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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Monday, July 27

Bernard Herrmann gets a pink slip from Hitch

Synopsis

When Alfred Hitchcock's 53rd feature film, a cold war spy thriller entitled "Torn Curtain," opened in New York Theaters on today's date in 1966, audiences did NOT hear this music over the title credits.

It was the swinging 60s, and Hitchcock had asked his long-time collaborator, composer Bernard Hermann, for a pop score that would be "with it." For the main title, Hitch wanted a pop song that might be successful as a hit radio single. What Hitch did NOT want was, as he put it, "more Richard Strauss." Hermann assured Hitch he knew exactly what was required—and then ignored him completely.

Herrmann thought "Torn Curtain" was a dangerously weak film, and one that needed a strong orchestral score to make it effective. Herrmann's huge symphonic score featured an eerie choir of massed flutes and ominous, oppressive brass. When Hitch heard a Hollywood studio orchestra rehearsing Herrmann's main title music, he fired the composer on the spot and called in someone else to score the film.

Herrmann was crushed. He had thought his score would rescue a weak film, and that Hitch should have been grateful. "You call in the doctor to make you healthy," he later quipped—"Not to make you rich!"

Hermann may well have right. "Torn Curtain" is regarded as one of Hitchcock's lamest efforts, while Herrmann's rejected score has gone on to be recorded and admired on its own.

Music Played in Today's Program

Bernard Herrmann (1911 - 1975) Unused Torn Curtain film score Los Angeles Philharmonic; Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond. Sony 62700

Additional Information

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