Bernard Herrmann and Vertigo (1958)

BeFunky Collage

If pressed, I would have to say that Bernard Herrmann’s score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) is my all-time favorite movie score. I’ve mentioned this a few times here on the Garden, but as I was writing next month’s Oscars-themed post, I realized when Vertigo came up (stay tuned!) that I had never actually talked about it. As in, why it is my favorite. First of all, and I’m sure I don’t even have to mention this, Bernard Herrmann was an absolute genius. He is my favorite film composer and what I love about his work is that, while most film scores complement the film, his scores feel like another character. They complement the story by being the pure embodiment of it. Vertigo, in particular, is the perfect example of this. Every motif, conflict, theme and hidden meaning is perfectly reflected in Herrmann’s haunting masterpiece. From the eerie Prelude to the ominous tones of Carlota’s Portrait to the breath-taking, bittersweet climax of Scene D’Amour, Vertigo‘s theme tells Vertigo‘s story. And its many complex layers are all there. At times, it even feels like the theme is haunted by whatever psychological troubles Scotty (James Stewart) endures throughout the film. In fact, one could argue that Vertigo‘s theme is the reflection of what goes on inside Scotty’s head. And if so, then it remains baffling that Herrmann was overlooked for an award – as was the whole film. Few music scores merge with their films so completely and so immersively the way Vertigo‘s does and Bernard Herrmann’s ability to understand and match what is arguably Hitchcock’s most complex film is a thing to behold.

FAVORITE ANGRY MAN #12: Juror 2 (John Fiedler)

c87eab7c2e04ae66e0557cfdb0eaaa78

The Old Hollywood Garden is proud to present a brand new series of posts: my top twelve favorite jurors from 12 Angry Men (1957, dir. Sidney Lumet)! Starting in January and ending in December, I will talk about each of the jurors from my 12th favorite to my number 1 favorite, one per month. What’s that? This is the wackiest idea I’ve ever had for the blog? You’re darn right. Let’s go!

12 Angry Men is one of the most universally beloved films ever made and one of the few that I personally consider to be perfect. Its simple premise – twelve jurors decide on the fate of an 18-year-old boy who is accused of murdering his father – as well as the fact that it takes place in one single room, allows for the characters to breathe, ironically, and is perhaps one of the greatest character studies ever put on film. My criteria for this list is based on personal feelings as well as the significance that I consider each character to have. This does not mean that I think any one character is objectively more important that the others; this is purely a subjective list about one of my all-time favorite movies.

Let’s kick things off with my number 12: Juror 2, played by John Fiedler. With his soft, high-pitched voice – the voice of Piglet, in fact – and harmless demeanour, Juror 2 is arguably the most unassuming of them all. He eventually finds his voice when he brings up the situation about the knife again and thus crucially makes a great point that sways the votes once more. It’s an important turning point for the film but also for his character and he, along with Juror 12 (Robert Webber), makes a case for why you shouldn’t always have to ‘go along with it’, in his own words. And that can’t be easy when you’re sitting next to Juror 3 (Lee J. Cobb) for most of the film!

Stay tuned for my number 11 next month!

SCREENPLAY BY: Frank S. Nugent

nugent.jpgHaving the screenplay of the greatest Western of all time as your magnum opus is pretty grand as it is, but to claim a further ten scripts written for John Ford is as sweet as can be.

Born in New York City in 1908, Frank S. Nugent studied journalism at Columbia University, after which he began his career as a news reporter with The New York Times in 1929. A few years later, he started writing film reviews and he became known for his witty, ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ style, his reviews subsequently gaining a lot of attention – do check them out, if you get the chance! In the early 1940s, his review of John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940) led Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck to offer him a job as a script editor. However, in 1944, he was terminted, and three years later, while working on a article about The Fugitive (1947), he met John Ford, whom he greatly admired, on the set and was hired to write Fort Apache (1948) for him. He ended up writing eleven scripts for Ford, including 3 Godfathers (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), which won him the Writers Guild of America award for Best Comedy as well as a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination, Mister Roberts (1955), for which he won his second WAG award for Comedy, and The Searchers (1956), which is widely regarded as one of the greatest screenplays of all time and indeed one of the greatest movies in cinema history. Nugent went on to serve as the President of the Writers Guild of America, West in the late 1950s and in 1965, he died from a heart attack at the age of 57.