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Monday, May 01, 2006

CD REVIEW - Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Music and Lyrics by leslie Bricusse, Conducted and Supervised by John Williams
Film Score Monthly Vol. 9 No. 6
Disc 1 - 78:51 mins Disc 2 - 69:35 mins Disc 3 - 78:52 mins

For fans of musicals and this 1969 production in particular, FSM's first musical release is nothing less than a dream come true. I doubt if a musical has ever been covered in this depth before. Not only do we have the score as originally conceived on Disc One, but we have a whole second disc devoted to alternate takes and interviews with stars Peter O'Toole and Petula Clark, and a third disc featuring the original soundtrack album, plus yet more alternate takes, source cues, unused numbers and yet more interviews. All this and a huge 48-page booklet, which not only guides us through all the featured music, but also details the long, difficult process of bringing this production to the big screen.
I have seen both the original 1939 Robert Donat straight version of James Hilton's short novel about how love transforms a somewhat closed schoolmaster, and also this particular production, which features an amazingly subdued, but excellent performance by O'Toole and another likeable turn from Miss Clark, following her other musical appearance in Finian's Rainbow.
It's not a musical in the old traditions where the characters burst into song at the drop of the hat and, although some of the songs are performed in this fashion, some are used more like voiceovers and it all works rather well. Bricusse's songs may not be the greatest musical numbers ever written, but his "London is London" is patriotic and catchy; the school song "Fill the World With Love" is a fine anthem; "And the Sky Smiled" is suitably romantic; "What a Lot of Flowers" is joyous and "You and I" is an appropriately optimistic love song. Miss Clark's vocals are of course flawless, whereas O'Toole half talks his, but his delivery is quite engaging nonetheless.
The songs are arranged and orchestrated by John Williams, who also composed the incidental music, and fans of the great composer will want to check this release out for the very good reason that this is acknowledged as being the first film to be truly graced by the Williams sound that we have come to know and love through his many great scores over the years. His arrangements of the songs are spot on and full of familiar trademark touches and his incidental music, though quite sparse also reveal much familiarity and attention to detail, such as his use of ancient Greek scales in the Pompeii scenes.
All I can say in conclusion is that it has been some years since I last saw the film and experiencing this fine release has left me wanting to see it again. I'll be keeping a close eye on the TV schedules from now on.


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