Korngold’s Top Five Film Scores

Captain Blood (1935)
Korngold’s fourth film score was his first consisting of his own music rather than arrangements (apart from one small interpolated Liszt item). The film, a spectacular swashbuckler, starred two almost completely unknown newcomers called Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. It was a huge success, rocketing both its stars and Korngold to fame in their new medium.

Anthony Adverse (1936)
Extending his winning Captain Blood formula of swishy late-romanticism spiced with rhythmic intricacy, Korngold produced, for this epic set in the Napoleonic era, a more introspective score including a remarkable opening sequence running for 25 continuous minutes. The score won an Oscar for Warner Brothers’ music department. 11 years later, Korngold re-used some of it in the slow movement of his Violin Concerto.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
‘Can you be in Hollywood within 10 to 12 days for scoring Robin Hood stop… cable answer’ read the telegram from Warners to Vienna. The Korngolds were therefore in California when Hitler’s army annexed Austria, a lucky foothold that enabled them subsequently to rescue the rest of their families. Korngold’s fizzing score for this latest vehicle for Flynn and De Havilland won him a second Oscar, this time personally.

The Sea Hawk (1940)
Korngold’s last score for an historical epic again starred Flynn, this time with Brenda Marshall and Dame Flora Robson. The music’s soaring imagination and colour make it probably Korngold’s ultimate achievement in the medium. The opening sequence is an unforgettable instance of his flair for conveying illustrative exoticism – perfectly suited to the sense that the cinema is a magic place – in music of uncanny immediacy and vividness.

King’s Row (1941)
A change of direction. This study of domestic life and fortunes in a turn-of-the-century midwest American town starred Anne Sheridan and one Ronald Reagan. Korngold later said in an interview: ‘I arrived in the projection room and the film was run through to the end, at which time I was sure of my entire score, time and measure for each sequence, each theme and action.’

Classic CD magazine, 1997


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