I have written several columns about the intimate relationship between movies and music, from the earliest beginnings of the Silent Era to today's big-budget HD blockbusters. How movies could not remain quiet for long as someone realized that this miraculous invention needed music to heighten the effects, to add drama or comedy to what was being seen. As the movies matured, with real stories, plots and dialogue, original musical compositions were added, custom-made for the narratives and action. Many famous or unknown music composers left the East Coast and travelled to Hollywood as the word spread about the creative drive and money-making going on there surrounding the fledgling industry. Such as composers of Broadway musicals boarding west-bound trains for Los Angeles. Over the decades some of the most famous and beloved musical pieces in history came out of the film factories in southern California. Over the years, many composers reached the heights of fame and fortune as they wrote original scores, tailor-made for each film. Just a few, like:
Richard Addinsell Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dangerous Moonlight, Beau Brummell
Max Steiner King Kong, The Informer, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Gone With the Wind
Burt Bacharach Casino Royale, What's New Pussycat, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Lost Horizon
Elmer Bernstein The Ten Commandments, The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, Far from Heaven
Leonard Bernstein On the Waterfront
T-Bone Burnett O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Walk the Line, Don't Come Knocking
Bill Conti Rocky, The Right Stuff, The Karate Kid
Joe Delia Bad Lieutenant, King of New York, Dangerous Game
John Du Prez Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Oxford Blues, A Fish Called Wanda
Danny Elfman Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman, Forbidden Zone
Don Ellis The French Connection, The Seven-Ups, French Connection II
Brad Fiedel The Terminator, Fright Night, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies
Jerry Goldsmith Planet of the Apes, Patton, The Omen, Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Total Recall, Basic Instinct
Marvin Hamlisch Bananas, The War Between Men and Women, Save the Tiger, The Way We Were, The Sting, Three Men and a Baby, Sophie's Choice
Bernard Herrmann Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, Citizen Kane, Taxi Driver
Ennio Morricone A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Untouchables
Alfred Newman The King and I, Mother Wore Tights, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, How the West WasWon Miklós Rózsa Spellbound, Quo Vadis, Ben-Hur, King of Kingson, Airport
Lalo Schifrin Mission: Impossible, Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Dirty Harry
Nino Rota La Strada, War and Peace, La DolceVita, The Leopard, Romeo and Juliet, The Godfather 1&2
There are, literally, hundreds of names, famous and not so famous, of movie composers all over the world, for hundreds of films. Among the names I have listed, each composer wrote many other themes and scores as well as the renowned ones I listed. Today's column will feature another notable movie music composer who penned some of our most memorable and treasured film scores: John Barry.
Born John Barry Prendergast, in York, England, in 1933. His father owned a chain of cinemas in northern England so the young Barry was surrounded and influenced early on by movies and their music. Since 1962, with the release of the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, the entire world knows John Barry and his original, familiar Bond themes and scores. I don't think I've ever met anyone who can't whistle or hum or sing Goldfinger. 1987's The Living Daylights is the last Bond film he scored. In 1989 he was supposed to work on License To Kill but surgery prevented his continuing. John Barry's musical career started before Bond became a world-renowned figure. He formed his own band, The John Barry Seven, in 1957, which released 11 singles (from 1960 through 1971) and one year later was writing for television, including the British version of America's Juke Box Jury. He was arranging music for EMI and its stable of singers, including Adam Faith. That led to Barry being asked to score Faith's 1960 film, Beat Girl. Several more films as Barry was being noticed and invited to score Dr. No in 1962, then From Russia With Love in 1963 and Zulu in 1964. The films and other productions, like the musicals he wrote in London's West End, began to go his way with amazing speed. The Bond films juggernaut, of course, never stopped, even though the original James Bond theme was in dispute over who actually created it: Barry or Monty Norman. That legal battle was finally settled some thirty years later.
But John Barry's musical range wasn't limited to just action-adventure movies. He was the primary composer on movies as diverse as The Ipcress File (1965), The Lion in Winter (1968), Midnight Cowboy (1969), King Kong (1976), Body Heat (1981), Frances (1982), Out of Africa (1985), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Dances With Wolves (1990) and Chaplin (1992). The vital statistics are as follows:
86 films between 1960 and 2001
12 Bond films
24 television scores
7 Academy Award nominations, 5 wins
4 BAFTA nominations, 2 wins
10 Golden Globe nominations, 1 win
4 Grammy Awards
Several Lifetime Achievement Awards
I've always been a fan of John Barry's music (Ipcress File is one of my movie personal favorites) but I hadn't realized how extensive his career actually was. I'd been listening to my local Charlotte classical station recently and they play movie music as a regular program; I heard the theme from Out of Africa and, quite frankly, it was stunning. It inspired me to look into Mr. Barry's biography and here we are. As I've written before movies and music have been joined at the artistic hip for over one hundred years. We associate so many things and events in our lives with music. I can easily remember so many things from childhood and beyond with music playing a supporting role. I just purchased a four cd musical anthology of John Barry's works with fifty-six tracks: simply amazing. The movies I've highlighted plus so many more are worth watching, not only because of their superb stories and actors, but because the music comes from a true musical genius, John Barry.
email this column to a friend
Comment on this Column:
|Sorry, you must be a member to add comments to columns.|
Join or Login.
Subscribe to MatchFlick Movie Reviews through RSS
Every other Thursday
My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).|
If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.|