Saturday Soundtrack – Maximilian Peter on the Best in Film Music 1996

The First Wives Club (Marc Shaiman), One Fine Day (James Newton Howard), Mars Attacks! (Danny Elfman), Independence Day (David Arnold), The Ghost and the Darkness (Jerry Goldsmith)

Saturday Soundtrack is a year long series, initiated and developed by music composer Maximilian Peter. Every Saturday, Max picks out the cherries of the past 55 years of film music, covering one year per week. With well researched articles and music samples he gives an extensive insight into the film industry through the eyes of it`s music.  Stay tuned!

In 1992, American author Olivia Goldsmith (January 1, 1949 – January 15, 2004) wrote her first novel called The First Wives Club. The story deals with four old friends who have all been left by their husbands. All for younger women. A „first wife“ even kills herself after she has been left. At her funeral, the other three women meet each other again – after many years – and decide to take revenge on their ex-husbands. What sounds sad and in some way dark is really a very funny comedy written by Olivia Goldsmith. Hollywood loved the story of Goldsmith´s comedy-book and made a movie out of it. In september 1996 the film version of the book with the same titel – The First Wives Club – premiered in cinema. It stars three of the best Hollywood-actresses of the past decades: Diane Keaton, Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn. Co-stars were Sarah Jessica Parker, Marcia Gay Harden and the great English actress Maggie Smith, who won an Academy Award for her performance in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). The film became a box-office hit and the ensemble played that well that the National Board of Review Award for Best Acting by an Ensemble went to it in the following award season. A great component of the funny film is Marc Shaiman´s wonderful comedy score, which was nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Comedy or Musical Score, but lost to Rachel Portman´s soundtrack for Emma. However, Shaiman´s soundtrack musically reflects exactly the meaning of the term ´´comedy score´´ and was the best score for a comedy movie in 1996. It was funny, romantic, emotional and a great listening experience. All you need for a really good comedy score!

Another great score for the genre in 1996 was James Newton Howard´s One Fine Day. Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney are the stars of Michael Hoffman´s romantic comedy film (the film´s title comes from the 1963 song One Fine Day by The Chiffons, an all-girl group from New York). James Newton Howard wasn´t indeed nominated for an Oscar his delightful score, but he was nominated for his original song for the motion picture called „For the First Time´´. He shared the nomination with Jud J. Friedman and Allan Dennis Rich, who collaborated with the composer especially on the lyrics.

It was (almost) a shame that Danny Elfman´s masterful comedy score for Mars Attacks! (Tim Burton´s parody of science fiction B movies in combination with black comedy and political satire) wasn´t nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Musical or Comedy Score. The main theme is spectacular. It and the rest of the score show Elfman´s and Burton´s (special) „black comedy minds„ in full force! At least the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films recognized that and honored the score with its Saturn Award for Best Music. Great!

1996 was also a great year for English composer David Arnold. After his fabulous soundtrack for Roland Emmerich´s adventure science fiction filmStargate, which brought the composer on the A-list of Hollywood-composers, the musician worked again with director Emmerich on the movieIndependence Day. His score for the blockbuster-hit is big, loud, exciting and became a well-known dramatic work by the British artist. Also dramatic are the scores for Sleepers composed by John Williams, Hamlet by Patrick Doyle and Shine by David Hirschfelder. All of them were nominated for Academy Awards – plus Michael Collins written by Elliot Goldenthal. At the end, Gabriel Yared took home the trophy for his dramatic music for The English Patient. Director Anthony Minghella´s romantic drama based on Michael Ondaatje´s novel of the same name and won Oscars in a lot of categories at the following Academy Award ceremony, including Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Juliette Binoche), Best Cinematography (John Seale) and Best Director.

A powerful score – overlooked by the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press – is Jerry Goldsmith´s score for The Ghost and the Darkness. It was directed by Stephen Hopkins, starring Michael Douglas, Tom Wilkinson, Bernard Hill and Val Kilmer. The film tells the story about two lions that attacked a little village called Tsavo in Kenya and killed workers during a building of a railway in Africa in the late 19th century. It is based upon the book The Man-eaters of Tsavo written by John Henry Patterson in 1907, which reconstructs Patterson´s own experience with both lions. He was the man, who killed the ´´Tsavo maneaters´´. Hopkins´ film version of the book won an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, although the movie received mixed critical response. One of the best ingredients of The Ghost and the Darkness is Jerry Goldsmith´s thunderous score. A melodic, dramatic and complex work. The composer, who also wrote the majestic and exciting music for Star Trek: First Contact (directed by Jonathan ´´Riker´´ Frakes) in the same year, combined African musical elements (including snippets of African chant, which Goldsmith congenialy integrated in his instrumental composition) with material that ´´sounds´´ Irish and English. His score is a masterpiece, a great listening experience. The Los Angeles-born musician found once again the ´´right sound´´. For the adventurous, sometimes dark historical film he created romantic melodies, dramatic action cues and an outstanding main theme. The Ghost and the Darkness is the adventure-score of the year.