Max Steiner's OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1934)

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bobfells

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Max Steiner's OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1934)

PostTue Nov 15, 2016 7:46 pm

I'm sure each of us has our favorite Steiner score. My favorite - because it seems to be relatively ignored - is OF HUMAN BONDAGE. Max wrote it for the 1934 RKO film starring Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. Korngold's score for the 1946 remake is reasonably well known but I've looked around through the years for similar performances of the Steiner version. There are two excerpts taken from studio acetates but these are limited to Mildred's theme behind the main credits, and Nora's theme. MIA are Phillip's theme, Sally's theme, and some terrific transitional music.

So starting with the two acetate excerpts, I lifted the other themes directly from the soundtrack. I was able to prune out the dialogue except where doing so would truncate the music. The final music I call "Sally Triumphant" but I wonder what Max called it? At any rate here is my pastiche:

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brendangcarroll

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Re: Max Steiner's OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1934)

PostThu Nov 17, 2016 1:44 am

Thanks for that Bob.

Nice score indeed and very Maxie...

I suspect the reason it has never been recorded is because all of the orchestral materials are lost. I do not think the RKO music library is in good shape but others here may know better. I am not even sure how many studio acetates are preserved in Max Steiner's own archive, kept at Utah.

Korngold's epic BONDAGE score is totally intact at USC and awaits a major recording (only a short suite by Charles Gerhardt for RCA's Classic Film Score series has been done so far, as far as I am aware).

Anyway, thanks for shining a light on this forgotten Steiner score.
"Korngold has so much talent he could give half away and still have enough left for himself..." Giacomo Puccini (1921)
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bobfells

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Re: Max Steiner's OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1934)

PostThu Nov 17, 2016 7:50 am

Brendan,

A number of film scores of the 30s have been reconstructed that my wish is that Steiner's BONDAGE is placed on that list. Maybe it is but apparently not very high. My little pastiche fills the gap for me personally. BTW, I noticed that in the closing music using Sally's theme, the last few notes echo Mildred's theme. I wonder if Max was telling us the Phillip has not been entirely freed from his "bondage" even though Mildred has died. Just a thought.

Bob
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Ray Faiola

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Re: Max Steiner's OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1934)

PostFri Nov 18, 2016 6:56 am

bobfells wrote:Brendan,

BTW, I noticed that in the closing music using Sally's theme, the last few notes echo Mildred's theme. I wonder if Max was telling us the Phillip has not been entirely freed from his "bondage" even though Mildred has died. Just a thought.

Bob


I'm sure this is no accident. As I've noted in a couple of my CD essays, Max often concluded his scores with dramatic intent or even foreshadow. His End Cast themes always reflected the resolution of a story and he did not necessarily employ the main theme of a score. In THE LIFE OF EMIL ZOLA, his End Cast features Cezanne's theme - Cezanne, who survived his lifelong friend Zola and who retained his optimistic view of life. DARK VICTORY's End Cast employs George Brent's theme as he survives to carry on his work after Bette's tragic passing. This musical philosophy was repeated by Max time and time again. So I'm sure that hint of "Mildred" was intended for dramatic inference as well as musical effect.
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