HITCHCOCK AND HERRMANN: The Parting of the Ways

Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann (1911 – 1975) wrote the score for Citizen Kane,The Day The Earth Stood Still and Taxi Driver, among many other fine scores from the  1940s through the 1960s.

And for a decade beginning in the mid 1950s, he was Alfred Hitchcock’s musical collaborator. Herrmann has been described as Hitchcock’s musical alter ego. His music became a key component of the films.

His composing skills added so much to the romanticism of Vertigo, the thrill- a-moment, repetitive vibration in North By Northwest or the screeching strings of Psycho.

In an interview Bernard Herrmann made some interesting comments:

“His (Hitchcock) interest in music is only in relation to how the suspense can be heightened….”

“One has to create a landscape for each film, whether it be the rainy night of Psycho, or the turbulence of a picture such as Vertigo.” 

                 “Film music must supply what actors cannot say. The music can give to the audience their feelings.”

Marnie in 1964 turned out to be the last time that Hitchcock and Herrmann would work together. It was not a success and there was pressure on the director to deliver a money maker.

With Torn Curtain in 1966, Hitch wanted a commercial soundtrack, not a symphonic score. But Herrmann wrote what he thought was best for a Cold War thriller. He began recording the score and when Hitchcock heard it, he dismissed the orchestra and cancelled the remaining sessions. He also fired Herrmann.

Both men were fiercely independent and demanded perfection. Perhaps a clash was inevitable, or maybe Hitchcock , under pressure, just couldn’t accept that Herrmann had pointedly not given the director what he had asked for.

Herrmann’s  score sounds as great as any he had done before. (A video clip can be seen on DailyMotion.com)

They never resumed their creative partnership, or their friendship. Hitchcock would make only three more films – Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot.

Herrmann died, at the age of 64, soon after completing the score for Martin Scorsese ‘s Taxi Driver.

Hitchcock died in 1980, aged 79.

John Addison took over the score for Torn Curtain.

I suppose Addison’s music is more commercial, and I like it, but when you see the opening credits played with Herrmann’s prelude, it is dark and angry and wholly appropriate for the plot.

( I think Torn Curtain has one of the best opening credits I have ever seen, with shots of the characters in slow motion against a fiery red background.)







2 responses »

  1. You make me very interested to hear Herrmman’s score for Torn Curtain! I have not see not seen that film yet, but love all the films that Herrmann scored for Hitchcock. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing it better than him. That is too bad they parted ways they way they did.

  2. Torn Curtain doesn’t have a great reputation but I like it , though Julie Andrews didn’t suit the role she had.
    It is a shame that Hitchcock stopped working with Herrmann.

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