GEORGES DELERUE OFFICIAL
THE GEORGES DELERUE MUSEUM
OFFICIAL WEBSITE ANNEXE
HE LEFT HIS MARK ON A WHOLE GENERATION OF COMPOSERS.
HIS UNIQUE, UNFORGETTABLE WORKS HAVE TRAVELLED
TO THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE WORLD…
“One strange wild dark long year, Hallowe'en came early. One year Hallowe'en came on October 24, three hours after midnight. At that time, James Nightshade of 97 Oak Street was thirteen years, eleven months, twenty-three days old. Next door, William Halloway was thirteen years, eleven months and twenty-four days old. Both touched toward fourteen, it almost trembled in their hands. And that was the October week when they grew up overnight, and were never so young any more.” The above concludes the prologue which the great Ray Bradbury wrote for his novel Something wicked this way comes. In his title you can appreciate the tribute to Shakespeare, from whom Bradbury borrowed this verse:
"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes", frets one of the witches in Macbeth. As dusk was falling on the 20th century, a postface would give Bradbury the opportunity to shed new light on the genesis of his "dark carnival" horror-fantasy. He revealed how much the story owed to his childhood fears, his panic-reactions to travelling circuses and clowns, and the shock he'd experienced at the age of twelve when he encountered Mr. Electrico, a circus-magician who saw the young Bradbury as the reincarnation of a comrade killed in the Great War. Bradbury often repeated that the experience made him run home and begin writing... The trauma inspired an unfinished novella, The Black Ferris, which in 1957 Bradbury turned into a screenplay he offered to Gene Kelly as director/producer.
The star of An American in Paris wanted to explore new areas, but the darkness of the plot caused the majors to shy away: with no backing, the project came to nothing. As exorcism for his disappointment, Bradbury returned the script to its literary origins and it became a novel; hence Something wicked this way comes, which was published in 1962. Nevertheless, the idea of an adaptation for the cinema continued to haunt him: he made several attempts in the course of the Seventies (Spielberg's name was raised), before Disney showed interest at the beginning of the next decade. With Card Walker at the helm, the company famous for its rodent was seeking a more adult audience, with productions like Watchers in the Wood or, obviously, Tron, whose technology caused earth-tremors. After thirty years of a constant to and fro movement between literature and film, the curse which had prevented Bradbury's dark circus from coming to life onscreen seemed, at long last, to be over. In actual fact, it continued, but differently.
There was a hiatus before filming finally began, after director Jack Clayton stepped in at the suggestion of Ray Bradbury. The distinguished British filmmaker had excellent references in fantasy The Innocents, Our Mother’s House but after the collapse of The Magnificent Gatsby he was crossing a wide desert of purgatory until Disney called him. On the surface, the subject matter of Something wicked see med made-to-measure for Clayton: a dark, gothic story behind which a tale of initiation lay hidden: how would two boys in their pre-teens learn to thwart the lies and illusions of Evil? And how would they lose their innocence along the way? How, finally, would the father of one of them, a drab, grey old man, reveal his heroic soul and, in so doing, grow closer to his son?
The filming began in September 1981, with Jason Robards as Charles Halloway and Jonathan Pryce as Mister Dark, the disturbing circus-owner (Bradbury saw Christopher Lee or Peter O’Toole in the role). But the principal character in the film might well be Green Town, the small Illinois township entirely (and sumptuously) erected at the studios. After the initial editing at the end of March 1982, Clayton contacted his old accomplice Georges Delerue, who was then living between Paris and Los Angeles. Their friendship, sealed by The Pumpkin Eater and Our Mother’s House, hadn't had another chance to bloom for twelve years, and the lengthy pause had multiplied the composer's enthusiasm tenfold.
All the more since Something wicked crystallized a certain number of his ambitions: to write a score of tormented lyricism, with unlimited resources, for a legendary production-studio; and to return to fantasy, a genre he'd already explored with Harry Kumel's Malpertuis, and a vein which generally allows escape into a more contemporary musical language. In a nutshell, Delerue, filled with Clayton's trust, was galvanized into action, and he saw Something wicked as an opportunity to bring closer together his work for the screen and his concert-pieces.
His idea was to instil a malaise that would develop from realist music: you can appreciate how the barrel-organ waltzes seem to go off the rails and become dissonant, the better to unfurl as broad swathes of anxiety close to the supernatural. Take the piece in three for the barrel-organ, for example: it brings Track 13 (Mr Dark’s Carnival) to a close, and benefits from an orchestral reprise (at 1’50) over a slow, near-processional tempo with a baleful sheen. Delerue composed thirty-five minutes of music in merely two weeks, a tour de force. He was consumed by an extraordinary creative fever, and also carried by the feeling that he owed Something wicked a score which rivalled the heights of Police Python 357 or Quelque part, quelqu’un, two other masterpieces of modernity. On May 26th 1982, after the pre-mixing, Jack Clayton testified his gratitude to the composer in a letter which, in retrospect, is quite moving: "I just wanted to tell you how absolutely delighted I am with the truly beautiful, sensitive and exciting music you gave me for Something wicked this way comes. Now that I have heard it with the full picture, it seems more than a miracle that you should have been able to compose such a magnificent score in so short a time." But, as the title of an old Bogart/Mark Robson film says: the harder they fall.
First reactions to the test-screenings were hardly positive. For one thing, the aspects which interested Clayton the most—the suggestion of menace, the autumn atmosphere of a Middle West township, the human relationships between characters, and the Halloways in particular, both father and son escaped preview-audiences completely. Worse, Clayton was criticized for filming Something wicked with the same elegant classicism which The Innocents had shown two decades earlier: the very qualities for which Clayton had been chosen seemed to turn against him. With Tron in the news, Clayton's aesthetic was judged to be outdated, if not anachronistic. The film's reception brusquely revealed an immense misunderstanding between the filmmaker's intentions and the expectations of Disney.
The result was that the studio took over. Release was delayed; the editing was resumed from scratch; and above all, the studio brought in Lee Dyer, the effects animation supervisor of Tron, who injected Something wicked with two hundred special effects: the implicit had to become explicit, and underlying fears had to be more visible with a more spectacular orientation.
Logically, Delerue's work had to pay for this thorough overhaul: a gulf opened up below the composer's feet when he learned he'd been replaced by the young James Horner.
Delerue's disillusionment, his wounds even, were as great as the ambition he'd slipped into his work: "I saw it as an injustice," he willingly admitted, "because it was probably the most ambitious, most impertinent score I wrote in America." To put things in perspective, you have to remember that film-history is studded with great original soundtracks which were refused: Alex North's 2001, Henry Mancini's Frenzy, Michel Legrand's score for Robin and Marian… Composers took risks and tried to leave conformism aside in turning to a radical language. They weren't understood by the Hollywood industry, which generally preferred automatic pilots and readymade formulas.
The original score for Something wicked this way comes didn't escape the rule: it paid the price for its overflowing audacity. Delerue was on the point of moving to Los Angeles, and the experience tested him: he felt like a new student who'd been treated to a violent ragging.
Fortunately, other adventures quickly came along to attenuate the bitter taste left by Something wicked. Like a boy in a toyshop, Delerue greedily went from one director to another, working with filmmakers as different as Bruce Beresford, Herbert Ross, Peter Yates or Norman Jewison, whose films allowed American audiences to discover the firepower in Delerue's music. The composer would see a new score turned down, however of minor consequence this time- and paradoxically he was now working alongside a filmmaker with whom he was already on good terms: Mike Nichols. They had shared three previous experiences: Day of the Dolphin, Silkwood and Biloxi Blues.
The German-born Nichols had invited Delerue to write the music for Regarding Henry, which was a tale of redemption after period of much inner searching: in the film, a merciless, notorious trial-attorney is shot in the head during a robbery; he survives as an amnesiac vegetable, and must learn how to function normally again, undergoing a long re-education both physical and moral before recovering intelligence and feeling… "A dramatic experience," emphasizes Nichols, "is an opportunity to take stock, and realize the importance of certain fundamental realities." Moved by the propos of the film, Delerue wrote a beautiful score whose inspiration was prudently neo-Romantic, and which was dominated by a theme in the form of a portrait, like the slow movement in a concerto for violin and orchestra.
The solo violin was obviously the voice of Henry, the voice of his true personality and of the humanity which was finally revealed after Henry's rebirth. Suzana Peric’, a friend of Georges Delerue who was music supervisor for Regarding Henry, has precise memories of his method (and the fate reserved for his music): "He didn't question the amount of music in a film, he just wanted to create.
The themes poured from him, gracing the film with deeper meaning than was on the surface. The music became another character of the film, not just underscore. That is where the doubts started: is the music too prominent? We screened the film with the entire score placed in its designated scenes and the doubts turned into rejection. It was a very difficult and sad moment for all. It was a case of an abundance of riches. Too much of a good thing doesn't always have a happy ending." Mike Nichols sent Delerue an affectionate and repentant letter of excuse, saying he had pointed the composer in the wrong direction, like a filmmaker misleading an actor.
He particularly regretted the fact that the music made the Henry character—seen as antipathetic by the spectator too human, too quickly. But Nichols still promised they'd get together again, both professionally and as good friends. The countdown had begun, however; the composer's death eleven months later madeRegarding Henry a kind of halftone epilogue to their collaboration.
Twenty years later, the providential discovery of the master-tapes containing the music from Henry sowed the seeds for the concept of this album which presents, side by side, two original soundtracks by Georges Delerue which were discarded in the final cuts of the films for which they were intended. The concept was a way to make sure the music continued to exist, and the present album reveals the works in their full dimension as material which is still very much alive: the music of Something wicked this way comes was preserved by Delerue on little quarter-inch, 19cm/s tapes.
Thanks must go to Walt Disney Studios for their permission to exceptionally release the dark diamond which originally accompanied Something wicked this way comes, a score which has long been considered to be the composer's unknown masterpiece. A single hearing brings back disturbing memories of candy-floss, dark, evil spells, and sleepless nights haunted by fabulous thunderstorms. It is as though the Delerue score was directly bound to this autobiographical line from Ray Bradbury: "Even today a part of me is still perched on that ghastly carousel (...) when I was four. It seems he never found the emergency exit."
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