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    The Line on Harline

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    When you wish upon a star tomorrow, remember that the melody of the classic song of that name ringing through your head courtesy of Walt Disney’s magnificent Pinocchio (1940) came from the pen of the long-time composer Leigh Harline (1907-1969), and would be most appropriate, as the prolific Harline died on that date 47 years ago. His remarkable body of work throughout Hollywood’s golden age spread across many genres and studios, starting with Disney animated shorts in the 1930s, leading to his two Academy Awards® (with collaborators Ned Washington and Paul J. Smith) for the Original Score and Original Song When You Wish upon a Star from Pinocchio. Many great RKO films of the 1940s bore the Harline imprint (the playful scores for the 1947 duo of The Farmer’s Daughter and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer being particular favorites, whereas noir partisans might favor the bristling dramatic urgency of They Live by Night, The Big Steal and 1951's His Kind of Woman). George Pal fans treasure his charming work on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao in the 1960s. Harline was also part of the talented composer bench at Twentieth Century-Fox during the 1950s CinemaScope era (where Alfred Newman, Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, Victor Young, Hugo Friedhofer and other greats held forth) and three particular films showcase his versatility as a valued utility player on projects large and small. Broken Lance (1954, directed by Edward Dmytryk) is a blood-and-thunder, Shakespearean-themed Western about a family at odds led by Spencer Tracy as a divisive, power-consolidating patriarch. A propulsive, magnum-impact crime thriller exotically set in recovering postwar Japan, director Samuel Fuller’s House of Bamboo (1955) offers stunning work by Harline that impressed TT’s Julie Kirgo, who appreciatively wrote: “Just listen to the film’s Asian-flavored opening cascade of ferociously descending strings, or to the dizzyingly romantic love theme, so beautiful that the Fox music department’s magisterial head, Alfred Newman, went out of his way to include it in his own titanic Oscar®-winning score for [the same year’s] Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.” To put The Wayward Bus (1957, directed by Victor Vicas and based on a John Steinbeck novel) on its wheels, Harline offers a musical roadbed both rambunctious and yearning to mirror the dreams and disillusionments of its motley crew of passengers seeking to escape the shabby circumstances of their broken lives on a California coastal journey marked by stormy weather and untidy personal revelations. These movies have top-drawer casts – Broken Lance co-stars Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Robert Wagner and Katy Jurado; House of Bamboo stars Robert Ryan, Robert Stack, Shirley Yamaguchi and Cameron Mitchell; and Joan Collins, Jayne Mansfield, Dan Dailey and Rick Jason are aboard The Wayward Bus – and are stunningly showcased on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-rays. Today is the final day these three potent examples of Harline’s work (each features an Isolated Score Track) are available at special reduced prices only until 4 PM EST/1 PM PST at, where Lance and Bamboo are 50% off and Bus is 75% off. Makes no difference who you are.