Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, April 18

"King's Row," Korngold, and "Star Wars"

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1942, Warner Brothers released a film entitled “King’s Row,” which included in its cast a 31-year-old actor named Ronald Reagan, who claimed the film “made me a star.” The film’s musical score was by someone already a star – the Austrian-born Erich Wolfgang Korngold, famous for his earlier work for Hollywood swashbucklers like “Captain Blood” and “Robin Hood” starring Errol Flynn.

Korngold’s music for “King’s Row” proved unusually popular, and Warner Brothers prepared a form letter politely declining inquiries for sheet music or recordings. Back then, film score recordings were not common, and the big studios were jealously protective of anything – including music – that they owned. It wasn’t until 1979 -- 37 years after the release of the movie – that a full soundtrack recording of “King’s Row” was released, produced by the composer’s son, George, who was responsible for a major revival of interest in his father’s work.

In fact, Korngold’s main title music from “King’s Row” may have provided the model for the American composer John Williams when he wrote his main title music for the 1977 sci-fi swashbuckler “Star Wars.” It’s also curious to note that the main title music for “King’s Row” was requested by the White House in 1981 for use at the inauguration of President Reagan, who, you may recall, later promoted a ballistic missile defense shield nicknamed by its critics – wait for it -- “Star Wars.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897 -1957) “Main Title,” fr “King’s Row” National Philharmonic; Charles Gerhardt, cond. RCA LSC-3330 (LP) & 7890-2-RG (CD)

Additional Information

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