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January 2, 2004
Soundtracks 101
Caps caps 2003 with list of all-time great film scores
by Phil Grayson
Film Comment Magazine The November-December issue of Film Comment magazine features a lengthy article by John Caps entitled "Soundtracks 101 – Essential Movie Music: A Listener's Guide."

Caps, one of the nation's best writers on the subject, offers a brief history of film music and a rundown of 101 great scores from American and British films. But as he also admits: "The choice of 101 is representative rather than exhaustive. Omissions are inevitable. But at least it can be said that all of the scores herein contribute something memorable, something personal, to their films."

The nineteen pages devoted to the piece are probably the most that the magazine has ever devoted to the subject.

The list is fascinating and mostly unassailable, although as with any such list, the writer's personal quirks and biases are apparent. Predictably, one-fourth of the list is occupied by the six giants of the Golden Age (Steiner, Waxman, Korngold, Newman, Rozsa, Herrmann). Yet he also champions some of the great but seemingly forgotten figures of the recent past: Laurence Rosenthal, Richard Rodney Bennett, Dave Grusin, David Shire, Basil Poledouris. He seems to have little use for the currently in-vogue names (Elfman, Zimmer, Howard). And a few entries seem completely out of left field (Queen of Hearts? Waking Life?). Still, Caps backs up his strongly held views with facts and foundations.

One odd thing about the article, though probably not Caps' fault: At the end of each listing is an italicized note about the commercial availability of the music. These notations are erratic, inconsistent, even downright strange – possibly added by clueless editors (a giveaway is the mention of a "researcher" at the conclusion of the article, always a bad sign and usually damaging to the author of the piece).

Laura is the most bizarre example; the notation claims it is not available, yet a color photograph of the 1993 Fox/Arista album is printed on the same page. Of Mice and Men and On the Waterfront are similarly labeled "not available," and while that is true of the original soundtrack recordings, the famous suites from those scores certainly are available in re-recorded form. (Many of the discs cited elsewhere in the piece are in fact re-recordings, not original soundtracks.)

What is outrageous is the inclusion of photos of three unauthorized, illegal bootleg recordings, the most obvious of which is the Tsunami CD of Madame Bovary. And what's weirder, the notation at the end of the Bovary discussion is "not available" – though every Rozsaphile is familiar with the original Bovary music on the Miklos Rozsa at MGM collection.

But these wacky errors should not be laid at the feet of Caps, whose writing is always sharp and thoughtful even if one disagrees with his conclusions. We urge you to seek out the magazine ($4.95, at most newsstands) and read Caps' entire piece. In the meantime, here is his list of 101 "movie score milestones, 1933-2001":

1. King Kong (1933, Max Steiner)
2. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, Franz Waxman)
3. The Informer (1935, Steiner)
4. Things to Come (1936, Arthur Bliss)
5. The Prince and the Pauper (1937, Erich Wolfgang Korngold)
6. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, Korngold)
7. Gone With the Wind (1939, Steiner)
8. Son of Frankenstein (1939, Frank Skinner)
9. Of Mice and Men (1939, Aaron Copland)
10. The Sea Hawk (1940, Korngold)
11. Rebecca (1940, Waxman)
12. How Green Was My Valley (1941, Alfred Newman)
13. First of the Few (1942, William Walton)
14. The Jungle Book (1942, Miklos Rozsa)
15. All That Money Can Buy (1942, Bernard Herrmann)
16. The Song of Bernadette (1943, Newman)
17. The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944, Steiner)
18. Laura (1944, David Raksin)
19. Double Indemnity (1944, Rozsa)
20. Henry V (1945, Walton)
21. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, Hugo Friedhofer)
22. Captain From Castile (1947, Newman)
23. Forever Amber (1947, Raksin)
24. Green Dolphin Street (1948, Bronislau Kaper)
25. Odd Man Out (1947, William Alwyn)
26. Johnny Belinda (1948, Steiner)
27. Louisiana Story (1948, Virgil Thomson)
28. Oliver Twist (1948, Arnold Bax)
29. Scott of the Antarctic (1948, Ralph Vaughan Williams)
30. Madame Bovary (1949, Rozsa)
31. The Red Pony (1949, Copland)
32. Sunset Boulevard (1950, Waxman)
33. Night and the City (1950, Waxman)
34. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951, Alex North)
35. Death of a Salesman (1951, North)
36. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, Herrmann)
37. High Noon (1952, Dimitri Tiomkin)
38. Viva Zapata (1952, North)
39. On Dangerous Ground (1952, Herrmann)
40. On the Waterfront (1954, Leonard Bernstein)
41. The Cobweb (1955, Leonard Rosenman)
42. The Man With the Golden Arm (1955, Elmer Bernstein)
43. Rebel Without a Cause (1955, Rosenman)
44. Around the World in 80 Days (1956, Victor Young)
45. Auntie Mame (1958, Kaper)
46. Bell, Book and Candle (1958, George Duning)
47. The Big Country (1958, Jerome Moross)
48. Vertigo (1958, Herrmann)
49. Ben-Hur (1959, Rozsa)
50. The Magnificent Seven (1960, E. Bernstein)
51. Psycho (1960, Herrmann)
52. Lawrence of Arabia (1962, Maurice Jarre)
53. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, E. Bernstein)
54. The Miracle Worker (1962, Laurence Rosenthal)
55. Taras Bulba (1962, Waxman)
56. The Cardinal (1963, Moross)
57. Tom Jones (1963, John Addison)
58. A Shot in the Dark (1964, Henry Mancini)
59. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1964, Ernest Gold)
60. Goldfinger (1964, John Barry)
61. A Patch of Blue (1965, Jerry Goldsmith)
62. Cool Hand Luke (1966, Lalo Schifrin)
63. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966, Ennio Morricone)
64. In Cold Blood (1967, Quincy Jones)
65. Far From the Madding Crowd (1967, Richard Rodney Bennett)
66. Two for the Road (1967, Mancini)
67. Wait Until Dark (1967, Mancini)
68. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968, Dave Grusin)
69. Planet of the Apes (1968, Goldsmith)
70. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968, Michel Legrand)
71. The Reivers (1969, John Williams)
72. The Wild Bunch (1969, Jerry Fielding)
73. The Last Valley (1971, Barry)
74. Lady Caroline Lamb (1972, Bennett)
75. The Three Musketeers (1973, Legrand)
76. Chinatown (1974, Goldsmith)
77. The Conversation (1974, David Shire)
78. Jaws (1975, John Williams)
79. The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976, Rosenthal)
80. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976, Addison)
81. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Williams)
82. Islands in the Stream (1977, Goldsmith)
83. The Stunt Man (1978, Dominic Frontiere)
84. Tess (1979, Philippe Sarde)
85. Altered States (1980, John Corigliano)
86. Gloria (1980, Bill Conti)
87. My Bodyguard (1980, Grusin)
88. Wolfen (1981, James Horner)
89. Conan the Barbarian (1982, Basil Poledouris)
90. E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial (1982, Williams)
91. Return to Oz (1985, Shire)
92. The Mission (1986, Morricone)
93. Batman (1989, Danny Elfman)
94. Queen of Hearts (1989, Michael Convertino)
95. The Grifters (1990, E. Bernstein)
96. Basic Instinct (1992, Goldsmith)
97. Bed and Breakfast (1992, Shire)
98. Much Ado About Nothing (1993, Patrick Doyle)
99. Angela's Ashes (1999, Williams)
100. The Horse Whisperer (1999, Thomas Newman)
101. Waking Life (2001, Glover Gill)

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