There is probably no one anywhere who has not, at some time or another, shared rich entertainment hours with United Artists. For almost two score years, UA has been a proud name in motion pictures, both in America and everythere in the world. Around its symbol have clustered the luminaries of the movie world, names ranging from Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin, Samuel Goldwyn, who dominated its early years, to its imposing roster of stars, directors and producers, who now give lustre to its screen material.
Now UA has moved into the record field and, as its first album release, it brings you a modern musical portrait of itself. In its vast vaults of film are untold hundreds of pictures that have made audiences cheer and weep, thrill with excitement, and chill with suspense - and also sing with the songs which they introduced and made famous. Out of them all come musical mementos of eleven motion pictures, spanning twenty of the company's years. Everyone will remember the pictures and the great songs identified with them. Everyone will start up with astonishment and delight at the way in which the talents of the greatest of the movie composers come to life as interpreted, arranged, conducted and performed by an exciting new talent, United Artists Records' Musical Director, Hal Schaefer.
We start off with Molly-O, which will be remembered from The Man With The Golden Arm. Schaefer opens UA's musical profile, giving Elmer Bernstein's popular hit a new Latin flavor. He builds it and builds it till it reaches big band instrumentation, with the spotlight on the trombone, in Frank Rehack's hands, alternating with the alto, which features Gene Quill. We're off and swiging.
Moulin Rouge was a United Artists picture that will never be forgotten for many reasons, among theme The Song from Moulin Rouge. George Auric's international hit, which really started the modern trend in movie theme music. Nobody can recall ever hearing it performed before without strings. Nor in anything except 3/4 time. Schaefer has set in a funky blues frame. It takes off with a 2 beat, down home feeling, while the oboe tries to keep the melody directly stated and clear, but the French horn interrupts and the tune starts to swing, broadening out to the full range of the band. But the song is too haunting and the oboe re-emerges, restating the theme. It is a melodic last word.
The Moon Is Blue, from the saucy comedy of the same name, was written by Herschel Burke Gilbert. It won its popularity as a ballad. Schaefer brings to it a totally new approach. Some call it a bright two, but it feels like one to the bar. The melody swings along in double time, except for the release. There is a duel of the saxes, a challenging repartee, starting with a full chorus, racing through eight bars, next four, down to a two bar exchange, winding up together in a joyour finale. There is a hint of humor in the tympany accents, which set off the cascading saxophones, and almost succeeds in a pompous effort to put a percussive period to the piece. But Osie Johnson tops it with a bright blast on the drums.
The ever popular Smile comes from Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. This was long ago, before the movies and movie music became so closely identified. Schaefer was influenced by lyrics first and secondly by the melody, to express the very essence of the comedian, the smiles that radiate out of the clown's breaking heart. He sets his mood in a minor key, via the unusual bass line played by Chet Amsterdam, and soon the song develops into its own major key, so the interpreter adds another major mode to expand the song's tonality. Then it slips back, returning to its minor sound.
Bobby Troup's Daddy is from Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, and Schaefer gives it a sly, provocative interpretation. Again the oboe is there, insisting upon its statement of the theme, echoed by Gene Quill's alto, and re-echoed by the French horn. After Morty Lewis' soulful tenor solo, Schaefer plays six bars to lead the oboe into his restatement a tone higher, winning its final note against the challenge of the horns and the saxes.
For a really swinging surprise, Schaefer turns to High Noon, Dimitri Tiomkin's Academy Award winning composition. No more the Western guitar, no memories of horses' hooves, galloping rhythmically through the beautiful refrain. The great outdoors wasn't even out, let alone far out, for Hal's modern concept. It not only swings, hard and fast, it orbits into a sequence of pure extemporaneous improvisations, featuring his own piano.
Side Two opens in a different mood completely. From Around the World in 80 Days, the lovely Victor Young song, Around The World, Schaefer confesses that his first feelings for the haunting waltz-tempo song were ambivalent. So he embraced both, the result: a tone poem, expanded to almost a six-minute version. At first, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet. All the brass muted. The song broods, melancholy, almost elegiac. The piano, suddenly, interrupts with a new tone. The mutes are gone, full-throated saxes replace the clarinets, and the song is off and swinging. The beat is very definitely in four, and the orchestra opens out reaching for something that keeps soaring until, over it all, a new tonality crashes to a climax. A haunting aftermath comes as the tone poem returns to its first feeling and color.
From Alexander the Great, comes The World Is Mine, by the Italian composer, Mario Nascimbene. To the historical Alexander being a conqueror, it probably would have meant the physical world, but not to Schaefer. The world, which he might imagine his, is filled with fun, with happy feeling, with joys to be enjoyed, expressed as a singing, swinging treatment that runs up and down the full range of the keyboard, with the piccolo shimmering, and down below, the bass clarinet.
From Limelight came the haunting Terry's Theme, world-famous as a waltz. Hal felt it in a 4/4 swinging tempo. There is delight in the duet between the oboe and bassoon. The big band development lifts the song up like a shining cymbal.
Return to Paradise, from the picture of the same name is another Dimitri Tiomkin composition which goes through a metamorphosis that is amazing. When Schaefer thinks about Paradise, it is no South Sea Bali Hai. It's a swinging place, with a joyful sound and a solid beat. The arrangement says so in unmistakable terms, exciting and bright. There is a Latin flavor, and a trumpet-alto duet featuring Nick Travis and Gene Quill, with its final flourish in rich thirds.
The album ends with Irving Gordon's The Kentuckian Song, from The Kentuckian, a backwoodsy melody redolent of the American frontier. Schaefer underlines the Western flavor with Temple blocks, and, as though to make up for the waltzes that he turned into swinging 4-beat sides, he sets the background to a triple rhythm playing it against the foreground song, which stays with the 4/4 beat. Schaefer plays a piano solo in his own familiar style. Like all the movies that helped them come into being, there comes the fade-out of the song; and for the Showcase of Great Songs From United Artists Pictures - the end.
Record Editor - N.E.A. Services, Inc.