Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
rob + = email

2020 June 29 • Monday

The 628th Soundtrack of the Week is Bernard Herrmann's music for his final collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock: Marnie.

It's on red (of course) vinyl!

This was the end of the road for Hitchcock and Herrmann. While Herrmann would score Torn Curtain, Hitchcock would fire him and ditch the score for no good reason and that was it.

It seems clear to me that Hitchcock's ego couldn't handle how much of a contribution Herrmann made to his films. Hitchcock himself thought Psycho was a failure until Herrmann added music to it. It was the Promethean spark that animated the whole movie.

When Vertigo came around, Hitchcock was well aware of Herrmann's genius, even leaving at least one whole reel just for Herrmann's music.

While not as extreme a case as Psycho, Vertigo is entirely dependent on its visual and musical beauty, as well as the impressive performance by Kim Novack. The plot is probably the stupidest plot in the entire history of movies. Without music, and probably without, specifically, Bernard Herrmann's intense and luxurious soundscape, it would be hard to care about or believe in anything that happens on the screen.

But Marnie…. Well, in Marnie it just doesn't work. I watch it every few years to make sure and also because I manage to forget almost everything about it every few years.

It's a ludicrous Freudian story and frankly offensive in many ways. Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren are wasted in their unforgiving roles and even the visual quality of the images, their framing and movements and compositions, aren't up to what we expect from a Hitchcock movie.

Herrmann wrote gorgeous music for it anyway, but it's not enough. The theme for Marnie herself, which you'll hear about ten thousand times, is stirring and lovely.

There's also a tension/excitement theme, which echoes the galloping horses that are a key part of the movie.

Interestingly, since there was a lot of pressure to get a hit song attached to a movie, synergy and bigger pay days and all that, Herrmann's main theme got the Nat "King" Cole treatment.

"Moon and mist make rainbows in your hair / When I see your smile there's sunlight everywhere / But your world is lonely, Marnie / Oh, Marnie."

So that's that. The Marnie theme is one of my favorite Herrmann themes, and the score itself is many variations and arrangements of it, alternating with other passages as fits the action on screen.

But this is where it just didn't come together and it wasn't Herrmann's fault. It wouldn't have been his fault in Torn Curtain either. I think that by this point, Hitchcock had expressed everything he needed to express and no longer had the same sure footing and drive.