Why wasn't Monty Norman sacked?

in Music Posts: 790
I was listening to a good podcast about the financial aspects of the Bond movies (podcast 21, here at MI6-Hq) over the weekend. It featured Ajay Chowdhury and Bill Koenig. They mentioned that Dr.No's $1 million budget was in severe jeopardy mainly because of overspending by Ken Adam on the sets. The film started shooting in January 1962, United Arists were very much a hands off studio in the 60s but by April, Film Finances, who held the completion bond for the film had taken over the financial (not artistic) running of Dr No production. It occured to me that it explains why, despite serious concerns with the score, they didn't replace Norman and could only afford to pay John Barry £250 to work on the James Bond Theme. Strict financial management was in place by June when it was clear that the score was somewhat lacking, so they were stuck with it, but they were bailed out by Barry producing a theme that would be used in all Eon Bond films over many decades..........for just £250.

Comments

  • mtmmtm
    edited June 1 Posts: 4,386
    Well I guess if you're running out of money it would be a big decision to spend even more on replacing something you already have recorded. Plus you've got Connery singing 'Mango Tree' on location all filmed (was that on location?), so you'd have to still pay Norman for that and the Bond theme. Barry hadn't scored a film at that point so he'd be a pretty big risk.

    I'll have a listen to that, thanks. I would say it's certainly a pretty bad score.

    EDIT: Actually do you have a link for that podcast? I can't find it anywhere. The podcast page on this site doesn't go back far enough.
  • mtmmtm
    Posts: 4,386
    Thank you!
  • Posts: 3,129
    Pretty sure the bit with Connery singing was on a soundstage. The lighting does not look like natural sunlight.
  • mtmmtm
    Posts: 4,386
    Yeah I think you're probably right.
  • Posts: 1,289
    I'd need to read the Bond scores book again to refresh the reaction to the score, but are we taking this in with modern ears, so to speak? Sure Norman's score would be dismissed as awful even by the time FRWL came out, but in 1962 and '63 I'm pretty sure people were so mesmerized by the film and by the Bond theme that Norman's score wasn't that big a factor in lessening people's experience with DN.

    I think of worse cases like Michele Legrande's for NSNA, a bigger budget film with much more at stake.
  • Posts: 3,129
    Even for 1962 the music was pretty mediocre. As mentioned in another thread, it sounds like something from a 1940s B-movie. Contrast the score to another contemporary spy film like NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and then what John Barry did on the immediate successor film.
  • Posts: 14,215
    mtm wrote: »
    Well I guess if you're running out of money it would be a big decision to spend even more on replacing something you already have recorded. Plus you've got Connery singing 'Mango Tree' on location all filmed (was that on location?), so you'd have to still pay Norman for that and the Bond theme. Barry hadn't scored a film at that point so he'd be a pretty big risk.

    I'll have a listen to that, thanks. I would say it's certainly a pretty bad score.

    EDIT: Actually do you have a link for that podcast? I can't find it anywhere. The podcast page on this site doesn't go back far enough.

    Barry scored Beat Girl two years prior to DN, didn't he?
  • Posts: 10,825
    I actually like Norman's score. The soundtrack album, however can be a chore to get through.
  • j_w_pepperj_w_pepper Hamburg, near the Atlantic Hotel
    Posts: 5,839
    I also don't have any problem with Norman's score, considering there was no established routine with the corresponding expectations from a fanbase at the time. It was the first Bond movie, remember? Good thing that the next one changed the game, with Superstar (now, not then) John Barry taking the helm, but there is simply nothing wrong with scoring a Jamaica-based movie with Jamaica as basically its only location and Calypso music joints and superstition etc. with Jamaican Calypso music. "Three Blind Mice", in fact, is a stroke of genius for introducing a band of killers pretending to have no eyesight. The score at least has one thing going for it in the franchise: It is unique.

    All in all, I think Norman and his score are treated unfairly. He did a good job, and of course it wouldn't have made sense to stick with his Calypso formula when the next movie was about "Russia" while playing in Turkey. And while we all love John Barry's scores best (including FRWL), Norman managed to employ the location's music style, while Barry was (somehow fortunately) mostly Barry and didn't really give a damn for the setting of the respective film. Only his YOLT and TMWTGG can be credited with taking the movie's location into consideration (and sounding "Asian" to a degree). The remainder is no doubt great, since he was a genius, but most of his work is really totally interchangeable, including most of his non-Bond scores.
  • Posts: 3,875
    So when people here are complaining about Monty's score, are we talking about the soundtrack album or the cues in the movie?
  • Posts: 3,816
    j_w_pepper wrote: »
    I also don't have any problem with Norman's score, considering there was no established routine with the corresponding expectations from a fanbase at the time. It was the first Bond movie, remember? Good thing that the next one changed the game, with Superstar (now, not then) John Barry taking the helm, but there is simply nothing wrong with scoring a Jamaica-based movie with Jamaica as basically its only location and Calypso music joints and superstition etc. with Jamaican Calypso music. "Three Blind Mice", in fact, is a stroke of genius for introducing a band of killers pretending to have no eyesight. The score at least has one thing going for it in the franchise: It is unique.

    All in all, I think Norman and his score are treated unfairly. He did a good job, and of course it wouldn't have made sense to stick with his Calypso formula when the next movie was about "Russia" while playing in Turkey. And while we all love John Barry's scores best (including FRWL), Norman managed to employ the location's music style, while Barry was (somehow fortunately) mostly Barry and didn't really give a damn for the setting of the respective film. Only his YOLT and TMWTGG can be credited with taking the movie's location into consideration (and sounding "Asian" to a degree). The remainder is no doubt great, since he was a genius, but most of his work is really totally interchangeable, including most of his non-Bond scores.
    The disappointing part for me is not the Jamaican music, but the orchestral stuff. The cue that plays a) after the killers murder the secretary and steal the file on Dr. No, b) when the killers are about to shoot Bond outside the hotel, c) when Bond is interrogating Mr. Jones.
  • Posts: 3,875
    mattjoes wrote: »
    j_w_pepper wrote: »
    I also don't have any problem with Norman's score, considering there was no established routine with the corresponding expectations from a fanbase at the time. It was the first Bond movie, remember? Good thing that the next one changed the game, with Superstar (now, not then) John Barry taking the helm, but there is simply nothing wrong with scoring a Jamaica-based movie with Jamaica as basically its only location and Calypso music joints and superstition etc. with Jamaican Calypso music. "Three Blind Mice", in fact, is a stroke of genius for introducing a band of killers pretending to have no eyesight. The score at least has one thing going for it in the franchise: It is unique.

    All in all, I think Norman and his score are treated unfairly. He did a good job, and of course it wouldn't have made sense to stick with his Calypso formula when the next movie was about "Russia" while playing in Turkey. And while we all love John Barry's scores best (including FRWL), Norman managed to employ the location's music style, while Barry was (somehow fortunately) mostly Barry and didn't really give a damn for the setting of the respective film. Only his YOLT and TMWTGG can be credited with taking the movie's location into consideration (and sounding "Asian" to a degree). The remainder is no doubt great, since he was a genius, but most of his work is really totally interchangeable, including most of his non-Bond scores.
    The disappointing part for me is not the Jamaican music, but the orchestral stuff. The cue that plays a) after the killers murder the secretary and steal the file on Dr. No, b) when the killers are about to shoot Bond outside the hotel, c) when Bond is interrogating Mr. Jones.

    Those first 2 cues are very short though. The Jones music is basically the same as the "Killing The Guard" music from the swamp/river.
  • mtmmtm
    Posts: 4,386
    j_w_pepper wrote: »
    I also don't have any problem with Norman's score, considering there was no established routine with the corresponding expectations from a fanbase at the time.

    It's rubbish compared to other film scores though, not other Bond film scores. I'm not judging it poorly because it's not full of wah-wah trumpets and twangy guitars, but because it's massively old hat, melodramatic, barely there and uninteresting melodically. It's just bad. He also seems to have tried to write it as a musical for some reason.
  • Posts: 790
    I'm talking about the cues in the film....not the soundtrack album which wasn't released until 1965. Norman's score sounded dated in 1962. I have no problem with the source cues but the score in the film is awful. . Let's face it, there was no rush from the film community to sign up Monty to continue his film score career.
  • edited June 2 Posts: 3,816
    vzok wrote: »
    mattjoes wrote: »
    j_w_pepper wrote: »
    I also don't have any problem with Norman's score, considering there was no established routine with the corresponding expectations from a fanbase at the time. It was the first Bond movie, remember? Good thing that the next one changed the game, with Superstar (now, not then) John Barry taking the helm, but there is simply nothing wrong with scoring a Jamaica-based movie with Jamaica as basically its only location and Calypso music joints and superstition etc. with Jamaican Calypso music. "Three Blind Mice", in fact, is a stroke of genius for introducing a band of killers pretending to have no eyesight. The score at least has one thing going for it in the franchise: It is unique.

    All in all, I think Norman and his score are treated unfairly. He did a good job, and of course it wouldn't have made sense to stick with his Calypso formula when the next movie was about "Russia" while playing in Turkey. And while we all love John Barry's scores best (including FRWL), Norman managed to employ the location's music style, while Barry was (somehow fortunately) mostly Barry and didn't really give a damn for the setting of the respective film. Only his YOLT and TMWTGG can be credited with taking the movie's location into consideration (and sounding "Asian" to a degree). The remainder is no doubt great, since he was a genius, but most of his work is really totally interchangeable, including most of his non-Bond scores.
    The disappointing part for me is not the Jamaican music, but the orchestral stuff. The cue that plays a) after the killers murder the secretary and steal the file on Dr. No, b) when the killers are about to shoot Bond outside the hotel, c) when Bond is interrogating Mr. Jones.

    Those first 2 cues are very short though. The Jones music is basically the same as the "Killing The Guard" music from the swamp/river.
    This is true, they're short cues. I just find them annoying, especially (b) with the melodramatic violins. That ominous motif in (a) that reoccurs later in the score I'm not too crazy about either, at least when it's played in loud brass. When it's played on strings it works better for me, such as when Dr. No arrives for dinner.

    Off the top of my head, the best cue is the tarantula music.

    I think it's a competent if not exceptional score, but it obviously suffers when compared against the scores yet to come. Also, it does seem to have a rather old-fashioned sensibility for its time.

    Someone mentioned North by Northwest above. It would have been nice to hear a Herrmann score for Dr. No. Even if had been similar to Norman's score in terms of aiming for suspense rather than jazzy coolness, Herrmann would have done that much better than Norman.
  • Posts: 3,129
    j_w_pepper wrote: »
    I also don't have any problem with Norman's score, considering there was no established routine with the corresponding expectations from a fanbase at the time. It was the first Bond movie, remember? Good thing that the next one changed the game, with Superstar (now, not then) John Barry taking the helm, but there is simply nothing wrong with scoring a Jamaica-based movie with Jamaica as basically its only location and Calypso music joints and superstition etc. with Jamaican Calypso music. "Three Blind Mice", in fact, is a stroke of genius for introducing a band of killers pretending to have no eyesight. The score at least has one thing going for it in the franchise: It is unique.

    All in all, I think Norman and his score are treated unfairly. He did a good job, and of course it wouldn't have made sense to stick with his Calypso formula when the next movie was about "Russia" while playing in Turkey. And while we all love John Barry's scores best (including FRWL), Norman managed to employ the location's music style, while Barry was (somehow fortunately) mostly Barry and didn't really give a damn for the setting of the respective film. Only his YOLT and TMWTGG can be credited with taking the movie's location into consideration (and sounding "Asian" to a degree). The remainder is no doubt great, since he was a genius, but most of his work is really totally interchangeable, including most of his non-Bond scores.

    Just to be clear, I don’t knock the score for not fitting in with the Bond sound that developed later with John Barry. That would not be fair. I knock it purely for just being a bad film score. Monty Norman was a composer for musicals that simply wasn’t suited for film scoring.
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