Saturday, July 28, 2018

“Wilma’s Theme,” from The Best Years of Our Lives (1946); with Andre Previn on the Piano, Arranged by a Young “Johnny” Williams (Yes, that John Williams!); and the Story Behind the Music


Wilma Cameron (Cathy O’Donnell), the girl next door, who has always loved Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

The hauntingly beautiful West German model, Dagmar, who posed for Previn’s album cover

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

This piece of music was composed by Aaron Copland, as a theme in the 1937 ballet, Billy the Kid, expressing the stepped-up pace of town life.

Hugo Friedhofer worked it—much slowed down—into his beautiful score for what I consider the greatest picture ever made, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), to express the romantic passion and domestic longings of Wilma Cameron (Cathy O’Donnell), the girl next door, who has always loved Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), who came back from the war with no hands, and no self-respect.

Friedhofer also used the music as an homage to Copland, whom director Willi Wyler had sought to engage to compose the picture’s score. Homages to Copland, who revolutionized movie music, would abound in the years to come, especially by his student, Elmer Bernstein (e.g. Bernstein’s score to To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) contains no fewer than two such homages).

Copland had been too busy with prior commitments to score BYOL. And thank God for that!

In a pivotal scene late in the picture, in which Homer seeks to convince Wilma not to marry him, Friedhofer takes over the scene, pitting Homer’s dark theme against Wilma’s passionate theme. Wilma’s theme overwhelms Homer’s theme, conquering Homer, and assuring us that the lovers shall marry.

Over 40 years later, composer John Rubinstein worked the theme into the legendary TV series, China Beach, about a very real combination military hospital and R&R center in South Vietnam, during the war there, where the show’s creator, William Broyles, had served.

The theme was used during the show’s third season, in which episodes would alternate between the characters’ post-war life “in the world,” and the life they’ led “in country.”

Rubinstein was providing a special treat for the very few viewers who would recognize and understand the theme, which complemented the dramatic undercurrent, whereby the men and women of China Beach installation had experienced the best years of their lives in the war. Everything that followed was a disappointment.


Andre Previn - Theme from The Best Years of Our Lives
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Bruce Kennewell
Published on May 30, 2010

This track come from the 1963 Columbia LP, "Andre Previn in Hollywood". (This is a monophonic record).

There is a story relating to the cover of this LP...............

If you look closely at the first image of the cover you will see some writing in the bottom RH corner. That was added at my request by the photographer who did the cover shot of the beautiful model.

I bought this LP (imported) in 2000 and was so taken by the young lady on the front that I tracked down and then contacted the photographer, Peter, (whose name appears on the back of the cover), asking if he could autograph it and did he know who the model was. I heard from him and sent the cover off to the USA to be autographed.

When it was returned he had included a note explaining that the young lady's name was Dagmar, a model with the Eileen Ford agency (New York) in the late 1950's. He fell in love with her but his infatuation was not pursued, as she was married and she subsequently returned to Germany with her husband.

Some years later she returned to New York after separating from her husband but by that time the photographer was in an established relationship and although they worked together a few times the occasions were strained and uncomfortable. He would now be 74 years old and Dagmar would be 71 or 72.

And, as Peter said in his note to me in 2000 "I'll bet she's still a knock-out".

For the technically-minded:-

The vinyl was played on a Garrard Zero-100 tangential turntable utilising a Shure M7OBX magnetic cartridge.

The analogue signal was then input via a NAD PP3 USB Preamp to my HP Pavilion laptop running Windows XP.

The sound was recorded as a WAV file using VinylStudio and then converted to an MP3 using GoldWave editing suite.

The final MP4 file was created with VideoPad video editor before uploading to You Tube.

Other music files that I have recorded from various not-often-heard 1960's and 1970's vinyl LP's may be found here by searching for 'hcrun'.


Anonymous said...

John Williams will be baaack.
(Movienews)With the news that Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Billy Dee Williams are all returning for Star Wars 9, it has also been revealed that legendary composer John Williams will be returning with them to score the film. Williams has been with the Star Wars franchise from the beginning, earning an Academy Award for his work on 1977's A New Hope. Williams has been with the franchise ever since, even taking some time out of his busy schedule to help out with the main theme for the recently released Solo: A Star Wars Story.

John Williams spoke about a possible return for Star Wars 9 earlier this year, but was unsure if he would be taking on the project officially at the time. However, Lucasfilm has officially announced that the Williams will indeed be back. When asked about Star Wars 9 back in March of this year, Williams noted that the last film in the new trilogy would be a good place for him to stop, noting, "It will round out a series of nine and be quite enough for me."

Nine Star Wars movies, plus the theme for Solo is an amazing task, especially considering that the franchise has been around for over 40 years now. If that wasn't enough, Williams has also made some of the most recognizable movie themes of all time. The Indiana Jones franchise, E.T., Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind are just a brief sample of his lengthy career, which started back in 1957. Williams is currently 86-years old and has way too many accolades to list, so it's safe to assume that he only picks projects that he gets excited about at this point.

The Last Jedi was an incredibly divisive film, to say the least, but John Williams' score has been praised ever since it was released. The darker tones of the movie were really complimented by the brooding score and atmospherics that Williams was able to construct around what Rian Johnson had created. There's even a special feature on the Blu-ray edition of the movie that allows Star Wars fans to watch the movie with only Williams' score to accompany it and it's an excellent experience.
GRA:Even "Star Wars" couldn't resist putting a black protaganist in the last movie.Ruined the pic.

--GR Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Dagmar looks like DagWOOD (Bumstead)now.Except for Sophia Loren,I don't recall many European beauties retaining that beauty into their 70s.Anita Eckberg,Brigitte Bardot,Catherine Deneuve are just 3 examples of women who are unrecognizable from even 20 years ago..They once had it all,but probably partied to the extreme--and what you see today--is the result.