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Music in

1900 - 2000


Music in Films

Erich Korngold
1897 - 1957


Korngold's film music

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, (born May 29, 1897, Brünn, Austria-Hungary [now Brno, Czech Republic]—died November 29, 1957, Hollywood, California, U.S.), American composer of Austro-Hungarian birth, best known as one of the originators of the genre of grand film music. He was also noted for his operas, especially for Die tote Stadt (1920; “The Dead City”), which earned him an international reputation.

A child prodigy, Korngold at age 11 composed the ballet Der Schneemann (“The Snowman”), which caused a sensation at its first performance in Vienna (1910). He was still a teenager when his operas Der Ring des Polykrates (“The Ring of Polycrates”) and Violanta were produced in Munich (1916). Die tote Stadt premiered in Hamburg and Cologne, and it proved to be one of the most successful operas of the 20th century.In 1934 Korngold traveled to the United States to arrange music for the film A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), using Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music for Shakespeare’s play.


Over the next several years he traveled back and forth between the United States and Europe, producing film music for Hollywood and concert music in Europe, until the spread of Nazi influence in Austria forced the Jewish composer to settle in the United States in 1938.

Korngold’s background in opera revolutionized cinematic music. He debuted new techniques such as matching the rhythms of his compositions to the rhythms of spoken words, often using pitches close to those of the actor’s voice. He also made frequent use of leitmotifs, devising musical themes for various characters and concepts. Richard Wagner had popularized such techniques in opera, and Korngold was the first to apply them to film. For the film Anthony Adverse (1936), the head of the studio music department, Leo Forbstein, received an Academy Award for best music scoring, though Korngold actually composed the music. In 1938 Korngold himself received an Oscar for the score of The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Apart from his film scores, he wrote much absolute (i.e., nonprogram) music, including his Violin Concerto (1937, rev. 1945), which borrows themes from several of his film scores and became one of the most frequently performed of all 20th-century concerti. In 1975 Die tote Stadt was successfully revived in New York City, and the opera was produced for German television in 1983.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold - "Classic Film Scores"
The Sea Hawk
Of Human Bondage
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Kings Row
The Constant Nymph
Captain Blood
Anthony Adverse
Between Two Worlds
Escape Me Never
Charles Gerhardt--Conductor
National Philharmonic Orchestra, 1972

1935 A Midsummer Night's Dream 

1935 Captain Blood

1936 Anthony Adverse 

1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood 

1939 Juarez

1939 The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
1940The Sea Hawk 

1941 The Sea Wolf

1942 Kings Row
1943 The Constant Nymph
1944 Between Two Worlds
1946 Devotion
1946 Of Human Bondage
1946 Deception



A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a 1935 American romance fantasy film of William Shakespeare's play, directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, and starring James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland, Jean Muir, Joe E. Brown, Dick Powell, Ross Alexander, Anita Louise, Victor Jory and Ian Hunter. Produced by Henry Blanke and Hal B. Wallis for Warner Brothers, and adapted by Charles Kenyon and Mary C. McCall Jr. from Reinhardt's Hollywood Bowl production of the previous year, the film is about the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors, who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the story is set. The play, which is categorized as a comedy, is one of Shakespeare's most popular works for the stage and is widely performed across the world. Felix Mendelssohn's music was extensively used, as re-orchestrated by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The ballet sequences featuring the fairies were choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold -  A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Music to the Film by Max Reinhardt

Celina Lindsley, soprano
Michelle Breedt, mezzo-soprano
Scot Weir, tenor
Michael Burt, bass

Rundfunkchor Berlin
Deutsches SymphonieOrchester Berlin
Gerd Albrecht, conductor

A Midsummer Night's Dream 1935 Official Trailer 


Captain Blood

Captain Blood is a 1935 American black-and-white swashbuckling pirate film from First National Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, produced by Harry Joe Brown and Gordon Hollingshead (with Hal B. Wallis as executive producer), directed by Michael Curtiz, that stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Ross Alexander.

The film is based on the 1922 novel Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini, with a screenplay by Casey Robinson, and concerns an enslaved doctor and his fellow prisoners who escape their cruel island imprisonment and become pirates in the West Indies. An earlier 1924 silent film version of Captain Blood starred J. Warren Kerrigan as Peter Blood, the physician-turned-pirate in this Vitagraph production.

Warner Bros. Pictures took a serious risk in pairing two relatively unknown performers in the lead roles. Flynn's performance made him a major Hollywood star and established him as the natural successor to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and a "symbol of an unvanquished man" during the Depression. Captain Blood also established de Havilland, in just her fourth screen appearance, as a major star and was the first of eight films co-starring Flynn and de Havilland; in 1938 the two would be re-united with Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The same year, Basil Rathbone also starred with Flynn in The Dawn Patrol (1938).

Captain Blood - 1935

Captain Blood - Soundtrack Suite - Erich Wolfgang Korngold


Anthony Adverse

Anthony Adverse is a 1936 American epic historical drama film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Fredric March and Olivia de Havilland. Based on the first part of the novel Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen, with a screenplay by Sheridan Gibney, the film is about an orphan whose debt to the man who raised him threatens to separate him forever from the woman he loves. The film received four Academy Awards.

Among the four Academy Awards that Anthony Adverse won, Gale Sondergaard was awarded the inaugural Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Faith Paleologus.

Anthony Adverse 1936 Official Trailer 

Erich Wolfgang Korngold : Anthony Adverse, selections from the film music (1936)

Anthony Adverse 1936


The Adventures of Robin Hood

The Adventures of Robin Hood is a 1938 American Technicolor swashbuckler film from Warner Bros., produced by Hal B. Wallis and Henry Blanke, directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, that stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains.

Written by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller, the film concerns a Saxon knight who, in King Richard's absence in the Holy Land during the Crusades, fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla band against Prince John and the Norman lords oppressing the Saxon commoners.

The Adventures of Robin Hood has been acclaimed by critics since its release. In 1995, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.

The Adventures Of Robin Hood

The Adventures Of Robin Hood - Soundtrack Suite - Erich Wolfgang Korngold



Juarez is a 1939 American historical drama film directed by William Dieterle. The screenplay by Aeneas MacKenzie, John Huston, and Wolfgang Reinhardt is based on the biography The Phantom Crown by Bertita Harding and the play Juarez and Maximilian by Franz Werfel.

Juarez (1939) Official Trailer 

Juarez (1939) - La Paloma

Erich Wolfgang Korngold : Juarez, selections from the film music (1939)


The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex is a 1939 American historical romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland. Based on the play Elizabeth the Queen by Maxwell Anderson—which had a successful run on Broadway with Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt in the lead roles—the film fictionalizes the historical relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. The screenplay was written by Norman Reilly Raine and Aeneas MacKenzie.

It was the fifth of nine films that Flynn and de Havilland starred in, while it was the second of his three with Davis.

The supporting cast included Donald Crisp, Henry Daniell, Henry Stephenson, and Vincent Price. The score was composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who later used a theme from the film in his Symphony in F sharp major. The Technicolor cinematography was by Sol Polito, and the elaborate costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly.

The film was a Warner Bros. Pictures production, and became the hit the studio had anticipated and returned a handsome profit. Among the film's five Academy Award nominations was a nomination for Best Color Cinematography. Bette Davis was tapped to receive an Academy Award nomination for her role; however, she was nominated for Dark Victory (also from Warner) instead.

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) Official Trailer

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Erich Wolfgang Korngold : The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex,
selections from the film music (1939)


The Sea Hawk

The Sea Hawk is a 1940 American black-and-white swashbuckling adventure film from Warner Bros. that stars Errol Flynn as an English privateer who defends his nation's interests on the eve of the Spanish Armada. The film was the tenth collaboration between Flynn and director Michael Curtiz. Its screenplay was written by Howard Koch and Seton I. Miller. The rousing musical score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold is recognized as a high point in his career. The films was both an adventure and a period piece about Elizabethan England's struggles with Spain, however, it was also meant as a deliberately pro-British propaganda film meant to both build morale during World War II, as well as influence the American public into having a more pro-British outlook. King Philip was seen as "an obvious" "allegorical Hitler". The same theme would be visited in Alexander Korda's film Fire Over England, released around the same time and for the same reasons (however Fire Over England is somewhat less pronounced in this regard, because it was produced and released before World War II actually started).

The Sea Hawk - Soundtrack Suite - Erich Wolfgang Korngold

The Sea Hawk 1940 Trailer

The Sea Hawk (1940) – Audience With Elizabeth I


The Sea Wolf

The Sea Wolf is a 1941 American adventure drama film adaptation of Jack London's novel The Sea Wolf with Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino, and John Garfield. The film was written by Robert Rossen and directed by Michael Curtiz.

The Sea Wolf has several connections to the city of London, Ontario, aside from the source author's surname. Producer Jack L. Warner and cast member Gene Lockhart were both born in the city and cast member Alexander Knox attended university there. For these reasons, the film's Canadian premiere was held at London's Capitol Theatre.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold : The Sea Wolf, selections from the film music (1941)

The Sea Wolf (1941) Official Trailer


Kings Row

Kings Row is a 1942 film starring Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, and Ronald Reagan that tells a story of young people growing up in a small American town at the turn of the twentieth century. The picture was directed by Sam Wood.

The film was adapted by Casey Robinson from a best-selling 1940 novel of the same name by Henry Bellamann. The film also features Betty Field, Charles Coburn, and Claude Rains. The musical score was composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and the cinematographer was James Wong Howe.

In the film, Reagan's character, Drake McHugh, has both legs amputated by a sadistic surgeon, played by Coburn. When he comes to, following the operation, he gasps in shock, disbelief, and horror, "Where's the REST of me???" Reagan used that line as the title of his 1965 autobiography. Reagan and most film critics considered Kings Row his best film. Reagan called the film a "slightly sordid but moving yarn" that "made me a star."

Erich Wolfgang Korngold : Kings Row, selections from the film music (1942) 


Kings Row (1942) Official Trailer 


The Constant Nymph

The Constant Nymph is a 1943 romantic drama film starring Charles Boyer, Joan Fontaine, Alexis Smith, Brenda Marshall, Charles Coburn, May Whitty, and Peter Lorre. It was adapted by Kathryn Scola from the Margaret Kennedy novel and play by Kennedy and Basil Dean, and directed by Edmund Goulding. film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The Constant Nymph (1943) trailer

The Constant Nymph - Soundtrack Suite - Erich Wolfgang Korngold


Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds is a 1944 American World War II fantasy drama film starring John Garfield, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, and Eleanor Parker. It is a remake of the 1930 film Outward Bound, itself based on the 1924 play of the same name. It is not, as is sometimes claimed, a remake of Fritz Lang's Destiny (original title Der müde Tod).

Between Two worlds - trailer




Devotion is a 1946 American biographical film directed by Curtis Bernhardt and starring Ida Lupino, Paul Henreid, Olivia de Havilland, and Sydney Greenstreet. Based on a story by Theodore Reeves, the film is a highly fictionalized account of the lives of the Brontë sisters.



Of Human Bondage

Of Human Bondage is a 1946 American drama film directed by Edmund Goulding. The second screen adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's 1915 novel, this Warner Bros. sanitized version was written by Catherine Turney. The central characters are Philip Carey, a clubfooted medical student, and Mildred Rogers, a low-class waitress with whom he becomes obsessed.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold : Of  Human Bondage, suite (1946)

Erich Wolfgang Korngold : "Mildred" (Of Human Bondage -  1946) 



Deception is a 1946 movie released by Warner Brothers, and directed by Irving Rapper. The film is based on the play Monsieur Lamberthier by Louis Verneuil. The screenplay was written by John Collier and Joseph Than. It stars Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains who had also appeared together in the highly successful Now, Voyager (1942).

Deception (1946) Erich Wolfgang Korngold score - Original Trailer

Bette Davis & Claude Rains - "Murder" from Deception (1946)

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