Deutsch Film Scores

Author: 
Adrian Edwards

Deutsch Film Scores

  • (The) Maltese Falcon
  • George Washington Slept Here
  • (The) Mask of Dimitrios
  • High Sierra
  • Northern Pursuit

It was in 1937 that Adolph Deutsch was signed up by Warner Brothers on a seven-year contract to compose a series of ‘dramas of mystery, adventure and violence’ of the kind which featured such stars as Humphrey Bogart (The Maltese Falcon, High Sierra) and Errol Flynn (Northern Pursuit). The Maltese Falcon which opens this selection displays Deutsch’s pithy, spare style at its most cogent, with his eight-note theme, following the Warner fanfare, underpinning the development of all the succeeding cues; John Huston’s crime thriller, set in the Nob Hill area in San Francisco, finds a gritty counterpoint in this moody and evocative score. There’s a lighter touch in the concluding cue, ‘End Cast’, an in-house piece he composed for Warner’s music library called ‘Quasi Fox Trot’, which the Moscow Symphony Orchestra despatch in appropriate style.

The short motifs and lack of hyperbole also characterise Deutsch’s score for the one comedy in this selection, George Washington Slept Here. In this, the most overtly tuneful selection, the composer opens his score with a ritzy, swaggering Gershwin-style melody followed by references to Yankee Doodle and a mellow arrangement for strings of Heart of Oak. In the other Bogart picture, High Sierra, strong themes contrast with lyrical episodes such as the cakewalk for a dance-hall hostess which segues into a winsome, winningly scored episode of celestial sounds with high violins accompanying two solo violins (track 29). The Mask of Dimitrios, scored for large orchestra, reprises the style of The Maltese Falcon with an even more closely integrated thematic structure to underline the web of deceit left in the wake of a dead man’s mysterious life. The concluding Northern Pursuit, like George Washington Slept Here, again makes use of national music, German and British, to underline Flynn’s role as an agent thwarting a Nazi landing in Canada.

The 26-page booklet contains much fascinating material, not least that Deutsch was born in London and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Later in his career he conducted the soundtrack of three richly endowed MGM musicals, Annie Get Your Gun, The Band Wagon and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as well as arranging and conducting the background score for the late Billy Wilder’s comedy Some Like It Hot, a natural for him as a former composer-arranger for Paul Whiteman’s band. Idiomatic playing and a well-rounded recording fully justify Marco Polo’s continuing policy of bringing some of film land’s lesser known names to wider attention.

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