This year the category was split into Best Original And Best Adaptation Scores, but I’ve bunched them together:
Official Nominations: Tom Jones. Cleopatra. 55 Days At Peking. How The West Was Won. It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Irma La Douce. A New Kind Of Love. Bye Bye Birdie. The Sword In The Stone. Sundays And Cybele.
Tom Jones: A light and suitably fluffy suite of music which mimics the lighthearted antics on screen. The slower, more poignant pieces are the most enjoyable, but there isn’t any memorable theme which you’ll recall after the film is over, surprising then that this picked up the official win.
Cleopatra: Alex North gets another nomination (he totalled 15 without a win) for the epic, his soundtrack features, as you would expect, a lot of Eastern instrumentation, sweeping string sections, all giving an evocative whole. Again, the main theme isn’t overly memorable, but a variety of the single pieces are emotive without managing to stay in the memory.
55 Days At Peking: Similarly epic to Cleopatra, Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for 55 Days At Peking is more immediate and punchy, less lavish, more energetic. An odd mixture of Eastern sounds, Old Western themes, and military marches, it’s a difficult score to swallow in one piece, but rewarding nevertheless. It is again let down though by lacking a memorable theme, though ‘Moon Fire’ comes close.
How The West Was Won: Tiomkin passed duties on this one to Alfred Newman, and it is regarded as one of Newman’s best. A rousing score, another epic, this one is more grounded in classic, robust American sounds – it’s a Western soundtrack at heart – big and bold. Finally we get a memorable main theme!
It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World: Ernst Gold creates a madcap score, a main theme which has a few memorable moments. if anything it’s evocative of a massive circus, with clowns and trapeze artists flying and falling. Some of the individual character themes are strong too, with Captain Culpeper’s being particularly memorable.
Irma La Douce: Andre Previn picked up a win for his adapted score of the French musical. The central piano theme is quite nice, but the rest of the soundtrack is forgettable.
A New Kind Of Love: Erroll Garner and Leith Stevens create a jazzy, snoozy score for the romance, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before – typical smokey bar mellow, smooth jazz.
Bye Bye Birdie: Johnny Green and Charles Strousse adapt Strousse’s stage music to the screen, giving a lighter, less raunchy tone. Notable for a number of songs, the incidental music simply mimics these and not a lot more.
The Sword In The Stone: Hardly the most fondly remembered Disney animation from a musical perspective, The Sword In The Stone nevertheless carries some weight. Sherman’s fun songs merged with the music of Bruns make an oft-forgotten, yet still enchanting score.
Sundays And Cybele: Maurice Jarre’s score is a mostly soft one, again there isn’t anything too powerful, but it’s a subtle approach to the slightly uneasy, and hurting tragic events on screen.
My Winner: How The West Was Won. The Sword In The Stone.
My Nominations: The Pink Panther. The Great Escape.
For my list of nominations I’ve cut way back on the chaff and only selected the two best examples of soundtrack for the year, two entries which coincidentally were shockingly omitted (or in the case of The Pink Panther held back until the next year’s Awards). Henry Mancini’s theme for The Pink Panther is one of the most iconic pieces of movie music – simply by hearing the first 2 (or 4) notes you know what it is, and where it is from. The rest of the soundtrack is equally strong, giving a cosmopolitan air of crime capers, jazzy notes, and sultry tones. Equally, Elmer Bernstein’s theme for The Great Escape is just as iconic, acting as both a rallying cry, and a two finger salute. The theme appears frequently in other movies and shows, and sports events, taking on a life of its own. The rest of the soundtrack too features stellar work, with bombastic pieces of hope, and a selection more poignant, slower pieces.
My Winner: The Great Escape.
Disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments and poll below!