Old Hollywood
Cinema
1900-1979

Nostalgia is a seductive liar - George Wildman Ball

Bernard Herrmann - Prelude/Outer Space/Radar (The Day The Earth Stood Still: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

“[Herrmann’s score for the sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still] was another scoring milestone that anticipated the era of electronic music with its then unheard of instrumentation for electric violin, electric bass, two high and low electric theremins, four pianos, four harps and a ‘very strange section of about 30-odd brass.’…What the film needed was an extraterrestrial strangeness, a sense of the bizarre and unsettling; this Herrmann achieved through his wisely sparse electronic soundtrack.

If the music’s impact is lessened today, the reason is not the score itself but the host of inferior imitations its success spawned.”

-excerpted from A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann by Steven Smith

Bernard Herrmann - The Nightmare (Vertigo: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Bernard Herrmann - Prelude (The Ghost & Mrs. Muir: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Bernard HerrmannPrelude/Panic/Finale (Cape Fear: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Bernard Herrmann - Prelude (Fahrenheit 451: Original Film Score)

“When [Francois] Truffaut spoke to me about doing the score for the film, I said, ‘…You’re a great friend of [avant-garde composers] and this is a film that takes place in the future. Why shouldn’t you ask one of them? ‘Oh no, no,’ he said. ‘They’ll give me music of the twentieth century, but you’ll give me music of the twenty-first.’

I felt that the music of the next century would revert to a great lyrical simplicity and that it wouldn’t have truck with all this mechanistic stuff. Their lives would be scrutinized. In their music they would want something of simple nudity, of great elegance and simplicity. So I said, ‘If I do your picture, that’s the kind of score I want to write- strings, harps, and a few percussion instruments. I’m not interested in all this whoopee stuff that goes on being called the music of the future. I think that’s the music of the past.’”

-Herrmann, quoted in Steven Smith’s A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann 

Bernard HerrmannAndante Cantabile (The Ghost & Mrs. Muir: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

"Bernard Herrmann considered The Ghost & Mrs. Muir his finest score: poetic, unique, and highly personal. It contains the essence of his Romantic ideology - his fascination with death, romantic ecstasy, and the beautiful loneliness of solitude…Herrmann paints his most eloquent work, filled with the pain of frustrated desire and the Romantic promise of spiritual transcendence through death.”

-excerpted from A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann by Steven Smith

Bernard Herrmann - The .44 Magnum Is a Monster (Taxi Driver: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

"It wasn’t easy getting Bernard Herrmann to compose the music for Taxi Driver. He was a marvelous, but crotchety old man. I remember the first time I called him to do the picture. He said it was impossible, he was very busy, and then asked what it was called. I told him and he said, ‘Oh, no, that’s not my kind of picture title. No, no, no.’

I said, ‘Well, maybe we can meet and talk about it.’ He said, ‘No, I can’t. What’s it about?’ So I described it and he said, ‘No, no, no. I can’t. Who’s in it?’ So I told him and he said, ‘No, no, no. Well, I guess we can have a quick talk.’

Working with him was so satisfying that when he died, the night he had finished the score, on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, I said there was no one who could come near him. You get to know what you like if you see enough films, and I thought his music would create the perfect atmosphere for Taxi Driver.”

-Martin Scorsese, Scorsese on Scorsese (1989)

Bernard Herrmann - Citizen Kane Overture

Performed by The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

Psycho (A Narrative for Orchestra) - composed & conducted by Bernard Herrmann

For this 1969 London Philharmonic recording, Herrmann arranged highlights from his score for Psycho, including the iconic main theme & shower scene music, into this shorter suite.

Bernard Herrmann Overture (North by Northwest: The Complete Score)

Bernard Herrmann - Concerto Macabre For Piano & Orchestra (composed for the 1945 film noir Hangover Square)

Performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with Sara Davis [F/K/A David] Buechner on piano

“Not long after the film’s release Herrmann received an enthusiastic letter from a New York music student praising the concerto. Herrmann responded with a gracious thank you letter to 15-year-old Stephen Sondheim. Recalled Sondheim in 1986, “I can still play the opening eight bars, since they were glimpsed briefly on (Hangover Square’s lead actor) Laird Cregar’s piano during the course of the film, and I dutifully memorized them by sitting through the picture twice.” Herrmann’s influence can be heard in Sondheim’s musical thriller Sweeney Todd, an English melodrama rich in brooding thematic material and dark psychology.”

-excerpted from A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann by Steven Smith

Bernard Herrmann - Prelude (Psycho: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Alfred Hitchcock & Bernard Herrmann on the set of Psycho (1960)
“The Hitchcocks often played host to the Herrmanns, especially in the late 1950s. Recalled the third Mrs. Herrmann, Norma Shepard, “Benny used to wash dishes with Hitch, and they’d talk about what they’d do if they weren’t in the film business. Benny wanted to run an English pub, until somebody told him you actually had to open and close at certain hours. Benny asked Hitch what he would be. There was a silence. Hitchcock then turned to Benny, his apron folded on his head, and said solemnly: ‘A hanging judge‘”.
-excerpted from A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann

Alfred Hitchcock & Bernard Herrmann on the set of Psycho (1960)

“The Hitchcocks often played host to the Herrmanns, especially in the late 1950s. Recalled the third Mrs. Herrmann, Norma Shepard, “Benny used to wash dishes with Hitch, and they’d talk about what they’d do if they weren’t in the film business. Benny wanted to run an English pub, until somebody told him you actually had to open and close at certain hours. Benny asked Hitch what he would be. There was a silence. Hitchcock then turned to Benny, his apron folded on his head, and said solemnly: ‘A hanging judge‘”.

-excerpted from A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann - Main Titles (via Sisters: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

"I launched into an eager ten minute explanation of why I didn’t want any title music…After I finished, Herrmann exploded.

'No title music? Nothing horrible happens in your picture for the first half hour. You need something to scare them right away. The way you do it, they'll walk out.'

'But, in Psycho the murder doesn’t happen until 40…’

'You are not Hitchcock! He can make his movies as slow as he wants in the beginning! And do you know why?'

I shook my head.

'Because he is Hitchcock and they will wait! They know something terrible is going to happen and they'll wait until it does. They'll watch your movie for ten minutes and then they'll go home to their television.'

Herrmann was brutal, and, of course, right.”

-Brian De Palma, quoted in A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann 

Bernard Herrmann - The Elevator/Magnetic Pull /Study/Conference /The Jewelry Store (The Day The Earth Stood Still: 20th Century Fox Film Scores)