer himself).

 

The best film composer in Argentina was Lucio Demare. He also conducted orchestras, but he was much better performing piano solos.

 

This tango is called "Ma?anitas de Montmartre" which he wrote and recorded (for HMV) in 1928.

 

The recording here is considered to be from 1957, but I strongly believe that it is from 1968 since all the LPs in which it was published feature an ilustration from that year:

 

http://www.esnips.com/doc/3fad5898-81a8-437c-b00b-365a253dc8e8/Lucia-Demare---Ma?anitas-de-Montmartre

 

to download: http://www.esnips.com/nsdoc/3fad5898-81a8-437c-b00b-365a253dc8e8/?id=1198796490214

 

This one of his famous waltzes, called "Lupe" and dedicated to Lupe Velez (from her silent years before the Mexican Spitfire films). This recording from 1932 is performed by the Osvaldo Fresedo orchestra with a vocal refrain by Agust?n Irusta and Roberto Fugazot (Demare's partners at the time), for Brunswick:

 

http://www.esnips.com/doc/dd2ad61f-d874-4190-91da-e86322a73f11/Lupe---Irusta-Fugazot-Demare-1932-(Aporte-de-Iris-Daugherty)-

 

to download: http://www.esnips.com/nsdoc/dd2ad61f-d874-4190-91da-e86322a73f11/?id=1198796878089

 

And since we are speaking about silent film music here, this one is for Jeffrey, performed by the Osvaldo Fresedo orchestra in 1928 for Max Gl?cksmann (now EMI).

 

Do I have to write the name of the theme?:

 

http://www.esnips.com/doc/1981475e-89bd-4363-946e-930cb2be901c/CHARMAINE-(Erno-Rapec-y-Lew-Pollak)-vals-Nac[1].Ode?n-5277-(Aporte-de-Anselmo-Polverari)

 

to download: http://www.esnips.com/nsdoc/1981475e-89bd-4363-946e-930cb2be901c/?id=1198797590808

 

And finally, this tango from 1944 is called "Nana" and is also performed by the Osvaldo Fresedo orchestra, with Oscar Serpa singing a bit of the lyrics. C?tulo Castillo wrote the lyrics (not the music in this ocassion) based upon the novel by Emile Zola. And in fact, this tango, is more interesting than the 1926 Jean Renoir film:

 

http://www.esnips.com/doc/509de42b-f783-472f-b93a-0c712c8e4fdd/20---Nan?---Oscar-Serpa--30-06-44(Aporte-de-Mart?n-Lertora)

 

to download: http://www.esnips.com/nsdoc/509de42b-f783-472f-b93a-0c712c8e4fdd/?id=1198797826573

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Hi Everyone,

 

I just wanted to include a note about Rosa Rio. She is a charming lady and a real, living silent film accompaniest from the silent era. She lives near me in Sun City, Florida and is, if I am not mistaken, 107 years old (or thereabouts). She still plays the Theater Pipe Organ at the Tampa Theater in Tampa, Fl occasionally when they screen a silent film. She recently performed to Metropolis. For those of you who have collected silent films for awhile, she was the primary accompaniest for most of the silent videos put out by a company called Video Yesteryear. At one time I had dozens of her films.

 

I thought you might be interested in a quick note about her....

 

Roy

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WOW what a neat note, Roy! I'll have to check to see what film I have that her music was on... She was FABULOUS! How wonderful to know she's still alive...... I wish I had a talent.....

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Roy,

 

Yes, I had some of Rosa Rio's scores years ago. Although most of the stuff from Video Yesteryear was clearly Electric Organ, and not true Theater Organ, as I recall? It did not have the right tone to it.

 

I am astonished to learn that the woman is not only alive, but still plays for live screening's on occasion! Amazing! Talk about dedication! I hope I have that much pep when I am that age? Come to think of it, I wish I had that much pep now!!! I know I'll never hold on anywhere near that long!

 

Incidentally, did you get the package I sent you for the Holidays yet?

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when I was trying to find out about Lita Burlingame I found an article of Hal Pearl, an organist from Chicago who played live music for silents into his 90s..... What a wonderful talent to have had....

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Hi Jeffrey,

 

You are correct. Rosa did produce the Video Yesteryear scores on an "old fashioned" electric organ (that was state of the art at the time). As you can imagine, the sonic qualities of the Theater Organ are much nicer.

 

And yes, I did get the package. Thank you. I'll write directly soon. I'm awaiting receipt of another rare Wm S. Hart film. I hope it's as good as the last one I received.

 

Roy

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Sorry, but I for one was rather unimpressed with Rosa Rio. She seems to prefer nuetral strains on the whole, and anything referrential is chosen without thought as to wether the piece is anachronistic or not. I recall that she'd go into strains of "HOW MUCH IS THAT DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW?" at the sight of a dog. The organ used was far from state of the art, it was a Hammond organ, a popular piece of middle class furnishings in the 50's and 60's, usually bought to teach daughters music culture. In the trade they were described as "Kid organs" or "toy organs". (No double entendre intended). The absolute best organist to record movie tracks was Gaylord Carter(1905-2000). His approach was always authentic. He knew what was a silent era tune and what was not. He had a great knowledge of classical music, which was invaluable because it was not only the mainstay of most dramatic films, he could use it to instantly set a mood, keep tensions working at the film's pace and at the same time stay in the background and not overwhelm the film as many of these wet-behind-the-ears college kids do. Why "young composers"? Doesn't that just imply "least experienced"?

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I can't say that I am a fan of Ms. Rio. The two score I heard her perform (for THE GARDEN OF EDEN and for QUEEN KELLY) were so dredful, I disposed of the VHS tapes. Granted that awful electric organ was part of the problem, but she also was not very creative with the scoring of these films either.

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Scott,

 

Hey, Scottman! Good to see you back on the boards! So did you have a nice Christmas? Happy New Year!

 

Unfortunately, I am still waiting for the movies that you were going to send me some 5 or 6 months ago! The two earlier batches' that you did send me were both great. Anyway, hope to talk with you some more very soon.

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This is one of the only two answers I received directly from the industry.

 

This is an email from Anna Bohn in Germany:

 

Jorge,

 

The rights clearance issue can be a major problem that editors of DVD editions have to face. Even if the DVD producers do their very best and create a groundbraking edition like the FORD edition, there can be a lot of restraints and serious obstacles hindering them from including original elements, like for instance a music score. Here?s what Dave Kehr wrote:

 

?Because of music rights clearance issues, Fox was unable to use the Erno Rapee score, which meant losing Ford?s extensive use of sound effects as well ? most powerfully in the battle sequence, when a soldier?s voice crying ?mutterchen? suddenly emerges from the musical background. And the ?international version? of ?The Iron Horse? is an over-restored, sped-up mess; best to skip it and stick with the ? U.S. version,? which is taken from MOMA?s print and presented at 18 frames-per-second.

 

But who?s complaining? ?Judge Priest? has finally been rescued from public domain hell and now looks as good as the other Will Rogers films. ?Born Reckless? and ?Pilgrimage? are sharp enough to have come from camera negatives, and ?3 Bad Men? is, well, ?3 Bad Men? ? Ford?s first masterpiece, and a film that sets patterns he would continue to explore throughout his career. And you haven?t lived until you?ve seen ?Wee Willie Winkie? in its full sepia-toned glory.

 

Allan Dwan?s groundbreaking comic Western ?Frontier Marshal? (which Ford remade as ?My Darling Clementine?) was originally announced for the big box, but was dropped at the last minute to make room for the U.S. ?Iron Horse.? It is, however, still on the double-disc ?Clementine? that is coming out as a stand-alone today (as is the extremely interesting ?preview version? of ?Clementine,? which lets you see Ford?s film before Darryl Zanuck shortened and sentimentalized it, with superfluous music cues and romantic close-ups).? (http://davekehr.com/)

 

Anna

 

Anna Bohn

 

Universit?t der K?nste Berlin

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Bob Birchard: Although it is possible that music rights were at the center oof the "Four Sons" decision (and may also be the reason that Fox has so far not released "7th Heaven" which Tony Slide and I did audio commentary for three years ago) I think that Fox attorneys may be being overly cautious. There ought to be some sort of synch rights that would still pertain.

 

I think the issue with "Four Sons" has more to do with the major restoration of the film that was undertaken several years ago. The version with the Movietone score survives in composite form only and the left hand side of the picture is lopped off to accomodate the sound track. For this reason, I believe, foreign materials were used for the restoration in order to preserve the full-frame image. These foreign materials were made up from alternate and B camera takes, and the Movietone score does not synch up with them.

 

The domestic version of "The Iron Horse" was a late addition to the Ford at Fox set. It was not, to the best of my knowledge, slated for inclusion in the set until well after I did the audio commentary on the British version.

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Jorge,

 

Since the latest software update a few weeks ago did away with the preview function, there is now a short delay between the time you hit the post message button and the message actually posting to the board.

 

This allows time to edit the message if you so desire.

 

If not, the delay still occurs before it actually is posted to the board.

 

Hope this helps!

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Izcutter, Jorge,

 

Jorge, Here is the missing portion of Bob Birchard's comments that you sent me earlier. I can't Edit your post I'm afraid, but you should be able to? I hoped other people like Izzcutter, Ed, and Miss Gulch, Etc, were curious about what else He may have had to say, so I went head and posted it? Hope that this is OK, with you? If not, I can remove this later, and you can add the missing portion to your own reply from earlier? Let me know?

 

Addtional Comments by Bob Birchard:

 

"I think the issue with "Four Sons" has more to do with the major restoration of the film that was undertaken several years ago. The version with the Movietone score survives in composite form only and the left hand side of the picture is lopped off to accommodate the sound track.

 

For this reason, I believe, foreign materials were used for the restoration in order to preserve the full-frame image. These foreign materials were made up from alternate and B camera takes, and the Movietone score does not synch up with them."

 

Personally, while I find this information to be helpful, It just does not suffice as an adequate grounds for the casting the original Movie-Tone track aside in my estimation. Although, I was sure that there would be some Synch issues, since portions of the film are clearly different, than from what I have seen in the past.

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