Ramona is probably best known for the romantic waltz-song, also called Ramona, by Mabel Wayne, that was published in conjunction with the film (and used in a remake in 1936); and indeed that is one reason I have been interested in the project. I have acquired several versions of the "Ramona" music, including a sort of fantasia version by Ferdie Grofe (the composer of the still-sometimes-performed Grand Canyon Suite), and a big band dance arrangement. It was a very popular song.
The Library of Congress has some original music from Ramona, attributed to Hugo Riesenfeld. Though he usually lived in New York, Riesenfeld was brought to L.A. to create a score for Ramona and conduct it. According to Hugh Neeley's research:
My daughter Molly, who happens to be in Boston, was able to get a copy of the LoC material for me (direct from microfilm to PDF) from the Harvard Music Library. The material available is quite fragmentary -- it's 32 pages of music, mostly a hand-written score reduction for piano and/or conducting.The film was premiered at the United Artists Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Its LA premiere took place on March 28. The LA Times advertisement for that day (and for later days) mentions that music at the United Artists Theatre is under "Personal Direction - Hugo Riesenfeld," and promises "Superb Symphonic Accompaniment."
The March 30 LA Times review does not comment on music except to mention "A short prologue of musical numbers and of the Indians' dance." Interestingly, the New York premiere did not happen until some almost seven weeks later, on May 14.
The first 15 pages of the score are for the "prologue" mentioned above. After 6 pages of orchestral overture, there's a cue to "press button: curtain." Then there's music for the live dancing. Some of the music is indicated to be for "stage quartet," presumably musicians on the stage. In keeping with the "mission" era theme of the film, there are lots of chimes.
Then there's a cue "press button for screen," a fanfare in the brass, and the film starts. For the first time the music isn't handwritten: three pages of a piece called "Poesia Pastorale" by C.G. Rossi is inserted, a note says it should be played "Through titles." Then we get an original composition for the opening scene, which is labeled "Cue 15." The remainder of the score is mostly missing: there are pages for cues 15-17, 22-25, 42-46. It ends at a cue "She hits Ramona," which is not quite half way through the film. Several of the cues in the music are for scenes that do not survive in the print (Alessandro building a bed, Alessandro playing violin) and slashes drawn through them on the manuscript indicate that these scenes may have been cut early in the run, maybe even before the premiere.
What is particularly interesting to me is that the Mabel Wayne "Ramona" song shows up nowhere. Riesenfeld has obviously composed a different waltz theme for the film, and that shows up frequently. This raises the issue -- should I use Wayne's song at all? In my opinion, the Riesenfeld waltz theme is not particularly inspiring, but I'll try both out and see how they work.
The opening of Ramona at the Tivoli in New York, starting May 14, was reviewed in Variety (Thanks again to Hugh Neeley):
It looks to me as though this is a completely different score from the Riesenfeld L.A. score, consisting "almost entirely" of the Ramona waltz song. And I'm not wild about scoring an entire film with one song; the danger (as with Seventh Heaven) is that by the end audiences will be pleading for mercy.Importance of the song in helping the picture is pronounced. It is scored almost entirely by this melody. At the Rivoli a phonograph device broadcasts the tune to passersby. It is the first case of a picture having a song of familiar title break in advance.
The song is just getting into its full stride as the film goes after its quota. That's not an accidental break, but a smart showmanly stunt worked out by Inspiration.
Ramona will make money.
I have re-transcribed three of the themes from the prologue that look as though they'll be useful in the overall score. Based on the presence of his "Ramona" theme in the prologue and in the surviving fragments of the score, it's a reasonable guess that the other material in the prologue may have been adapted from the missing parts of the score.
That's enough of a post for today! More later as I make progress.