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Discussing one classic film and its composer

 


Film In Focus No. 7:

THE SONG OF BERNADETTE

and

Alfred Newman's Film Score

 

The Film

[In Memory of Jennifer Jones, 1919-2009]


THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943) is one of the greatest religious dramas ever filmed in Hollywood. Though it is a religious story, you don't have to be religious to be moved by this inspiring story. It is one of the few Hollywood films that can be called an artistic masterpiece.

Starrring a young Jennifer Jones in her first major starring role and winning a much deserved Oscar for Best Actress of the Year, this is a film of rare sensitity and great restraint. Jennifer Jones is positively radiant in her role of an innocent young French girl who sees a vision in a Grotto (a highlight in the film and greatly enhanced by Alfred Newman's masterful music). Also in the stellar cast are Charles Bickford, Lee J. Cobb, Gladys Cooper, Vincent Price, Anne Revere as Bernadette's mother and the underrated Roman Bohnin as Bernadette's father. If you have not watched this film I would recommend you do if you want to be both entertained and enthralled with this inspiring story of innocence and devotion. Please keep in mind that Alfred Newman's score is a major reason why this film is so moving and beautifully conveys the "song" of Bernadette.

-- Roger Hall, Film Music Review


Read more about this film at

Wikipedia


The Score

 

Here is the Retro Review for the Premiere release of
Alfred Newman's complete recording of his Oscar-winning score:

 

Editor's Choice - Best of the Month for July 1999

 

 

 

 

THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943)

Total Time: CD 1 = 59:22; CD 2 = 45:28

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.  Music composed and conducted by Alfred Newman.  

Produced by Nick Redman and Rick Victor.  

Varese Sarabande VSD2-6025, 1999.  

Rating: **** (Superlative)

 

 

CD 1 Titles:

1.   Overture

2.   Prelude and Early Dawn

3.   The Day Begins

4.   The Vision

5.   I Saw a Lady

6.   The Betrayal

7.   Good Fortunes

8.   A Mother's Love

9.   The Grotto

10.  From Her Very Depths

11.  The Officials

12.  A Father's Promise

13.  The Reverend

14.  The Directives

15.  The Spring

CD 2 Titles:

  1.   The Miracle

  2.   Rumors of Healing

  3.   Immaculate Conception

  4.   You're Playing with Fire

  5.   Load Well Your Guns

  6.   Commission Convenes

  7.   Destiny

  8.   The Farewell

  9.   The Spring is Not For me

10.   Your Life Begins

11.   Exit Music

Bonus Tracks:

12.   Commission Convenes (Alternate)

13.   Unused Cut #1

14.   Unused Cut #2

15.   Unused Cut #3

With the possible exception of Miklos Rozsa, nobody could score a religious film better than Alfred Newman.  Just think of his scores for such films as THE ROBE and THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (named one of  1998's Top Ten best soundtrack releases).  

Now here is the one which Alfred Newman favored above all his others, and for which he received his first Oscar for a dramatic score.  He still holds the record for most Oscars with nine to his credit, although most of them are for film musical adaptations.

THE SONG OF BERNADETTE was one of the most succesful 20th Century Fox films of the early 1940's, taking in 5 million dollars.  To signal the prestige of this high-minded film, there were full page ads in national magazines, including a beautiful drawing by the great American illustator, Norman Rockwell.  For the original reserved seat roadshow release in 1943, an Overture was composed by Alfred Newman. That Overture (track 1, 6:48) is now available for the first time in complete form.  In 1973, legendary conductor Charles Gerhardt only recorded part of this Overture on the RCA Classic Film Score Series, Captain from Castille: The Classic Film Music of Alfred Newman.  

Newman's heartfelt music sensitively accompanies the story of Bernadette Soubirous (who actually died in 1879), a poor young girl who sees a vision of the Virgin Mary (or "beautiful lady") in a grotto. The story takes place in 1858  in southern France.

After several tracks which set the scenes for the beginning of another day (tracks 2 and 3), then comes the cue that sets the stage for the whole film, "The Vision" (track 4, 4:15).  This is probably the best known theme from the entire score and justly deserves its fame.  In his notes to the Gerhardt recording, Page Cook explained it quite succinctly when he wrote that "the cue for the music was to be found in the little gusts of wind, the rustling rosebush, the tiny disturbances of nature that accompanied the vision - all of this to grow into a swelling climax as the audience sees the vision."  The use of high strings and wordless chorus lends a most impressive spiritual intensity to "The Vision," which Royal Brown wrote years ago sounded similar to the Sibelius Fifth Symphony.  Among other memorable cues on CD 1 are those for "The Grotto" (track 9) and "The Spring" (track 15) with chorus singing Sancta Maria.

As for CD 2, there is more of the same beautiful music, with two versions of "Commission Convenes" (tracks 6 and 12).  Unfortunately, there is no explanation where the three unusued cues at the end of CD 2 were to be used in the film, if it is known at all. 

For their age, these mono recordings conducted by Alfred Newman sound surprisingly good.  This score was only the second one to be issued on 78 RPM records (about 24 minutes on 4 records).   The first film music release was Rozsa's THE JUNGLE BOOK, which included dialogue.  

This new 2-CD release of THE SONG OF BERNADETTE is far superior, as Jon Burlingame states in his excellent notes: "complete, unexpurgated and precisely as it was first recorded by the finest conductor in the history of Hollywood.  Rarely has music so memorably illuminated the power of faith."
To that truthful statement, I can only add -- Amen.

One of the most inspiring films ever produced in Hollywood and Alfred Newman's greatest film score masterpiece.  

This CD release is a must for any film music fan of the Golden Age.

Highest recommendation. 

-- Roger Hall, July 1999    

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (2 CD Set)

 

 

 

Alfred Newman Conducts His Classic Motion Picture Scores

 

 

 

DVD and Book

 

The Song of Bernadette

DVD: THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (20th Century Fox)

The Song of Bernadette

(Novel by Franz Werfel, translationby by Ludwig Lewisohn)

 

 

 

100 Essential Film Scores

 

Alfred Newman was one of Hollywood's most talented and respected film composers from the past.

On the Essential Film Scores survey he is third on the list of most film scores with 8 of them.

THE SONG OF BERNADETTE is No. 40 on the list of

100 Essential Film Scores
of the 20th Century

 

 

 


 

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