In what was the first of what was planned to become a yearly event, the first Hollywood Film Composer’s Night debuted at The Hollywood Bowl on September 25, 1963. Star-studded doesn’t quite describe it – it was a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of some of the most important names in Film Composing in the world at that time. It represented a history of music in film, going back to the 1930s and highlighted the works of composers who are legends today.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be repeated. And what was initially a brilliant idea to pay homage to Hollywood by way of the musical treasures so effortlessly presented on the screen, wound up being a box-office failure.
Billed as attracting an audience over “over 10,000”, actual tickets came in at a little over 8,000 and the gala concert event wound up losing money. So the idea of doing this as a yearly event was quietly dropped from further consideration, and this concert was talked about, written about and seen in grainy excerpts from a presentation made by CBS TV of filmed portions of the show. An album was issued by Columbia records which was purported to be a highlights presentation of the concert, but the actual concert itself, the complete concert as it was heard on September 25, 1963 was considered never recorded and, if it was recorded, was long-lost.
About 30 years ago, it was discovered that Hollywood Bowl Sound engineers made a habit of routinely recording concerts, sometimes as a record of an event, other times as a matter of hearing what a performance sounded like after the fact. Whatever the reason was, the Engineers recorded just about everything – well, everything before the Musicians Union discovered what they were doing and promptly ordered the “standard operating procedure” stopped. And adding insult to injury, ordered all those clandestine recordings destroyed. As was told to me by several witnesses, dumpsters were filled with the tapes in question and hauled off to landfills around 1968. And the procedure promptly ended what was a vital historic record of performances that have never been duplicated, in once-in-a-lifetime circumstances like this one – the gathering of some of the most important figures in the history of Film Music in one place, to play music they made famous, in a concert never to be duplicated again. Fortunately for everyone, it has survived – the entire 3 hour concert, narrated by Johnny Green and featuring the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, guest conducted by each composer from the above printed program.
A night to remember if you’re a film music buff – and another slice of long-forgotten Hollywood, unearthed.
Caveat: the second half of the concert (Part 2) was suffering from bad drop-out owing to a deteriorating tape. I have performed surgery on this in the hopes of making it listenable – but some bad spots just couldn’t be helped. Also, the beginning of Part 2 is the introduction to Miklos Rosza, which was done, oddly off-mike. It lasts about 40 seconds before the Orchestra plays, so adjust your speakers accordingly. My apologies in advance.