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Arnold film book
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The Film Music of Malcolm Arnold
Compiled by Alan Poulton and David Dunstan
Foreword by Neil Brand
139 pages
ISBN-13: 979-8781218080
First published 2021
Malcolm Arnold Society

The music of Sir Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) graces and heightens the impact of many British feature films but he also weighed in with documentaries and TV programmes. The cinema films (upwards of seventy of them) were produced at breakneck speed and date from between 1948 and 1969. Apart from their intrinsic joys, these scores also significantly boosted the Arnold bank account both in initial fees and in income from repeats and TV broadcasts.

Sadly, there was a price to be paid for his time in the world of cinema (strangely not paid by Shostakovich) and concert music critics tended to deprecate his extensive output for the concert hall; in that sense much like his contemporary William Alwyn. They held that a reputation in film music automatically polluted his efforts for the concert hall … and there was and is a lot of that music. His scores, often tonal and melodic, emerged into a world largely in thrall to ‘serious’ music that you might sometimes have difficulty whistling; not that all Arnold’s concert music is facilely tuneful.
In the present book from the Malcolm Arnold Society there are articles and feature columns by Mervyn Cooke, James Cox, David Huckvale, John Huntley (a long-revered name in British film music), James Brooks Kuykendall, Philip Lane, Craig Lysy, Alan Poulton, Christopher Ritchie and Jan G Swinnoe; not to forget composer interviews. It’s only a shame, perhaps, that room could not have been found for an article from John Griff, a well-informed film music Arnoldian, who has for years been a regular at the annual Northampton Arnold Weekend.

This book lists all Arnold’s films with full details including production information, literary sources, principal dramatis personae, filming locations, release dates, soundtrack recordings (selective) and concert arrangements. Documentaries and TV programmes are listed separately but not in such detail. In-depth articles focus on specific topics and films.

David Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai secured for Arnold the Oscar for Best Music Score (1957). Then, amongst the greats, there are The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (Ivor Novello award, 1959), The Sound Barrier (1952), Hobson’s Choice (1954), The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954) and, for me the most affecting, Whistle Down the Wind (1961). Beyond these there is much else including Roots of Heaven (included in a Carl Davis series on Radio 3 in the mid-1990s). This is a most satisfying and glowingly attractive read with more that its fair share of colour photos of film stills, posters and CD and LP covers.
For the audio dimension there are DVDs (although by no means for anything like all the films) and CDs from Chandos (vol 1 vol 2) , Dutton and Marco Polo.

Recommended for Malcolm Arnold devotees and firmly filling that gap in the books on the Arnold shelving.

Rob Barnett

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