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A Paramount Package: Three Vintage Franz Waxman Scores Premiere On New Release

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Elephant Walk - Botany Bay - Stalag 17

Long before Andrew Lloyd Webber set Sunset Boulevard to music, Franz Waxman was Norma Desmond’s composer of choice, having created the score to the original Paramount picture.  But Sunset wasn’t Waxman’s only Paramount film.  Nor was it his only collaboration with legendary director and screenwriter Billy Wilder. Waxman’s scores for the studio are among his most renowned works – think of A Place in the Sun, Come Back, Little Sheba or Rear Window, to name three.  The Kritzerland label, already Waxman specialists thanks to such releases as Career, Taras Bulba and My Geisha, will soon combine three vintage Waxman-at-Paramount titles as one package.

Kritzerland has just announced the world premiere release containing Waxman’s scores to Elephant Walk (1954), Botany Bay (1953) and Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17 (1953).  None of these incredibly rare scores have been released before in any format, making this release all the more special for enthusiasts of the composer’s works.  Just six cues have survived from the Elizabeth Taylor-starring drama Elephant Walk, and all are presented in stereo sound on this new release.  On the other hand, nearly forty minutes of music – almost the entire score – has survived from the seafaring adventure Botany Bay, and these cues will be heard in mono.  From Wilder’s remarkable Stalag 17 – which starred Sunset Boulevard’s William Holden in an Oscar-winning performance – comes all of the surviving cues, in the mono sound in which they were originally recorded.

This limited edition of 1,000 units is due to ship the last week of July from Kritzerland, but pre-orders usually arrive an average of four weeks early.  Hit the jump for the label’s full press release on this essential value-for-money package, plus the complete track listing and pre-order link!

ELEPHANT WALK/BOTANY BAY/STALAG 17 – FRANZ WAXMAN AT PARAMOUNT

Franz Waxman at Paramount.  One great composer, one great studio, and an astonishing batch of scores.  If Waxman had written only Sunset Boulevard and A Place in the Sun for Paramount he would have been assured his place in the pantheon of great film composers.  But he wrote many other fantastic scores for the studio as well, including Sorry, Wrong Number, Alias Nick Beal, Rope of Sand, The Furies, Dark City, Come Back, Little Sheba, Rear Window, Career, and the three scores we’re offering on this world premiere CD release: Elephant Walk, Botany Bay, and Stalag 17.  The films are as different as can be, but Franz Waxman brings his musical genius to each.  For all three scores we present all of the surviving musical cues.

We begin our triple bill with Elephant Walk, a Paramount picture from 1954 starring Elizabeth Taylor, which featured an outstanding score by Franz Waxman.  Right from the first chords of the “Prelude,” its lush theme transporting us immediately into the world of the film, we know we are in the safe and brilliant hands of a composer at the top of his game.  What follows demonstrates Waxman’s usual adeptness at capturing mood, incident and characters, including his splendid dramatic action cue for the film’s climactic “Elephant Stampede.”  While it’s a shame that the entire score hasn’t survived, the cues presented here – in beautiful-sounding stereo – are an excellent representation of Waxman’s contribution to the film.

Next up is the 1953 Paramount film Botany Bay, starring Alan Ladd, James Mason, Patricia Medina, Cedric Hardwicke, and Murray Matheson.  Waxman’s “Prelude and Foreword” sets the tone of the film and its tale.  From there he provides a textbook on film scoring, with adventure and drama on the high seas, with heroes and villains, with drama and suspense – all with the classic Waxman sound.  Happily, the majority of the score cues have survived for Botany Bay – close to forty minutes of music, all in crisp, clear mono sound.

Stalag 17, the last of our Waxman triple bill, began life as a stage play. In 1953, it was brought to the screen by Paramount Pictures and director Billy Wilder. The film starred William Holden, who won an Oscar for his performance.  Stalag 17 is one of the great prisoner-of-war films, right up there with The Great Escape and The Bridge on the River Kwai, both of which came later.  For the film, Franz Waxman came up with a brief but perfect score, utilizing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” as its basis.  Otherwise, it’s percussion and brief bits of scoring that work wonderfully well in the film.  Again, Waxman’s innate approach to material and his knowing when music is necessary and when it isn’t is what made him one of the greatest film composers in the history of movies.  The main title, with its propulsive drums and treatment of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” is the perfect start to the film.  We present the surviving tracks in mono, as they were recorded.

ELEPHANT WALK/BOTANY BAY/STALAG 17 – FRANZ WAXMAN AT PARAMOUNT is limited to 1,000 copies only.  The price is $19.98, plus shipping. CD will ship the last week of July, but preorders placed at Kritzerland usually ship one to five weeks early with an average of four weeks.

ELEPHANT WALK/BOTANY BAY/STALAG 17 – FRANZ WAXMAN AT PARAMOUNT (Kritzerland, 2013)

  1. Elephant Walk Prelude (*)
  2. Tea Montage
  3. An Angry Ruth (*)
  4. The Necklace (Part II) (*)
  5. Fighting Cholera (*)
  6. Elephant Stampede (*)
  7. Botany Bay Prelude and Foreword/The King’s Convicts
  8. Cat with Nine Lashes/Start of Voyage
  9. Cold Love
  10. Plague
  11. New Escape Plot
  12. Attempted Murder/Futile Escape
  13. Keel Treatment (Muffled Drums)
  14. Montage
  15. Arrival at New South Wales
  16. Captain Gilbert’s New Plan
  17. Native Plans/The Plot Fails/The Penalty
  18. Love and Victory
  19. Stalag 17 Main Title (Film Version)
  20. Treachery and Reverence
  21. Brick Kremlins/The Commandant’s Visit/The General’s Phone Call
  22. When Johnny Comes Marching Home
  23. End Title
  24. Stalag 17 Main Title (Bonus Track)

Tracks 1-6 from Elephant Walk
Tracks 7-18 from Botany Bay
Tracks 19-24 from Stalag 17

(*) contains “Many Dreams Ago” by Franz Waxman and Mack David

Written by Joe Marchese

June 6, 2013 at 12:27

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