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    Polka Dot Raksin

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Like several maestros who would ascend to the top rank of film composers, David Raksin (1912-2004), born this day 104 years go, put in several years as an apprentice arranger, orchestrator and conductor, often uncredited and behind the scenes (see Charles Chaplin’s 1936 Modern Times, 1939’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and Stanley and Livingstone, for examples). Once he took center stage as the creator of landmark scores for some of Hollywood’s greatest and most elegantly crafted films – Laura (1944), Forever Amber (1947, an Oscar nominee), Carrie, Pat and Mike and The Bad and the Beautiful (all 1952) and Separate Tables (1958, another Oscar® nominee), among many others – there would be no more “toiling in obscurity” for Raksin, whose output spilled into the areas of animated cartoons for UPA and such fondly remembered TV projects as the Ben Casey series and the powerful The Day After (1983). Just prior to his breakthrough on Laura, one of those last “uncredited” contributions put the final period – or shall we say, dot – on the final sequence of the splendiferous Busby Berkleley-directed musical extravaganza The Gang’s All Here (1943). Following Alice Faye’s bubbly rendition of the Harry Warren/Leo Robin song The Polka Dot Polka, Raksin’s The Polka Dot Ballet underscored a dizzily Technicolored five-minute scene of swirling motion and kaleidoscopic camerawork full of circles floating by on screen like neon musical notes and proved to be a crazy-quilt capper to a movie already stuffed with show-stopping audiovisual stimuli. Its sinuous melody offers hints of the boldly lush and provocative power Raksin would bring to the scores that would soon follow, one or two of which may emerge in the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray future. Read more on Raksin’s large legacy here – – and bliss out to the spectacle of The Gang’s All Here on TT’s delicious hi-def Blu-ray.