Friday, April 2, 2010

The Unstoppable Duo: Bette Davis and Max Steiner

While filming the dramatic scene at the end of Dark Victory (the part where you know that she's going upstairs to die), Bette Davis stopped and asked the director, "Who's scoring this film? Max Steiner?" The director said he thought so. "Well," Bette declared, "either I am going up those stairs or Max Steiner is going up those stairs, but not the two of us together."

The great actors in Hollywood understood that a good music score was as important a part of each film as their own presence on screen, and that often looked like competition. While Max did go up the stairs with Bette (to the delight of fans everywhere), she wouldn't have seen it all put together until she saw the finished film. She wasn't going through her lines with the music softly playing in the background. From this side of the screen, they were an unstoppable duo. Twenty-one of Bette Davis' films, including some of her greatest roles, were scored by Max Steiner. Together, they made movie history.

Max Steiner (1888-1971) was one of the greatest film score composers in Hollywood, scoring hundreds of films from 1930-1965. He composed scores for films that are now considered classics, such as Gone with the Wind (1939), Casablanca (1942), and King Kong (1933).
A musical genius since childhood, Steiner studied under legendary composers Gustav Mahler and Johannes Brahms. Moving to the US as a young man, he began orchestrating and conducting on Broadway. With the advent of talking pictures, he was quickly brought in by the movie studios to help transistion from silents to talkies. Steiner was one of the first film
orchestrators/composers to create a musical score that was specific to the content of a scene and to give certain characters their own themes. Throughout his long and remarkable career he composed hundreds of film scores, some which are still recognizable today. Nominated eighteen times, he won Academy Awards for his scores for The Informer (1935), Now, Voyager (1942), and Since You Went Away (1944).

Bette Davis (1908-1989) was one of the great actresses to emerge during the golden era of cinema. Called by many "The First Lady of Film", she appeared in over 50 films between 1931 and 1987. She was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award 11 times, winning twice (Dangerous, 1935; Jezebel, 1938).
With fellow actor John Garfield, she co-founded the Hollywood Canteen for service men during World War II. She continued acting throughout her whole life, guest appearing on many TV shows. Films such as Now, Voyager, Dark Victory, The Letter, and The Little Foxes are classics and still shown today.

Here is a list of Bette Davis / Max Steiner films:
Way Back Home (1931)
Of Human Bondage (1934)
Kid Galahad (1937)
That Certain Woman (1937)
Jezebel (1938)
The Sisters (1938)
Dark Victory (1939)
The Old Maid (1939)
All This, and Heaven Too (1940)
The Letter (1940)
The Great Lie (1941)
Shining Victory (1941)
The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)
In This Our Life (1942)
Now, Voyager (1942)
Watch On the Rhine (1943)
The Corn is Green (1945)
A Stolen Life (1946)
Winter Meeting (1948)
Beyond The Forest (1949)
John Paul Jones (1959)

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