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Work

Max Steiner

Max Steiner Composer

Gone With the Wind, film score   

Performances: 11
Tracks: 11
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Musicology:
  • Gone With the Wind, film score
    Year: 1939
    Genre: Film Score
    • Tara's Theme
    • Suite
The score for Gone With the Wind, by Max Steiner (1888 - 1971), is one of the greatest and best-known of all film music and is the highest and most immediate representation of music of Hollywood's pre-World War II Golden Age.

David O. Selznick was halfway through shooting the immense Southern epic when, in March 1939, he sent a memo to the general manager of his studios that it was time to engage a composer and suggested Max Steiner. The Viennese-born Steiner was already a ten-year veteran of scoring sound pictures. Steiner, who had lived in the U.S. since 1915, working primarily in theatrical music, is credited as being the first to use non-source music (i.e., the audience does not see where the music comes from and, as Steiner realized, does not care) and the first to use music under dialogue. In King Kong (1933), he pioneered the use of leading motives, themes associated with characters or dramatic symbols that can be developed in parallel with the dramatic development in films.

Steiner wrote over three hours of music, in 99 cues, of which two hours and 36 minutes are used in the film. The score has eight leading motives associated with characters, two love themes (Ashley/Melanie and Scarlett's obsession with Ashley) and the powerful and sweeping Tara's Theme, which dominates them all. There are also 16 subsidiary themes and numerous quotations of tunes of the Civil War era, all seamlessly integrated.

In the case of Gone with the Wind, the leading motives tell the audience what a character is feeling and thinking, sometimes better than the character herself knows. By making Tara the dominant musical image in the film, Steiner ensures that the audience realizes it is the land that is Scarlett's true love and the dramatic motive for much of her duplicity, avarice, and her inability to succeed in a human relationship. Steiner's music energizes the final hour of the film, in which the drama of the Civil War has been replaced by the soap opera of Scarlett's marriage.

Steiner wrote the music in four-staff short score, with careful instructions for orchestration, which were carried out by Hugo Friedhofer, Maurice de Packh, Bernard Kaun, Adolph Deutsch, and Reginald Bassett. There are a few moments composed by some these associates and a few seconds of stock music.

Some years later, Steiner prepared a 30-minute concert suite, which he recorded in 1954 and Muir Matheson covered in 1961. In the LP era, MGM released an LP of original music track cues (in sadly dated sound). The definitive recorded version, made in 1973 by Charles Gerhardt, was in the form of a large symphonic poem representing all the main themes and was assembled from cues selected in conversations between the aging Steiner and Gerhardt.

© Joseph Stevenson, Rovi
Portions of Content Provided by All Music Guide.
© 2008 All Media Guide, LLC. All Music Guide is a registered trademark of All Media Guide, LLC.
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