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Monday, November 27, 2006

CD REVIEW - Random Harvest/The Yearling

Random Harvest/The Yearling
Music by Herbert Stothart
Film Score monthly Vol.9 No.13 (U.S.)
31 Tracks 78:31 mins

Herbert Stothart was one of the pioneers of original film composition in Hollywood, his distinctive combination of original scoring and adaptations of source tunes and songs gracing many a prestigious production in the '30s and '40s, including Camille, Mrs. Miniver, Queen Christina, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Three Musketeers and Northwest Passage. Two of my favourites, for the post-World War I drama Random Harvest, and the pioneering Florida-set The Yearling, are represented on this disc. Unfortunately, due to age and circumstances, neither one can be presented complete, and some may question to the sense of releasing two incomplete scores such as these, but the fact is, what remains is well worthy of release and this disc will be particularly pleasing to fans of the Hollywood Golden Age sound.
As previously mentioned, Stothart's work was generally a combination of original scoring and adaptation, but so skilful was he at it, that the music flows seemlessly from one to the other.
In the case of 1942's Random Harvest, the sensitive story of a British officer suffering from amnesia, Stothart wrote a fine love theme and provided suitable sympathetic scoring, but also adapted the wedding hymn "O Perfect Love" and included fragments of popular songs of the time and provided source cues as well. The 8 cues included here are a mix of all of these, and there are also a further 3 bonus cues at the end of the disc, including a music hall number. This mix of original and source music may not suit everyone, but your patience will be rewarded with some gorgeous scoring at times and the closing "Finale" is nothing short of glorious.
1946's The Yearling, an early Gregory Peck starrer, is a sentimental favourite, largely concerning a boy's transition to manhood through adversity. As one disaster follows another, Stothart perfectly captures the mood, with some poignant and downright tragic moments, but also some uplifting and lighthearted moments along the way, with the climax quite joyous. The score is largely based on Delius' Appalachia, and the Americana-styled main theme from this gets plenty of welcome workouts. It's a great score to an equally great film.
Both scores are presented in stereo and Random Harvest sounds especially good for its age. The Yearling didn't fare as well over the years, but is still more than acceptable. As always, the disc is accompanied by a splendidly illustrated booklet, with extensive notes and cue-by-cue guide by Marilee Bradford.
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