WESTSIDE / VALLEY : Lights! Cameras! Music! : Exhibit at the Hollywood Bowl Museum takes a look at development of the sounds behind films since the early days of motion pictures

Ladies and gentlemen, now appearing at the Hollywood Bowl Museum: “Basic Instinct”?

You bet, says museum director/curator Carol Merrill-Mirsky. The museum’s current exhibit is titled “Music in Films: The Sound Behind the Image,” and material from veteran Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the Sharon Stone suspense movie is among the displays.

“I had gotten the idea for the exhibit when I was working on our ‘Exiles in Paradise’ exhibit, about emigre artists, in 1991,” she explains. “I realized there were enough film composers among them to merit an exhibit of their own. But I didn’t want to do only emigre composers--I wanted to bring it up to the present day. Jerry Goldsmith is a wonderful composer.”

Such an exhibit is particularly suited to the museum because, Merrill-Mirsky adds, “the Hollywood Bowl has a long, rich tradition of performing film music--including this summer, with (Hollywood Bowl Orchestra musical director), John Mauceri, John Williams and Henry Mancini. We looked through programs since the Bowl opened in 1921, and we found that some famous film composers, particularly Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Miklos Rozsa, had their non-film pieces performed here all the time. And Max Steiner, who composed ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘King Kong,’ conducted concerts of serious music, like Tchaikovsky.”


The main part of the exhibit, which began last month and runs through next April 1, features display units covering nine types of films: silents, drama, epic/adventure, fantasy/science fiction, Westerns, mystery/suspense, comedy, animation and musicals. A 10th unit focuses on female composers. Each unit contains composers’ photographs and biographies, correspondence, scores, musical sketches, cue sheets, parts, album covers, sheet music, film stills and posters.

Steiner’s 1933 “King Kong” is the earliest film spotlighted. Among the more than 30 other films are Franz Waxman’s “Sunset Boulevard,” Korngold’s “The Sea Hawk,” Rozsa’s “Ben Hur,” Aaron Copland’s “The Red Pony,” Elmer Bernstein’s “The Magnificent Seven,” Lalo Schifrin’s “Dirty Harry,” Harold Arlen’s “The Wizard of Oz,” Nacio Herb Brown’s “Singin’ in the Rain,” Cole Porter’s “High Society,” Maurice Jarre’s “Doctor Zhivago,” Williams’ “Star Wars,” Scott Bradley’s animated “Tom and Jerry at the Hollywood Bowl,” Danny Elfman’s “Beetlejuice” and John Barry’s “Dances With Wolves.”

Merrill-Mirsky gathered the material from local archives and libraries, particularly those at UCLA, USC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as from film studios and in the case of living composers, from the artists themselves. She was aided by composer David Raksin, the president of the Society for the Preservation of Film Music, whose score from “Laura” is part of the exhibit, and by Jon Burlingame, a Burbank journalist who is on the society’s board of trustees and who wrote the exhibit texts and compiled composers’ biographies.

“We have some fabulous stuff,” she says. “We have the original master score from ‘Fantasia.’ In the film, you see Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra (in silhouette), but some weren’t real musicians--they were dummies. We have photos of them. We also have the original string parts for the shower scene in Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Psycho,’ and the original sketch by Mancini for ‘The Pink Panther.’ John Addison, who wrote ‘Tom Jones,’ sent us three cues, with detailed notes of what was going on in those cues.”



Another exhibit component details the process of film scoring, with a pictorial record of composer Bruce Broughton at work on the score for a new Walt Disney Pictures-Amblin Entertainment animated short feature, “Trail Mix-Up.” Photographs show Broughton, a six-time Emmy Award-winner and 1985 Oscar nominee for “Silverado,” with the director “spotting” the film, to determine where music should be added, looking at timing sheets with the music editor, and composing at the computer in his home studio.

Other shots include the orchestrator and copyists, the scoring session itself and the mixing. There is also a display of cue sheets, sketches, the score and a video monitor that plays a portion of the film, first without music and then with it.

“I think the fact that this is being done at the Hollywood Bowl will give you an idea of how important film music is,” says Broughton, whose latest feature, “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” is scheduled to be released in August. “It’s the one medium of a film that you can take out of context and enjoy again. You can’t do that with scenes or makeup jobs--which is not to discredit those things, but you can’t.

“People are so unsophisticated about scoring, though,” he adds. “Someone actually said to me that he thought the conductor waves his arms and that’s how the music is created. So I hope the exhibit will put you in touch with what the people do, the musicians and everyone else.”

The exhibit also presents audio excerpts of music from five films, and from several videos, among them one of Raksin giving a detailed demonstration on his scoring of the cartoon “Hoofloose and Fancy Free,” two CNN short documentaries on John Barry and Michael Kamen, who scored “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” and a “20/20" interview with John Williams.

“Having David saying, ‘Let me tell you how I did it,’ makes the whole process come alive,” Merrill-Mirsky says. “Watching a film becomes a whole different experience.”

For his part, Van Nuys resident Raksin says he believes that the exhibit will not only surprise the casual film viewer, who does not realize there is more to a score than meets the ear, but for the more informed filmgoer, it will help personalize the men and women behind the melodies.


“I get requests for autographs and letters all the time,” he says. “The amount of curiosity concerning our work is amazing. There are fan clubs and magazines. People write to me about scores I didn’t think they ever knew. I once got a letter from a lawyer in Sao Paulo, Brazil, who was a film aficionado.”

Raksin, whose exhibit contributions include versions of his song “Laura” published in several languages, will be participating in one of two public discussions to be held at the museum later this year in conjunction with the exhibit. The evenings feature composers, arrangers, music editors, engineers and studio musicians. (Postponed from July 19 and Aug. 9, as previously announced, new dates have not yet been scheduled.)*


The Hollywood Bowl Museum, 2301 N. Highland Ave., is open every Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, concert nights only, from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Shorter hours after Bowl season ends. Admission is free. Call (213) 850-2058.