September 5, 2007
Hollywood Bowl Salutes Paramount Pictures Music
Leonard Nimoy hosted; David Newman conducted-to-picture some of Hollywood's greatest scores
HOLLYWOOD—More than 13,300 movie and music fans attended Sunday night's celebration of the music of Paramount Pictures at the Hollywood Bowl.
Composer David Newman conducted the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in excerpts to 18 scores drawn from the 95-year history of the studio. Actor-director Leonard Nimoy served as host, offering notes about the films, the composers and their Oscar history throughout the evening.
As is often the case on these "Big Picture" evenings at the Bowl, the concert began with film clips, including studio-specific moments from Sunset Boulevard (1950) and a funny bit from Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's Road to Utopia (1946) and followed by a montage of nearly 150 Paramount films, all set to Alan Silvestri's suite from Forrest Gump (1994).
A seven-minute sequence from Wings (1927), the first Best Picture Oscar winner, was accompanied by Carl Davis' 1993 score. With this, as with nearly all of the suites performed, the audience was able to watch the film clips on the Bowl's three giant screens.
The first of two Franz Waxman scores, A Place in the Sun (1951), was spotlighted in about five minutes of scenes featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, to Waxman's memorable theme.
Editor Laura Gibson cut together a superb five-minute collection of scenes from The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974) while Newman and the orchestra played a suite from Nino Rota's scores for both films – the second of which won the Oscar.
Romance met comedy for the next sequence, as the orchestra played Francis Lai's piano-driven theme for Love Story (1970), then accompanied a funny bit from The Errand Boy (1961) in which Jerry Lewis pantomimed to the Frank Foster-Count Basie tune "Blues in Hoss' Flat."
The highlight of the first half of the concert was also a first: The opening 10 minutes of John Williams' score for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), synchronized precisely to the film. It turned out that this was not easy to accomplish, as many music edits had been made between the original recording date and the final version of the film.
Newman combed through the original score to track down the changes and then ordered all new musicians' parts to be created. Even Williams, who has done a number of live-to-picture concerts in recent years, has never done this sequence from Raiders. Newman and company performed superbly, and the crowd clearly loved it.
Act I closed with "Summer Nights" from Grease (1978), with the original vocal tracks by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John accompanied by the live orchestra.
Act II opened with a stunt, as the orchestra played Lalo Schifrin's Mission: Impossible (1966) while stuntmen rappelled down from the top of the bowl and lit a massive fuse on stage.
Nimoy, who acknowledged his role as Paris on two seasons of Mission: Impossible, was pleased to announce the next segment – as he said, "Another transfer from small-screen to big, and another one I happen to know a little something about: Star Trek."
The clips consisted of a montage of scenes from the big-screen films, while the orchestra played the opening of Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek: First Contact (1996) which segued into music from this summer's Paramount sci-fi film Transformers, by Steve Jablonsky.
James Horner's Oscar-winning music from Titanic (1997) was played (to the famous "I'm the king of the world" moment with Leonardo diCaprio), along with two rousing sequences from Elmer Bernstein's True Grit (1969), including one in which John Wayne and Robert Duvall face off and the finale with Wayne and Kim Darby.
Another second-act highlight was the performance of a seven-minute suite of highlights from Goldsmith's Chinatown, only the second time this music has ever been performed live (the first was Newman's Disney Hall concert in 2005). True to Goldsmith's original conception, the suite featured four pianos, four harps, a single trumpet, strings and percussion. It was accompanied by a montage of clips from the 1974 classic as well as fascinating shots of the unusual ensemble.
Audrey Hepburn sang "Moon River" in a clip from Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), followed by an arrangement of Henry Mancini's Oscar-winning score. The last five minutes of Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard was then screened, with Waxman's classic score taking center stage, including his demented tango as Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) descends the staircase for the last time.
Another popular Paramount musical, last year's Dreamgirls, served as the finale, with the orchestra accompanying a clip of Jennifer Holiday's performance of "And I Am Telling You That I'm Not Going."
The encore was an audience singalong of Irving Berlin's enduring "White Christmas" from the 1954 film starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. (As Nimoy noted, it had been 108 degrees earlier in the day; and revisiting this holiday classic while fake snow drifted over the Bowl audience seemed momentarily refreshing.)
Conspicuously absent from the evening were many other classic Paramount scores, from Miklós Rózsa's Double Indemnity and Bernard Herrmann's Psycho to any number of Victor Young scores including For Whom the Bell Tolls and Shane. There was also no mention of the songs of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, whose tunes like "Mona Lisa," "Silver Bells" and "Que Sera, Sera" were an indelible part of the studio's musical history. But Newman and the orchestra performed superbly throughout the evening, and nobody left disappointed.