Friday, July 31, 2009


Melody Is to Be Employed in a Rational Fashion in Some Forthcoming Attractions

Hollywood, Cal., April 3
The cinema rarely does things half way. From the squeaky days of the audibles when music was forced into each production with or without reason, pictures overnight would not permit even the lilting warble of birds because “the public was off the song stuff.” Again the tide has turned, with music playing a discreet but important part in many of the current productions.

But harmony is used differently than it was at first. It now takes two forms – either it appears as a symphonic mood score on the sound track, separately or behind the dialogue, or in songs which form a definite part of the story and advance the plot and are spotted at reasonably correct points in the picture.

A dozen or so pictures now being made depend on music in one form or another. Other films with music are awaiting shipment to New York. Other productions are having songs or scores prepared for them.

“Instead of slowing down the story, as songs did in the early days, we are now writing tunes the words of which advance the plot or contribute in some way to the story,” Nacio Herb Brown, composer and an outstanding pioneer in screen music, declares. “At first all action stopped while somebody sang. Now, in an assignment for a song just given me, the requirement is that the words of the melody be the first indication to the audience that the girl is in love with the man. The two are dancing and the girl starts to talk, and while the audience believes she is merely repeating lines it soon finds she is singing.”

Studios like song hits in pictures. The revenue from a good popular song can equal the profit made on the picture. This was one of the impelling reasons for injecting songs in the first talkers. Today, instead of merely pausing to sing, the story is built to take in the song.

“The best method,” Mr. Brown says, “is to use a short melody that people can remember. This appears early in the picture. Then later it show up sung by a character. If possible, the tune is used again, even though in an obscure way before the final fade-out.”

This was the method he employed in Pola Negri’s picture, “A Woman Commands.” To Mr. Brown are credited the songs of “Broadway Melody,” the first singing film, “Pagan Love Song,” “Wedding of the Painted Dolls” and a half dozen other successful numbers.

The symphonic method is for a different purpose. “The Wet Parade” uses martial music and stirring tunes to arouse the emotions fo the audience during a number of sequences. “Grand Hotel” uses music from legitimate sources, but it never conflicts with the mood desired of the audience. Other Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer pictures are taking advantage of tunes.

Fox used considerable music in “Delicious.” It is using songs in “Careless Lady,” current Joan Bennett-John Boles production. A song advances the plot in “The Trial of Vivienne Ware” and Warner Baxter sings in “Amateur Daddy” with relation to the story. Paramount has made a real musical picture in “One Hour With You,” but incidental and trick music is used for laughs. “The Miracle Man” depends on music for several important moods and Universal, in its Western with Tom Mix, “Destry Rides Again,” uses music to carry the story over a long time lapse.

RKO-Radio’s “Symphony of Six Million” employs melody to great advantage during some of the most dramatic scenes. A score was prepared by Max Steiner which, at first, was to have run behind all scenes. This was found impractical, but it does background all the dramatic moments of the film. Mr. Steiner has prepared another but different type score for ‘Bird of Paradise.” This is Hawaiian music in a more modern and rapid tempo than is usually found in melodies of this type.


Occasionally a film sneaks in on the public and is a sensation. Little was said by the Fox people about “Young America,” which hasn’t what is known as a box office title. It was previewed the other evening in and Hollywood became quite enthused about it. It is Frank Borzage’s latest from the play by Fred Ballard with the screen story by William Conselman.

It is a very simple tale of two small-town boys of 13 and their inability to stay out of trouble, and it is probably as human a story as the screen will see this season.


Fox has announced a re-making of “What Price Glory?” with Spencer Tracy and Ralph Bellamy as Flagg and Quirt. They, by the way, contribute liberally to “Young America.”

The feminine lead has not yet been decided, but there is talk that Renee Adoree may play Charmaine. There is little likelihood of this, however, for while the sentimental value would be great, Hollywood is not noted for clinging too closely to sentiment.

The merry battle between Howard Hughes and the censors goes along but in a rather one-sided manner. Mr. Hughes will release “Scarface” this month. He has received the approval of the National Board of Review and with this he hopes to influence the censors in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other places that view gangster pictures with cold eyes. That the public will still accept gangster pictures is indicated by the sales report. Mr. Hughes says that bookings exceed those of “Hell’s Angels,” which also received a great deal of advance publicity.
Advance publicity does not always mean that a picture is good. In fact, more often than not the pictures fail to live up to the notices.

On the day Ann Harding and her husband, Harry Bannister, announced their intention of getting a divorce, the title of Miss Harding’s next picture was announced. It is “Just a Woman.” Her latest RKO production, “Westward Passage” was finished this week and work is now proceeding on a new story.

A survey of the production schedule for 1932-33 shows a cut in number by the major studios. Where 300 pictures were scheduled for the production year last April, but 280 are listed for the coming season. Pronounced activity which has been noted among independents may raise this number materially.

Present plans call for 60 from Paramount, 52 each from Warners and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 50 from RKO, 26 each from Columbia and Universal and 12 from United Artists. Often several productions are cut from the year’s schedules and if this happens this year it will result in considerable activity by the independents.


Juliette. said...

What a fascinating interview with Nacio Herb Brown! Thanks for his and Arthur Freed's stuff.

diane said...

It was a very fanscinating piece.
At that time no one was going to
musicals and it was interesting
how they planned to work music into
the various films mentioned. "42nd
Street" had yet to come and
revolutionise the musical.