Best CD Release of the Month
ELMER GANTRY (1960)
Music composed and conducted by Andre Previn.
30 Tracks (Playing Time =56:33)
CD reissue produced by Bruce Kimmel. Mastered by James Nelson. Tape transfers by John Davis. Art Direction & Package Design by Doug Haverty.
Kritzerland CD KR 20014-8
This CD reissue might appear redundant because it is actually two albums in one. The first 14 tracks are from the film's presentation and tracks 15-26 are from the original 1960 LP album. So, it is like hearing the same music twice, except the film presentation is longer.
There is much to recommend here.
Though Andre Previn was nominated for an Oscar for his score in 1960, he lost to Ernest Gold's inferior score for EXODUS. The other Oscar-nominated scores that year were: Dimitri Tiomkin's epic score for THE ALAMO, Elmer Bernstein's unforgettable score for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and Alex North's magnificent score for SPARTACUS. What an incredible year for great film scores!
And yet ELMER GANTRY hadn't really received its due until now. It's one of Previn's greatest and most memorable scores while working in Hollywood. In his CD notes, record producer Bruce Kimmel mentions the importance of Previn's music:
"His score is almost a character in the film. It's a surprisingly short score, but it informs the film every time it's used."
Kimmel describes the Main Title theme as -- "one of the most propulsive scene-setters in the history of film scoring, an astonishing virtuosic showpiece that sets the stage perfectly."
That it does and also perfectly accompanies the dynamic character of Elmer Gantry, as played by so superbly Burt Lancaster, who received a much deserved Oscar for his portrayal. Others who provide exceptional acting in the film include Jean Simmons, Shirley Jones, and Arthur Kennedy as a newspaperman who befriends Gantry.
Previn's score is brimming with discordant passages. One of them is for "Mr. Babbitt" (track 6 - 1:02/ track 17 - 2:15), with an elongated string passage that sounds a bit similar, though unintentional, to Bernard Herrmann's PSYCHO score, also released that same year.
For his former lover turned prostitue Lulu (perfectly played by Oscar-winner, Shirley Jones), there's a charming 1920s style jazz number for "Lulu's Room" (track 10/track 18 - 2:49). That is followed by the tender cue, "Kiss Me Goodbye" (track 11/track 23 - 4:05), with heart-tugging string writing by Previn, ending with a down and dirty jazz trumpet solo.
The final End Title music on both versions (track 14 - 1:37/ track 26 - 1:24) repeats the opening Main Title theme as Gantry walks off to his next adventure.
What makes this CD even more worthwhile is the Bonus Tracks of the four popular hymns used in the film:
"I'm On My Way" (track 27 - 2:52), with a fine vocal by Burt Lancaster joined by the chorus, solo trumpet and drums.
"Onward Christian Soldiers" (track 28 - 1:25), a jazzy instrumental for solo trumpet and drums.
"Shall We Gather At The River" (track 29 - 1:42), with chorus and band.
"Stand Up For Jesus" (track 30 - 1:14), with chorus and band.
The CD booklet is on the skimpy side but producer Bruce Kimmel provides the listener with enough background about the film and the various manifestations of the soundtrack as a United Artsists LP in 1960, a later Ryko CD, and the one released by Kritzerland. I still have my copy of the original 1960 LP. This is what Don Cerulli wrote about the score:
"Previn's score accentuates the highlights and derline the character portrayals. His music plays a vital role in drawing the characters and the story into a cohesive unit."
If you're one of the many who love this entertaining film which also carries a strong message against evangelistic fakery as portrayed by Elmer Gantry, then you should enjoy this outstanding score by Previn. But this ELMER GANTRY dual soundtrack CD is no fake. As Cerulli wrote in his LP notes:
"Previn's score is Gantry."
In honor of the 50th anniversary of this classic film and in memory of the recent passing of beloved and beautiful actress, Jean Simmons, it is my distinct pleasure to name this superior soundtrack by Andre Previn as Best of the Month and kudos to Kritzerland for releasing it.
-- reviewed by Roger Hall, 8 April 2010
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