Battle of the Bulge
and the music of BENJAMIN FRANKEL
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Udo
Heimansberg, Dusseldorf, Germany
Heimansberg introducing "Battle of the Bulge". Image Thomas Hauerslev
11. Todd-AO 70mm-Festival in Karlsruhe and a
screening of "BATTLE OF THE BULGE" in
Cinerama gave me the opportunity to talk
about the film's composer, Benjamin Frankel, before the movie starts.
"Battle of the Bulge" was a great score. He really understood
every element of the orchestra and he didn’t need a vast string section to
make it sound good … [The producers] wanted a British composer and they
asked me for my recommendation … [Ben] was the most likely to be able to
turn out a big score and an intelligent one.
Benjamin Frankel (31 January 1906 – 12 February 1973): His best known pieces
include a cycle of five string quartets, eight symphonies, and several
concertos for violin and viola. His single best-known piece is probably the
First Sonata for Solo Violin, which, like his concertos, resulted from a
long association with Max Rostal. During the last 15 years of his life,
Frankel also developed his own style of 12-note composition which retained
contact with tonality (the style in which "BATTLE OF THE BULGE" was written).
Frankel was born in London on 31 January 1906, the son of Polish-Jewish
parents. He began to learn the violin at an early age, showing remarkable
talent; at age 14, his piano-playing gifts attracted the attention of Victor
Benham, who persuaded his parents to let him study music full-time. He spent
six months in Germany in 1922, then returned to London, where he won a
scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Musicians and attempted his first
serious compositions while earning his income as a jazz violinist, pianist
and arranger. Known then as Ben (or Benny) Frankel, his jazz work can be
heard on recordings by Fred Elizalde's band.
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Annakin. Director in Todd-AO and Ultra Panavision 70.
11. Todd-AO 70mm-Festival
Metropol Düsseldorfer Filmkunstkino GmbH
HRB 34556, Amtsgericht Düsseldorf
Listen to "Battle of the Bulge"
By the early 1930s, Frankel was in demand as an arranger and musical
director in London, working with several dance bands. He wrote several
popular dance band arrangements for Henry Hall's BBC Dance Orchestra,
including "Learn To Croon", "Don't Blame Me", "Weep No More My Baby", "April
In Paris" and "In Town Tonight". He wrote many arrangements and scores for
theatre and film music but gave up theatre work in 1944. He did, however,
retain an interest in film composing until his death, writing over 100
scores. Beside that he wrote music for documentaries and commercials. Among
his filmscores were: The Importance Of Being Earnest, The Curse Of The
Werewolf, The Man In The White Suit, The Night Of The Iguana and The
Old Dark House.
Frankel also became widely known as a serious
composer after World War II; his first work to gain fame was the violin
concerto dedicated "in memory of 'the six million'", a reference to the Jews
murdered during the Holocaust, commissioned for the 1951 Festival of Britain
and first performed by Max Rostal. From 1941 till 1952 he was a member of
the British Communist Party, but resigned his membership in protest at the
The music for BATTLE OF THE BULGE was his only score recorded in full
stereophonic sound- and also his last one! He made intense use of
multichannel possibilities: the main title featured the “Tank men´s song”
performed prominently by a solo tuba (a tank commander, Kurt Wiehle, wrote
the lyrics in 1935 using a tune from the 19th century: Luiska-Lied (Wohl
über den Klippen) sung by whalers. It is also used by the Légion Étrangère
as “Képi Blanc” and still sung by the German and Austrian armies today. It
was the producer's wish that Frankel should use it in the film. Although
Frankel first refused, because he didn't like it, he later used it in a very
special tuba-treatment, almost like a parody). It's the leitmotiv for the
German army and Robert Shaw's character Hessler.
of the Bulge" black 70mm transit containers. Image Thomas Hauerslev
The most unusual decision was a main theme for the tanks performed not by
brass but by violins. An urgent figure in the upper strings is presented for
the first time in the overture and at the beginning of the main title and it
is used in the film at key moments of the action. There is a more
lighthearted theme for “Guffy” (Telly Savalas) and one called “The Armoured
Might Theme”, with a slight reminiscence of “When the Saints Go Marching
In”, a theme for Kiley (Henry Fonda) presented first during the flight over
the forests of the Ardennes as a plaintive horn melody and the triumphant
“Victory”-theme, used only twice in the film: at the end of the main title
and as a grand finale.
The music was performed by the New
Philharmonia Orchestra London under the direction of the composer.
The “Overture” was not especially composed for that purpose. Frankel wrote
this piece called “The Armaments Train” for one of those
Cinerama-action-shots demanded by William Forman, then owner of the
Cinerama-company. But they abandoned this piece after all and found it a
good idea to use it as an overture, a common practice at that time to open a
70mm-presentation. It fits perfectly, because it opens with the the tank
theme, rather quietly performed by violins, then joined by the complete
string section going into variations performed by the full orchestra.
The “Entr´Acte” was also a compilation of parts from the score, and the
“Exit Music” a simple reprise of the “Main Title”.
In 1967 Warner records published a soundtrack album featuring the original
recordings, but only about 40 minutes of music, including the infamous “Tank
Men's Song”. The LP quickly disappeared, became a collector's item sold at
high prices. There was a Japanese Vinyl re-issue in the 80s and a CD in the
90s, also from Japan. Beside a long playing record of “THE NIGHT OF THE
IGUANA” no other works by Benjamin Frankel were available- until 1998!
of the Bulge" CD track listing
CPO: Classic Produktion Osnabrück is a record label founded in 1986 by Georg
Ortmann and several others. Its declared mission is to fill niches in the
recorded classical repertory, with an emphasis on romantic, late romantic
and 20th-century music. The label also aims to release complete cycles of
recordings, such as complete sets of symphonies, concertos, chamber music,
and so forth. It is the house label of online retailer jpc.
They re-recorded the complete score of BATTLE OF THE BULGE with the
Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Werner Andreas Albert in Brisbane
in August 1998 and April 1999.
Not many re-recordings of film scores sound like the original - this one
amazingly does! The running time is 78´43 and featured are all the tracks
from the movie and some outtakes. All this was possible because Benjamin
Frankel's stepson found the original full score at his father's home. CPO
also recorded much of Frankel's work, like his chamber works and his eight
If you want to know more about this:
Also on CD: FILMMUSIC BY BENJAMIN FRANKEL
The Royal Liverpool Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis:
Curse of the Werewolf; So Long at the Fair; The Prisoner; Love Theme from
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