Friday, October 29, 2021

THE BERNARD HERRMANN BLOGATHON: Jason and the Argonauts, 1963

Ari, The Classic Movie Muse is hosting The Bernard Herrmann Blogathon. This not to be missed event runs from October 29th to 31st. Click HERE for the tributes to the legendary composer. BLOGATHON WRAP UP


SEE! The Adventure That Stunned the World ... And the Mighty Men Who Conquered It!

Apollonius of Rhodes wrote stories with legs. Legendary deeds of Hercules and in the epic poem Argonautica, the adventure of Jason and his crew of the ship Argos. Little could he have imagined the influence of his work would transcend centuries. The literate screenplay for the 1963 adventure film Jason and the Argonauts by Beverly Cross (Half a Sixpence) and Jan Read (First Men on the Moon) would take the familiar names and mythological characters from the 3rd century to the 20th century and beyond to a new sphere of storytelling. 

Ray Harryhausen, Charles Schneer

Producer Charles H. Schneer began his movie career at Columbia Studios and there collaborated and encouraged stop motion animator and wizard of special effects Ray Harryhausen in his envelope-pushing endeavours. Of their many collaborations which extended to Schneer's own production companies, the producer considered Jason and the Argonauts their finest. 

Jason: "The Gods want their entertainment."

A golden fleece awaits at the end of the world. A gift of the Gods to the far country of Colchis, the fleece has guaranteed its prosperity and peace. Jason hopes it will do the same as an inspiration to the people of Thessaly. The usurper Pelias has ruled Thessaly for twenty years after killing King Aristo, Jason's father. Now come of age, Jason desires to take back the throne and free the minds and hearts of his people.

The shipbuilder Argos builds a mighty ship for the voyage to the end of the world and a contest is held to select the crew. Among the crew is a spy and saboteur, Acastus, son of Pelias. Brave men and foolhardy men will join Jason and each has their part to play. 

The Goddess Hera is Jason's champion. Zeus has granted her the gift of five times in which she may assist our intrepid and righteous hero. Jason will need that help despite his independent streak that some on Mount Olympus see as blasphemy.

Ray Harryhausen and friend

The cast of Jason and the Argonauts is an interesting mix of British actors steeped in tradition and Shakespeare, the glamorous Nancy Kovak as Medea, Honor Blackman a year before Goldfinger, a beginner for the lead in Todd Armstrong, and Italian speaking extras. The older more mature I become, the more I appreciate those acting against special effects they have yet to see. If it were not for their commitment, the audience would be unable to get caught up in the action.

The Italian location shoot, the production, and set design, plus the clever screenplay that surrounds Harryhausen's eye-filling and memorable creatures are combined with the magnificent score of Bernard Herrmann, creating an indelible classic motion picture.


Bernard Herrmann and friend

Jason and the Argonauts was the final of four Schneer and Harryhausen films scored by Bernard Herrman following The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 1958, The Three Worlds of Gulliver, 1960, and Mysterious Island, 1961. 

Stentorian and martial, tender and sweet, and rousing and frightening, Herrmann's score is inextricably linked to the movie's visuals creating an exciting and memorable movie experience. As is a musician's purview, Herrmann made liberal use of what they would have called on Broadway, trunk songs. The child in me was unaware of the snatches of Vertigo or North by Northwest and other scores now familiar to the adult film fan. Their recognition somehow makes the experience grander.

Click on the highlighted word or phrase to hear selections from Bernard Herrmann's score, such as Jason and the Argonauts TITLE MUSIC.


TALOS is peeved.


Phineas's plague of HARPIES



Phineas: "They speak for themselves, don't they?"


The Golden Fleece is protected by the HYDRA


The Argonauts BATTLE the Hydra's teeth.

King Aeetas: "Hecate, Queen of Darkness, revenge yourself against the Thessalians. Deliver to me the children of the hydra's teeth; the children of the night!"



Zeus: "Let them enjoy a calm sea, a fresh sea, and each other. The girl is pretty and I was always sentimental. But for Jason, there are other adventures. I have not yet finished with Jason. Let's continue the game another day."


Of interest: Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) and Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) were both born on June 29th. It is said of those born under the sign of Cancer that they are emotional, sensitive, and self-protective. Diligent and loyal once committed to their work these creatives are unstoppable.












24 comments:

  1. Great review! I always loved this score. I grew up with two Bernard Hermann LPs that had compilations of various scores, and Jason and the Argonauts was one of the suites that I listened to a lot. Mysterious Island, Sinbad... good stuff! I know Hermann gets associated with Hitchcock, but he did soooo much.

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    1. So true. Herrmann's talent brought so much to a wide range of films including yet beyond the Hitchcock collaboration. For long time fans of the "Jason" score, it touches deep in our movie-loving hearts.

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  2. I didn't realize Bernard Herrmann and Ray Harryhausen shared a birthday. Like you said, these two were unstoppable creatives.

    Thanks for sharing the music links. I really, really enjoyed listening to them. Sometimes I think movie music sounds like "movie music", but not so with Bernard Herrmann's scores. They are beautiful of their own accord.

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    1. It's true. I never expressed it that way, but Herrmann's score have that life beyond the films he enhanced.

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  3. Awesome movie, and Herrmann’s score helps sell the action and drama very well. Makes me think of Saturday afternoons watching movies like this on TV as a kid.

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  4. Herrmann had an incredible imagination, helping to bring these fantastical realms to life in a unique, real way. I'm so glad he branched out and explored many genres in his career. If he had not, the movies would have suffered a great loss.

    I love the links you provided and that neat tidbit about Harryhausen and Herrmann sharing a birthday!

    Thanks so much for contributing this swell post to my blogathon, Paddy!! :)

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    1. It was my pleasure to join in your blogathon, Ari. The moment I saw the announcement the decision was made. The contributions have been enlightening and touching to read.

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  5. I must have seen this movie years ago on TV but I have no recollection. And it's exactly the sort of movie I love. I'm just going to have to find a copy.

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    1. I noted a better-than-average upload on YouTube while looking for clips of the score: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50DZWP-Pz88

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  6. Lovely post Paddy, really enjoyed reading your article. Brought me back to watching this as a kid. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks so much. Jason and the Argonauts still appeals to the kid inside.

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  7. Paddy Lee, as I type this comment I can hear the very memorable JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS(filmed 1961-62, released 1963) musical score of Bernard Herrmann's in my mind. I first viewed this movie, as a youngster, on the CBS THURSDAY NIGHT MOVIE in 1966. The movie and Herrmann's score became a favorite of mine and still is. I think this movie is one of the finest fantasy adventure movies ever made.

    I liked the way you began your good write-up with, "Apollonius of Rhodes wrote stories with legs. Legendary deeds of Hercules and in the epic poem Argonautica, the adventure of Jason and his crew of the ship Argos. Little could he have imagined the influence of his work would transcend centuries." This fantastic quest story has been passed down through oral tradition and artistry for over three millennia. I don't see any sign of this story being canceled anytime soon.

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    1. Walter, this memorable fantasy with the glorious score continues the fine tradition of legends. We are lucky to be a part of the generation that was treated to the wonder that movies can bring to our lives.

      I'm so happy you read this post and we could share the joy.

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  8. Good piece, Paddy, love the insight and the links, adding this movie to the Watch list...

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  9. I've read that Ray Harryhausen originally wanted Miklós Rózsa or Max Steiner to score The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, but deferred to producer Charles Schneer who chose Herrmann. Thank goodness! It's a brilliant score and Harryhausen subsequently collaborated with Herrmann again on Mysterious Island, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, and Jason and the Argonauts (my favorite...so glad to you chose to highlight it). I can hear the skeleton music now!

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    1. Thank goodness, indeed! When I was a kid I loved "Jason" for the adventure and the music, now I enjoy it for the script, the adventure, and the music. It will never get old.

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  10. Hi, Paddy! :) I knew next to nothing about Jason and the Argonauts (even the title itself was only vaguely familiar), so thank you for introducing me to this film. I had no idea it came from such an ancient source! (I love your phrase “stories with legs”.) And, wow - how cool is it that Hermann incorporated pieces of his other scores? :D It’s like he left little connective, musical easter eggs as a special treat and “genius bonus” for the knowledgeable, attentive fan. :)

    Interestingly, one of the computer programs I use at work is called Argos. I wonder if there’s a connection. It is an in-house program, so I can ask the guy who created it how it got its name.

    I couldn’t figure out how to subscribe to your blog. :( (Of course, I know even less about Blogger than I do about Wordpress.) If there’s not a way, I’ll try to remember to pop over on my own - and you’re always welcome to visit me again, too, if you like! :)

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    1. I'm so pleased to have introduced you to this classic fantasy adventure with the score that impresses.

      Now that you point it out, there used to be a e-mail subscription blank on this site but it seems to have disappeared in the latest tweaks from blogger. I have added you to my blog list so I can keep up-to-date with your work.

      You never know where you will find an Argos fan - maybe even in the IT department.

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  11. Herrmann and Harryhausen... nuff said! Seriously, this is a childhood favorite and one of Harryhausen's very best. It's also one of Herrmann's most underrated scores (his scores for Hitch tend to dominate conversations about the composer's work). Thanks for the wonderful review!

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    1. It is understandable that many gravitate to the Herrmann and Hitchcock collaborations. I believe Bernard Herrmann's work with Harryhausen took movie watching to a new level for many kids. How many fans and music students were inspired by the great composer perhaps without even realizing it at the time?

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  12. I have always wanted to see Jason and the Argonauts, but I had no idea Herrmann did the music for it. How cool is that? Totally looking for this now.

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