November 25, 2010

Scoring The Bride

Here’s a great photo of director James Whale sitting in on an orchestral recording session for Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

That’s Whale, dapper as ever in a dark suit, sitting cross-legged in a wicker chaise. On the podium is Russian-born conductor Constantin Romanovich Bakaleinikoff, often billed by his last name alone, former director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and one of a large family of noted musicians, composers and conductors.

Standing directly in front of Bakaleinikoff, looking up at him, is the Polish-born composer Franz Waxman. Bride of Frankenstein was his first score for an American film. He would go on to score such films as the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and several Hitchcock titles including Rear Window (1954). He garnered twelve Oscar nominations, winning twice, for Sunset Boulevard (1950) and A Place in the Sun (1951).

Seen between Waxman and Bakaleinikoff, sitting at the pipe organ, is British-born Oliver Wallace who would go on to write music for some 150 Walt Disney productions from 1936 until his death in 1963. Wallace wrote the immensely popular WWII propaganda song, Der Fuhrer’s Face, for a 1942 Donald Duck short, and he picked up an Academy Award for his contribution to Dumbo (1941).

The recording studio is Universal’s famous Stage 10, built in 1929. After frequent and considerable remodeling, it is still in use today. It is here, in ’29, that sound editor Jack Foley first began adding ambient sound effects such as footsteps, crackling fire and creaky doors to films. The procedure is now called Foley Art, performed by Foley Artists on Foley Stages.

The photograph attests to James Whale’s deep involvement in Bride of Frankenstein, which began with his having the script tailored to his wishes, and all the way to attending a scoring session.

The photo and participant identification is from a fascinating, must-read History of Stage 10 article on


Christopher said...

Studio orchestras were small..Excellent...I've wondered what a recording session of this looked like.Its in my top 10 favorite film scores of all time.

Wobble The Witch Cat said...

The Bride of Frankenstein is one of my favourite movies. It's a shame that this still , whilst a great image , is not in a higher resolution so that we can see the protagonists more clearly.

It's high time that a new recording was made of this classic movie score , one of Franz Waxman's finest , and one of Hollywood's finest scores too!

I believe that Waxman's son guards his Father's scores very carefully and wisely so too!

What a great pity that Universal haven't seen fit to put the classic movie out on Blu Ray in this it's Seventy Fifth Anniversary year!

When it was shown recently (last year or early this year? ) at the Turner Classic Movies festival it had a newly refirbished soundtrack which made this Bride of Frankenstein fan wonder and hope that a Blu Ray release was about to happen! Please feel free to contact me about the movie!

Annie said...

Nice...that's my Uncle Costia.

Pierre Fournier said...

Annie: Thanks for stopping by. Your uncle was a very talented man.