I saw North by Northwest on DVD last night. There was no
credit for orchestrator. Did Bernard Herrmann do his own?
Probably. Herrmann's scoring tends to be highly idiosyncratic -- he often
selected particular instruments for a particular film, rather than falling
back on a standard symphonic orchestra. For example, "On Dangerous Ground"
uses four horns and at least one anvil; "Torn Curtain" uses 12 flutes; "The
Day the Earth Stood Still" uses four theremins; and "Psycho" is
strings-only, while "Jason and the Argonauts" uses no strings.
Hitchock and Herrmann do their job effectively without calling
attention to themselves. I wish I could say that about today's
direction and film music.
Oh, I'd disagree. Both Hitchock and Herrmann are very "stylish", and draw a
lot of attention to themselves. Herrmann was notorious for sitting in on
mixing sessions and raising the music level against the mixer's wishes! He
wanted his music to be heard. Of course, he was justified -- he wrote truly
Modern film scoring rarely rises above the mediocre. (Which isn't to say it
was particularly good 60 years ago, either.) This is particularly strange,
as composers have Herrmann and Waxman and Bernstein (to name a few) to use
as standards of quality (if not style). Twenty years ago, Danny Elfman
looked to be the composer to bring back the Truly Great Score -- and did it
with "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure", "Beetlejuice" (one of the greatest scores
ever written), and "Batman", but he's fallen into a rut, and largely repeats
himself. And the stuff he repeats isn't that good.
It's interesting to note that the Oscar-winning score for "Brokeback
Mountain" isn't much of a score at all. It achieves its effects largely by
stepping out of the way and letting the story, direction, and acting speak
for themselves. Odd.
This is the first movie I have ever seen with Cary Grant. I assume
he is always this good. I do not think that saying that the auction
house scene is one of the best ever filmed, is out of line.
"NBNW" hardly shows Grant at his best. Try "Notorious" (also Hitchcock) or
"Bringing Up Baby".
Some people consider Grant the best sound-era actor. I'd disagree, but he
_was_ one of the most-versatile -- he played comedy and drama equally
well -- and _very_ well.
The auction scene is a wonderful piece of Hitchcock tension. It certainly
ranks highly among the classic film scenes.