January 31st, 2011


R.I.P., John Barry

Film composer John Barry has passed away at age 77.

*raises glass*

James Bond wouldn't sound the way he did without Barry, who contributed a few minutes of music to Dr. No then went on to score every other official 1960s Bond film and about half of the Bond films of the '70s and '80s. And alongside that work was much other work: such film scores as Midnight Cowboy, Born Free, The Lion In Winter, The Black Hole, Body Heat, and Dances With Wolves.

We almost lost Barry before: he lived through a medical crisis in the late Eighties (two words: ruptured esophagus) and was still recovering when he started writing the music for Dances With Wolves. Got a second wind, and from what I heard enjoyed his last couple of decades, including a well-earned retirement. Brad Bird almost got him to score The Incredibles, and in fact Michael Giacchino's theme owes much to Barry's theme for On Her Majesty's Secret Service:

(Link courtesy Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts.)

John Barry brought a warmth and a pop-influenced shape to much of his music. They had hooks I didn't mind getting stuck in my head. Thank you, Mr. Barry, for your music and your life.

Here is Film Score Monthly's tribute.

For all your Baby-putting purposes!

Do you know that this Friday's Cort and Fatboy Midnight Movie's going to be Dirty Dancing?

Now you do! Poster by Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts, who described the film on the Facebook invite:
It's a classic. A camp classic. But it is also very, VERY educational. There are some very valuable life lessons in the film:

1) Never show up to an important occasion with nothing but a watermelon
2) Disappoint Jerry Orbach at your own peril
3) Always wear a condom
4) Sometimes, nose jobs are NOT the answer, and most importantly..
5) Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

So on Friday, February 4th, The Midnight Movie will be a celebration of Swayze, and Grey, and a vision of the 50s that could only exist in the 80s, in all its sweaty, corny, sexy glory. For those who love it unironically, for those who laugh at it while they cherish it, and especially for those who only grew up on it on VHS, or via endless reruns on syndicated Saturday afternoon television, a 35mm print has been secured so that every last pelvic thrust and plie will be seen the way it was meant to be seen.

Doors will open at 10pm, the film will start at 11. As always, obnoxious wanna-be MST3K-ers will be politely asked to keep their one-liners to themselves, but if you feel like breaking into song, by all means, feel free.
$3 and being 21 or older will get you in.

Oh, and on Thursday, the commentary Cort, Bobby, David Walker, Mike Russell and the Portland Mercury's Erik Henriksen recorded will be online for download, and from what I've heard, you will want to hear it. 'twill be linked once it's available.
I listen

Further John Barry appreciation: Deadfall (1968)

In the 1960s, John Barry became identified with the James Bond franchise while also working steadily on many other films: epics like Zulu, costume dramas like The Lion in Winter, lower-key-than-Bond spy stories like The Ipcress File, pop fare such as Born Free, and more. He was prolific, and sometimes giving films better music than they deserved. One of those was Deadfall (1968), a crime story with Michael Caine as a cat burgler, Giovanna Ralli as a woman the burglar falls in love with, and Eric Portman as her husband, who for his own reasons doesn't entirely mind that Caine is a burglar or in love with his wife.

Barry and his director, Bryan Forbes, decided to try an experiment: a long sequence intercutting between Caine and Portman breaking into a Spanish villa and a concert hall audience appreciating a concert piece, with said concert piece also underscoring the robbery. Barry wrote Romance for Guitar and Orchestra, with a general plan he and Forbes had agreed on so that the piece would have a certain musical shape that would, if all went well, fit the visuals once the movie was edited together. It was a complicated way to create a stretch of film and a stretch of music, but the result is the one sequence of Deadfall that's worth a damn.

And that sequence is on YouTube.

Yes, that is John Barry himself conducting the Romance.

I've been listening to the score to Deadfall tonight. This is the right night for that. And for much of this morning I kept remembering other John Barry music: his theme for Two-Socks in Dances With Wolves.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Barry.