This past weekend, the American Film Institute announced their
picks for the Top 25 Film Scores. As part of the “100 Years, 100
Movies” celebration, the best scores were picked from a list of 250
nominees, and the top 25 were announced at the Hollywood Bowl during a
live concert dedicated to the countdown.
The jury consisted of over 500 leaders of the creative community,
including composers, musicians, film artists, critics, and
historians. By looking at the list of the 250 nominees, it’s
clear that the focus was on American films, but as a result,
many foreign film scores that one would expect to be up for
consideration were missing. (As an example, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was not on the list.)
Conductor John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra – consisting
of many Hollywood Studio Symphony session players – started off the
evening with the “Star Spangled Banner”. Then, a video montage of
clips from over 150 movies was shown, edited amazingly well to the
overture from How the West Was Won (Alfred Newman).
Mauceri then explained that they would be going through the list of the
Top 25 Film Scores (which no one in the audience knew in advance), and
play music from them as they went. It turns out that #25 was
indeed, How the West Was Won.
From there, the list was played out, with Mauceri dropping hints and
clues before the orchestra would reveal the piece. As there was a
lot of music to go through, they couldn’t play full pieces of every
score, so for many of them, just the main theme was played, with the
title of the film and the composer’s credit being shown projected on
They did, however, play scenes from certain films, with dialogue and
sound effects. Notable segments included the scene where Jesus
gives water to Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur (Miklos Rozsa), the scarecrow/clothing theft/hunt scene from Planet of the Apes (Jerry Goldsmith), and the finale from Sunset Boulevard (Franz Waxman). The technical problem with this approach was made clear with Jaws and Star Wars (John Williams), because the sound effects would overpower the
orchestra, leaving us with very little music making its way to our ears.
Aside from the occasional problem of being unable to actually hear
the music, it was a very well done concert, and the performances were
quite good. As with any “Best of” list, not everyone can be
satisfied. Some popular choices were missing, and others raised
some eyebrows. But I think that most people can agree that it’s amost people seemed
to be pleased with the outcome.