Bernard Herrmann, Super Genius

Written by Joe D on August 7th, 2012

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Recently a new list of the 50 greatest films ever made was complied by experts. Usurping the past favorite Citizen Kane was a newly elected film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Two undeniably great motion pictures that have something in common, both of them were scored by Bernard Herrmann! Herrmann had worked with Welles in Radio back in NYC and went to Hollywood with his Mercurey Theater compatriots.

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His first film score was Citizen Kane, his last was Taxi Driver, he died right after the Christmas Eve scoring session. The Taxi Driver score is one of the all time greats and it seemed Herrmann was heading into new uncharted waters with this score, if he had lived who knows what he would have come up with. The use of the harp and snare drum is so cool. I wonder if the snare was influenced by Gene Palma’s presence in the film, he is the Drummer Man, a fixture on midtown streets back in the 70’s, he’d call out the name of a jazz drummer “Louis Belson” and hit a representative lick.”Buddy Rich”, “Gene Krupa” one day his snare drum was stolen, he just played on a mailbox. NYC was full of characters back then.

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But here listen to Herrmann’s theme from VERTIGO.

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And here is the theme fromTAXI DRIVER.

4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Aug
    7
    11:07
    PM
    Blake Maniquis

    Hyperbole? Exaggeration?

    Not at all!

    I would agree with calling him a genius for the smashing waves of the Taxi Driver score, but then the music that wraps around Jimmy Stewart after he’s brought Kim Novak back to life, and then there’s Citizen Kane???

    Insane Super Genius.

    I remember reading a funny story about how he wouldn’t talk to Truffaut during the scoring sessions for Fahrenheit 451 - another great score - and so the editor, Thom Noble, had to scurry from Truffaut up to the podium to deliver notes to Hermann, who was NOT taking notes.

  2. Aug
    8
    1:07
    PM
    Joe D

    I saw some behind the scenes film of Truffaut and Herrmann working on the score for The Bride Wore Black. It looked pretty tense, I don’t think Truffaut liked some of the music.

  3. Oct
    1
    8:08
    PM
    Valerie Tonner

    Greetings Film Forno

    This is a most excellent blog.

    I hope that you can help me name a movie that I have conducted an exhaustive search for. It is a French film, from France, most likely circa 1980s, about an abandoned, young North African boy. Oranges are arecurring theme. He looks for his family who he has been separated from and stays with an elderly French woman for a brief spell. Oranges are a recurring theme which is why I am guessing that he is N. African. In one scene he collapses on a city street…

    Best Regards, Valerie

  4. Jan
    3
    5:58
    PM
    Jeff Duncanson

    My favorites of his scores are North By Northwest and The Ghost and Mrs Muir

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