HISTORY & SURVEY OF FILM MUSIC

Dmitri Tiomkin

(1894 - 1979)

1939    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

1946    Duel in the Sun

1948    Red River

1952    High Noon (Academy Award) 

1954    Dial M for Murder

1954    The High and the Mighty (Academy Award)

1957    Gunfight at the OK Corral

1958    The Old Man and the Sea (Academy Award)

1961    The Guns of Navarone

Dmitri Tiomkin’s began his career as a pianist and concert composer, and found early Hollywood success in Frank Capra’s 1937 film Lost Horizon. One broken arm later, his performance career came to a quick end- much to the benefit of Hollywood. Tiomkin almost singlehandedly defined the music of early westerns, and won four academy awards in the process. Tiomkin’s grand music was well-suited to the myth created by Hollywood westerns- that of rugged men & adoring women, glory, bravery, and purity of moral purpose.





Duel in the Sun (1946) - Final Gunfight Scene

Tiomkin was known for his flamboyant self-promotion, and at one point commanded one of the highest fees among Hollywood composers. In his 1955 famous Academy Award acceptance speech, he stated (in his broken Russian accent):

“Ladies and gentlemen, because I am working in this town for twenty-five years, I like to make some kind of appreciation to very important factor which makes me successful and adds to quality of this town. I like to thank Johannes Brahms, Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner… (laughter) Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov….”


(as quoted in Palmer,  The Composer in Hollywood)                 

High Noon (1955)

Considered by many critics to be the best movie in the western genre,  High Noon (starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly) depicts a town marshal who must face a gang of criminals by himself. The film cuts against the Hollywood western stereotype, showing cowardice among the townspeople, difficult moral choices, and reluctance by the hero Will Kane (Gary Cooper). An interesting review can be found here.


Tiomkin’s score is centered around the song Do Not Forsake Me, My Darlin” which is heard throughout the film. The song went on to be a popular radio hit, and ushered in a new era of movie soundtracks that feature commercially viable songs.

High Noon (1955) - Opening Credits

In the “waiting for Frank Miller” scene, the music picks up the ticking of the clock, and uses it as a pulse within the music- slowly building tension as the film reaches its culmination. This “pulsing” effect is reminiscent of music from earlier films, notably Waxman’s  The Bride of Frankenstein .

High Noon - Waiting for Frank Miller

Opening theme music to Rawhide (1959 television show)

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