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0 StartHTML:0000000172 EndHTML:0000009737 StartFragment:0000003660 EndFragment:0000009701 SourceURL:file:///HD-01/Users/rjedwards/Documents/CIMARRONRv.doc CIMARRON : Composer: Franz WAXMAN Orchestrations: Leonid Raab, Edward Powell – Film Score Monthly vol. 7, #11, TT: 79.37, 22 tracks (stereo) ***** (Highest Rating) Producer: Lukas Kendall Performed: MGM Studio Orchestra , Roger Wagner Chorale, Conductor: Franz Waxman by Ross Care

As Christopher Husted’s in-depth liner notes state: “Considerable hopes were pinned on MGM’s 1960 remake of Cimarron, Edna Ferber’s tale of Oklahoma settlers as seen through the lives of Yancey ‘Cimarron’ Cravat and his wife, Sabra…” These hopes were dashed when the expensive epic tanked at the box office, taking with it one of Franz Waxman’s best late scores. Cimarron was also a product of the last days of the studio system, a confused period for Hollywood, and both film and score underwent drastic re-edits and cuts that left the composer understandably angered. But I think Film Score Monthly’s recent restoration of Waxman’s excellent score would please the composer. Clocking in at nearly eighty minutes the CD reveals varied cues that range from a virile Main Title choral anthem to exciting western and moody dramatic sequences. The title song (lyrics: Paul Francis Webster) is heard in two versions, a reserved arrangement not used in the film, and the more dynamic one that is. The song (in basic AABA song form) provides much material for development throughout the score. In the opening cues the main melody (based on a simple progression of C major to e minor chords) is heard in solo harmonica (layered with piccolo), while the B (or middle section with it’s soaring modulations) is developed as a grand orchestra swell. Music theory students would do well to note the harmonies of this expansive 16 measure bridge which moves from C to E to A-flat before a thrilling return to C and its dominate G-7 chord). The film title is followed by an intimate interlude for solo trumpet and strings, the most haunting passage in the score, and one partially reprised in “Goodbye Father”. More aggressive cues such as “They Got The Kid/Billy’s Death” not only display Waxman’s modernistic style but also show how seamlessly he could fuse his more extreme techniques with lyrical, accessible melodies such as the folk-like “Cimarron” song. (While working in Hollywood the composer regularly conducted contemporary concert scores by Stravinsky, Bartok, et al). There is also a subsidiary motif that is similar to the jaunty clarinet motif

used in Waxman’s Peyton Place. And could that be a premonition of the Jaws theme at the beginning of “The Villain”? A curious trivia footnote is that the German folk-song, “Abscheid,” used briefly in the score (and first heard at the end of “Goodbye Father”) was also adapted into an early ‘50s hit, “My Heart Cries For You,” and its inclusion is a bit startling for anyone familiar with that obscure pre-rock era of American pop. Cimarron, it should also be noted, is by no means all western sound and fury. Much of the music reflects the script’s dramatic/romantic aspects with surprisingly subtle and restrained results. Listen to the expressive unison string line at the end of track one, and the bassoon duet in the middle of track 6, “Getting Ready”. Between the big moments Waxman was obviously pioneering a kind of “intimate epic” sound and one that is sometimes very sophisticated harmonically as well. But when the propulsive Wild West mode kicks in (as in “The Land Rush”) it is thrilling. This consistently fascinating restoration makes me want to see the film, though entire cues were cut and sections of many others dialed out. But if you were intrigued by the Cimarron excerpt heard on Rhino’s MGM CD compilation, The Lion’s Roar, or by the suite on the AEI Epic Motion Pictures LP, or just love the epic, wide-open sound of Hollywood’s unique brand of western Americana, FSM’s Cimarron is a must for your collection. In addition Husted’s fine liner notes provide an exhaustive monograph on Waxman and his score and indeed on every aspect of this lesser-known film.
Ross Care