Monday, July 21, 2014

Heartbreak upon Heartbreak: A Patch of Blue (1965): Jerry Goldsmith’s Main Theme, “Chores,” and the Short, Unhappy Life of Elizabeth Hartman


Jerry Goldsmith, during the mid-1960s

This was one of Jerry Goldsmith’s first scores, and it is arguably the most lyrical of all. The early Goldsmith wrote music that was not only beautiful to listen to, but worked independent of the movies they served. As Goldsmith aged, his music lost its lyricism, and became less distinguished as music independent of the movies they accompanied, and less original: Like so many composers, he began cannibalizing his earlier work. However, audiences seemed to like him more than ever, as did directors, for Goldsmith was without peer at using musical cues and timing to perfectly enhance a dramatic scene.

My hed was due to the story of A Patch of Blue, and the backstory. Elizabeth Hartman plays Selina D'Arcey, a young, white Southern woman who was blinded by her monstrous, racist prostitute-mother, Rose-Ann, who had intended to throw acid in the face of a sailor trick she’d brought home. Instead of being wracked with guilt, the mother mercilessly abuses and enslaves the daughter. Oh, and did I mention that the mother was a racist?

For her over-the-top performance, Shelley Winters won her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar in four years. And did I mention that she played a racist?

Enter a savior. Selena encounters Gordon Ralfe in the park of the unnamed city. The brilliant and morally perfect Gordon saves Selena from Rose-Ann. She falls in love with him, but this cannot be, not because Gordon is the black Sidney Poitier, but because he is too superior to fall in love with some low-IQ, white trash.


Scene from A Patch of Blue: Sidney Poitier, L, Shelley Winters, C, and Elizabeth Hartman

Please pardon my cynicism, but that’s really what’s at work in this black-and-movie, and that is likely how it was sold to a studio exec. And yet, excellent movies succeed artistically in spite of their “concepts.” Studio execs live off “concepts,” clichés that any movie can be reduced to, and yet, it’s all in the execution. What is more clichéd than the “concept” of Shane? A gunman seeking to escape his past stumbles into the middle of a range war between a cattle baron and homesteaders. And yet, for my money, it’s the greatest Western ever made, and stands sixth on my all-time list, after only The Best Years of Our Lives; The Godfather; The Godfather, Part II; Citizen Kane; and It’s a Wonderful Life.


The backstory: Patch was Elizabeth Hartman’s first movie role, and shot her straight to the top, with a Best Actress nomination, and a Golden Globe win as Most Promising Newcomer - Female. You’re a Big Boy Now, by a very young Francis Ford Coppola, got her a second nomination for Best Supporting Actress, the following year.

But then Elizabeth Hartman lost her mind to clinical depression. She worked occasionally, and married (and divorced), but was never the same again, and on June 10, 1987, at 43, ended the madness, by leaping from her apartment window in Pittsburgh. As far as I could determine, she had no children.

No wonder there are Youtube commemorations to this tragic figure.

Main Theme

Upload by eurekadoniel.


Upload by KL0098.

Experimental Mix

I can no longer find the note, but I recall the person who uploaded this as saying that this was not the way the passage plays in the movie or the album, but that she had done a mix. Though it’s 10 or 20 years since I last saw the picture, I’m guessing that the first 1:50 or so is the opening theme, and the last minute or so is the closing credits theme.


Uploaded on Dec 16, 2010 by jazzysclassicjazz.

1997 soundtrack A Patch of Blue [Intrada]

Long out of print until its revival by Intrada, this score album represents something of the quieter, more contemplative side of Goldsmith's music. Composed for a poignant 1965 film about the gentle friendship between a black man (Sidney Poitier) and a abused blind white girl (Elizabeth Hartman) and the consequences of that friendship, the score relies heavily on piano, harmonica and flute, with Goldsmith's music having a dark quietude as slow, elegant musical figures underscore the plight of the friends and the darkness of the world around them. A Patch of Blue is a lovely score that ought to be placed amongst the finest work of a fine career.

The young Elizabeth Hartman

Elizabeth Hartman - A Cinderella Named Elizabeth


Upload by jt20042.

Other Jerry Goldsmith Music at WEJB/NSU:

“Jerry Goldsmith’s Score to Kirk Douglas’ Lonely are the Brave (1962)”;

The Lilies of the Field: Jerry Goldsmith’s Classic Original Soundtrack;

Jerry Goldsmith’s Epic, Complete, Original Score to The Blue Max!;

Patton (1970);

“Capricorn One Soundtrack Suite: Jerry Goldsmith” (US, 1978);

“Jerry Goldsmith: Classic TV Themes Played by a Full Orchestra”;

The Boys from Brazil (1978): Jerry Goldsmith’s Original Score (Suite); and

Executive Decision: Jerry Goldsmith’s Score (Suite)” (1996).



Anonymous said...

Elizabeth Hartman's most notable role after "A Patch of Blue" was as Buford Pusser's wife, Pauline, in "Walking Tall." This 1973 film directed by Phil Karlson was loosely based on the real-life exploits of McNairy County, Tennessee Sheriff Pusser.

Mrs. Pusser was killed by members of the Southern Mafia who had tried to kill her husband several times.

Karlson also directed the 1955 film "The Phenix City Story." The mob featured in this film was the same bunch Pusser dealt with a decade later.

This Southern gang ran gambling, prostitution, bootlegging, drugs, etc. Unlike the Italian Mafia, they would kill public officials, specifically Albert Patterson after he became Democratic nominee for Alabama Attorney General. This was the true story Karlson's 1955 film was based on.

David In TN

Pete C said...

This is a fine post, not only with a focus on the music, but with other aspects of "A Patch of Blue" as well. About Selina's frustrated love for Gordon -- he loved her. He gave her his grandmother's music box. She was to him, in a way, his superior because she was pure-hearted -- a resonance from the original story, "be ready with bells and drums for the pure-hearted girl." He loved her so much that he did not serve himself, but served in arranging for her to get the education she needed.

In the movie, Sidney Poitier makes Gordon a real person, a man of conscience and heart. In the book, Gordon is attacked and beaten by an angry mob in the park and Selina betrays him in the shock of discovering that he is black. The change of action in the final park scene was startling but completely acceptable because of the reality of the characters.