HISTORY & SURVEY OF FILM MUSIC

ERICH KORNGOLD

(1897 - 1957)

1935   Captain Blood

1938   The Adventures of Robin Hood

1940   The Seas Hawk

1942   Kings Row

1946   Deception

Erich Korngold was one of the many European Jews who fled to America in the 1930‘s during the reign of the Nazis. He first job in Hollywood was in 1934, creating an adaption of Mendelssohn’s  Midsummer Night’s Dream for a film by Max Reinhardt. His first big break came with the Warner Brothers classic,  Captain Blood (1935), and he went on to compose eighteen original film scores between 1935 and 1947. 


Korngold arrived in Hollywood with an established reputation as a concert composer, and his large orchestral scores quickly became emulated by other Hollywood composers, such as Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Roy Webb, and Franz Waxman. His musical style is characterized by very active, thick textures, much in the tradition of the turn-of-the-century German composers Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. 

The Adventures of Robinhood (1938)

Korngold’s score drives the film forward with the spirit of Adventure rather than the darker feeling that tension would contribute.  This is an extremely effective approach for an action/adventure film like Robin Hood, very much in keeping with the overall tone of the film and of Errol Flynn’s performance. John Williams’ scores for the Star Wars Trilogy and the Indiana Jones trilogy achieve a similar tone and attitude, and were heavily influenced by Korngold’s action film scores from the 1930’s.

The Sea Hawk (1940)

The Sea Hawk represents a high-point in the action-adventure films starring Errol Flynn, with musical score by Erich Korngold. Of note is how Korngold often represents the film’s action through musical devices in the score. Many of his compositional devices would not be suitable for todays films, as the advancement of sound design elements has relieved the composer of the need to embed sound effects within the musical score itself. A good demonstration of these embedded sound effects devices can be found in the ship takeover and escape from the galley scenes. 

The film itself is an allegory for events relating to World War II, with England on the verge of facing off against Hitler’s Reich in the Battle of Britain. The film conjures up inspiration in its historical 1588 victory over the invading Spanish Armada.


Main Theme (Youtube)

“It will be cutlasses now men!”

Escaping the ship’s galley

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