Adapted and Original Glory
It’s hard to imagine the impact of such movies as East of Eden, The Cobweb, Rebel Without a Cause (all 1955), Hell Is for Heroes (1962), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings (1978), Making Love (1982), Cross Creek (1983) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) without their terrifically supportive and emotionally attuned musical scores by classically trained composer Leonard Rosenman (1924-2008), born 93 years ago today. It’s also a head-scratcher that this influential melodist, who in his formative years studied with Roger Sessions and Arnold Schoenberg with the initial aim of pursuing avant-garde concert music, would win two Academy Awards® not for his own compositions but for showcasing the work of others in the category of Best Original Song Score or Adaptation Score. His first was for Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975), a feast of classical composer orchestrations befitting a breathtakingly executed 18th-century period piece; this was in Roseman’s wheelhouse. But his next gig that secured him Oscar® gold the following year – an adaptation of the Depression-era autobiography and attendant songbook of folk balladeer Woody Guthrie – took him out of his comfort zone. David Carradine would play Guthrie and perform his iconic songs for director Hal Ashby’s impressionistic vision of the activist performer’s spirit and impact in America’s Ozark and Dust Bowl heartlands. In a Cinemascore Archives conversation with Wolfgang Breyer, Rosenman asserted: “Bound for Glory (1976) was even more complex, because it involved music that I had had no experience in at all. Pop music from the thirties, folk music, but at the same time the score was rather interesting and different. The score had nothing to do with the songs whatsoever, except one or two themes. They had to do with the drama of the picture, with the relationships….” Notes for an expanded, limited-edition 2012 soundtrack that recovered from the studio vault and presented 20 additional minutes of the film’s orchestral content beyond that of the previously available 1976 original soundtrack album offer the following description: “Rosenman’s own dramatic voice comes to the fore primarily in climactic moments such as the arrival of the dust storm, where he creates a ‘layered’ effect with threatening orchestral gestures struggling against solo harmonica, and Running for the Train. Conversely, he enhances more intimate, emotional scenes with sensitive arrangements of Guthrie songs, such as the heartbreaking setting for guitar and strings of So Long It’s Been Good to Know Yuh that plays as Woody says goodbye to his family and heads for California (reprised with even greater poignancy later in the film when Mary [Melinda Dillon] takes their kids and goes back to Texas), or the hushed setting of Curly Headed Baby that reflects Woody’s love for Mary as he writes her a letter.” Rosenman recalled: “Now it’s interesting because I couldn’t get a nomination for the Oscar® on the grounds that this was an original score, because there were 40 songs in the film! Despite the fact that there were 40 minutes of original music in that film! So I got the adaptation nomination and I got the Oscar® for it, which is kind of funny because most of it was really original.” Twilight Time’s hi-def Blu-ray offers the best of both worlds: a 1080p rendition of Haskell Wexler’s awesome Oscar®-winning cinematography and, on an Isolated Music Track, birthday honoree Rosenman’s own creative response to the Guthrie legacy.