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PRINCE VALIANT: Composer: Franz Waxman
Orchestrations: Edward Powell – Film Score Monthly vol. 2, no. 3, TT: ??.??, 20 tracks (stereo)

*****
Waxman

(Absolute Tops)

Producer: Nick Redman, Lukas Kendall Performed: 20th Century Fox Orchestra Conductor: Franz

by Ross Care The 1950s were a great period for Franz Waxman (1906-1967). The composer won two Oscars for his scores for Sunset Boulevard and A Place in the Sun, and created a body of classic scores for a variety of films, among them The Furies, Elephant Walk, The Silver Chalice, The Nun’s Story, and Sayonara. In between music for these generally high-toned literary adaptations came a stirring and jovial score for a film version of a different kind of literature, for 20th Century Fox’s Prince Valiant, a 1954 epic swashbuckler based on the popular ‘50s comic strip. However, Fox expended the same attention to quality to Valiant that it lavished on its all-star film version of another less than high-toned literary property, the lurid best-seller, Peyton Place (which also produced one of Waxman’s great ‘50s scores). If you can get by star Robert Wagner’s ridiculous pageboy wig and wooden readings of lines such as (to Princess Aleta/Janet Leigh) “Oh, forget it,” Prince Valiant is a rousing and romantic action saga with an engrossing overlap of subplots and enough visual beauty and splendid medieval pageantry to fill every foot of the then-new CinemaScope wide screen. Add to all this Waxman’s equally splendid score and you have a film which (on DVD) is still great fun today. Prince Valiant is one of my personal favorite scores and it’s great to have the original Fox soundtrack still available in Film Score Monthly’s wonderful 1999 original soundtrack release. Waxman’s score is based on a series of stirringly lyrical motifs for the various characters, and I see the film as one of the (many) influences, both cinematic and musical, on the later Star Wars. Indeed the Main Title in which Val’s heroic theme is immediately followed by the lyrical love theme for Princess Aleta is almost of blue print for the Star Wars Main Title. Valiant’s Darth Vader is the Black Knight, the devious Sir Brack, with his throbbingly menacing theme (though we hear none of Holst’s “Mars” here), and

2 though we also have no light sabers there is a singing sword with which Val vanquishes the evil Brack in the film’s athletic climax. FSM’s CD presents all of the film’s profuse music in mostly chronological order. The film’s first half hour is almost completely underscored with some of the most thrilling music in the film, including a kind of prologue (“King Aguar’s Escape”) in which the plot is set in motion. This is also the basis for one of Fox’s characteristic CinemaScope “travelogue” introductions, in this case a series of wide-screen vistas of coastal Britain against Waxman’s atmospheric music. Unfortunately one of the most substantial (8.25) cues from this section suffers from tape deterioration and is placed with the bonus section. This cue (“The Pledge”/et al) features an idyllic pastoral transformation of Val’s theme for flute and strings as he rows into the Fens, and the first statement of the frightening Black Knight music as Brack passes by hidden in his black armor. Waxman created some of the most haunting melodies in classic film music, and an interesting sidelight to the Valiant score is that his Princess Aleta theme was so lyrical that lyrics (by Ken Darby) were added and it was published as a song, “I Do,” though it is not sung in the film. In glorious Fox stereo Waxman’s Prince Valiant is one of FSM’s most welcome and durable releases. - Ross Care