Compose Yourself: Film Scores

A certain aspect of filmmaking is, I feel, neglected by a large number of cinephiles and avid moviegoers. Film scoring and movie soundtracks tie emotions from our inner ear to our hearts as we watch plots unwind and relationships form. I cannot pretend to have the knowledge as to why a film score functions well within a film, nor can I offer a scientific explanation. I only know what I enjoy when I see a film and I thought I would share a few of my favourite composers from the past and present.

If you follow this blog, I’m sure you’ve realized I have an undying love for Alfred Hitchcock. I’ve loved his films since I was a little girl and I will tout his directing career until my dying day. One reason why his films tend to rank highly in my list is due to the composers he worked with throughout his career.

Hitchcock’s first film in America, Rebecca (1940), was scored by a German-born composer, Franz Waxman. I know I do this at least once in every blog, but if you have not seen Rebecca, I implore you to trek over to your local video store or record this gem the next time it is on Turner Classic Movies. The storyline, based on Daphne DuMaurier’s novel, has a shroud of mystery looming over the true nature of Rebecca, a woman who never appears within the story, and her untimely death. Waxman captures the essence of the film in the “theme” of the film. I would classify this score among my top five favourites.

So many of Hitch’s fans promote the career of Bernard Herrmann because, let’s be honest, the man scored Psycho (1959)… the knife, anyone? I thought his exposure could be dimmed by mentioning someone like Waxman who scored four of Hitchcock’s films.

Another one of my favourite film scores is To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). I often name this as my favourite film of all time if I’m placed under the gun. The score is breathtaking and is a contributing factor in herding this film into my favourites list. Elmer Bernstein was nominated for an Academy Award for this particular film score. While I love his composition of The Magnificent Seven, I believe the overall scoring of To Kill a Mockingbird is stronger. Just listen as Scout discovers Boo Radley behind the door.

Sometimes I like to please the contemporary crowd (very rarely, but it happens), so my next post will focus on two current film composers in the industry. Until then, listen to the theme to The Magnificent Seven (1960). I couldn’t resist…


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