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    Birthday Medley

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Three formidable figures in the music and film scoring worlds share today as a birthday, and the voluminous variety they represent augur an occasion for triumphant classical fanfares, scintillating jazz riffs as well as sensuous, low-down blues wails. Composer/saxophone legend Gerry Mulligan (1929-1996), who would have turned 88, is renowned as a charter member of the post-World War II “West Coast Jazz” movement, and he and fellow musicians Art Farmer (trumpet), Shelley Manne (drums), Frank Rosolino (trombone), Red Mitchell (bass) and Pete Jolly (piano) played an essential element in the enduring impact and popularity of director Robert Wise’s nerve-twisting biopic I Want to Live! (1958), which tells the true story of alleged murderess Barbara Graham’s (Academy Award® winner Susan Hayward) fight to stave off execution in California’s gas chamber. Their soundtrack (and brief on-screen appearance) renditions of Johnny Mandel’s insinuating score and a simultaneous separate album release of Mulligan’s Jazz Combo performances of Mandel’s themes were instrumental in spawning a new wave of jazz in subsequent movie soundtracks. An aficionado of Mulligan’s jazz work and indeed an even greater force in the world of movie music, born on the same day as Mulligan, is the monumentally talented André Previn, turning 88 today, who would employ Mulligan among the players of his score for The Subterraneans (1960). A prodigious icon bridging the classical, operatic and movie music spheres, Previn helps power Norman Jewison’s chillingly prophetic tale of futuristic corporatocracy and dehumanization, Rollerball (1975), with an eerily powerful amalgamation of classic pieces by Albinoni, Bach, Shastakovich and Tchaikovsky and original futureworld themes with electronic influences like Glass Sculpture and Executive Party. That he is a master of musical score adaptation is evidenced by his four Academy Awards® for Gigi (1958), Porgy and Bess (1959), Irma la Douce (1963) and My Fair Lady (1964). For writer/director Billy Wilder, he concocted scores of bounce and brilliance for One, Two, Three (1961, with a tip of the hat to Aram Khachaturyan), Irma la Douce (1963, synthesizing Marguerite Monnot’s London/Broadway melodies with such loving care that the absence of sung lyrics is not felt), Kiss Me, Stupid (1964, giving new life to unpublished George and Ira Gershwin trunk songs) and The Fortune Cookie (1966), whose alternately sly and bluesy themes also provide room for the ruefully elegant undertow of Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To. The third member of our birthday trio enjoys a similar long-standing collaboration with an honored director. Scotsman Patrick Doyle, turning 64 today, has produced a phenomenal, wide-ranging body of music for dozens of films across the past 30 years, but he’s best-known for his majestic teamwork with Kenneth Branagh, which covers six marvelous Shakespeare adaptations, plus the non-Bardian Dead Again, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Sleuth, Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Cinderella. His compositions can be heard in theaters now in A United Kingdom, this summer in the animated The Emoji Movie and at Thanksgiving in the Branagh-helmed remake of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. He’s also been the go-to gentleman for other filmizations of literary classics (A Little Princess and Great Expectations, to name two), including screenwriter (and close Doyle friend and Branagh film veteran) Emma Thompson and director Ang Lee’s exquisite Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility (1995). His Oscar®-nominated score lovingly evokes the pitch-perfect moods of gentility, pomposity and romantic longing in this blissful dramatization of Austen’s 19th-century comedy of manners, and includes two period-precise original songs, Weep You No More Sad Fountains (with lyrics from a poem by John Dowland and sung in the film by Kate Winslet) and The Dreame (using words from a Ben Jonson poem and sung by acclaimed soprano Jane Eaglen). All the work – and stunning variety – of birthday honorees Mulligan, Previn and Doyle can be savored via the Isolated Music/Music & Effects Tracks on the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-rays of The Fortune Cookie (coming April 18), I Want to Live!, Rollerball and Sense and Sensibility.