“Ya vas lyublyu. What’s it mean?”*

by chuckofish

Last Saturday night the OM and I were home watching the baseball game on the telly. During the commercials I was clicking back and forth to The Great Escape (1963) on TCM. During segments with Steve McQueen we watched for extended periods–we were losing the game–and we saw quite a bit of this really good movie which I have probably seen a million times.


This time I noticed how really terrific the music by Elmer Bernstein is–and not just the famous theme music–but the incidental music, which, we all know, can make or break a film.

The music is quite reminiscent of Bernstein’s score to The Magnificent Seven (1960). In fact most of his scores are reminiscent of each other and that is okay. There are repeated themes and his orchestrations are similar. I mean, watch To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and you will see what I mean. His music was clearly influenced by Aaron Copland who encouraged him in his early musical studies. This also is a good thing.

Bernstein was nominated fourteen times for an Academy Award, but only won once for the mediocre Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). What a travesty! But by now we are used to such things. His scores for The Magnificent Seven and To Kill a Mockingbird were ranked by the American Film Institute as the eighth and seventeenth greatest American film scores of all time, respectively, on the list of AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores**. But some of his lesser known scores from lesser know movies are favorites of mine: The World of Henry Orient (1964) foremost among them.

Anyway, Elmer Bernstein deserves to be up there in the pantheon of best all-time film composers: Alfred Newman, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, Jerome Moross, Maurice Jarre, Miklos Rozsa…

What is your favorite movie score by Elmer Bernstein? Discuss among yourselves.

*Sedgwick in “The Great Escape”

**This list is so flawed! I mean they have a film score as #1 that is totally derivative (and intentionally so)–please!