Author: Leinberger, Charles F.
Title: An Austrian in Hollywood: Leitmotifs, Thematic Transformation & Key Relationships in Max Steiner\'s 1942 Film Score, Now, Voyager
Institution: The University of Arizona
Begun: June 1994
Completed: December 1996
Austrian-born composer Max Steiner (1888-1971), who moved to Hollywood, California (U.S.A.) in 1929, brought to the American cinema a style of composition inspired by the works of Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. In spite of his profound influence on this new style of American music, very little detailed analysis of his film scores has been done.
Biographical information is presented here with emphasis on the events leading up to and including the composition of the Academy-Award-winning score for the 1942 Warner Brothers film, Now, Voyager. The process of film score analysis is also briefly discussed, as well as the availability of unpublished film scores at various film archives in the United States.
The body of this paper presents a detailed analysis of the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic elements that make up the seven main themes in the Now, Voyager score, as well as the transformation of those themes throughout the film. Leitmotifs and changes in tonality are an important part of this style, and they demonstrate a strong late-nineteenth-century romantic influence. These seven themes are consistently associated with the specific characters and situations as the film’s narrative progresses. The relationship between these themes and the narrative of the film is discussed.
Like Wagner and Strauss, Steiner has assigned themes to each main character and situation, and he applies the leitmotif technique to each of these themes. The consistency with which these themes occur simultaneously with their corresponding characters or situations on the screen is obviously intentional. The timing of these musical events in synchronization with the visual images is always very precise. Attempting such precise timing, however, could have easily resulted in a score that lacks any kind of unity or structure. The fact that all of these musical events are put together to form a logical and coherent score clearly exhibits a great sense of craftsmanship.
Keywords: Steiner, Leitmotif, Hollywood, Film Score, Academy Award, Warner Bros.
LIST OF FIGURES 11
LIST OF TABLES 17
1. MUSIC IN AMERICAN FILM 32
2. THE LIFE AND CAREER OF MAX STEINER 37
3. SYNOPSIS OF NOW, VOYAGER’S NARRATIVE 49
4. MOTHER AND DAUGHTER THEME 59
5. SYNCOPATED THEME 87
6. DR. JAQUITH’S THEME 136
7. JERRY’S THEME 160
8. TINA’S THEME 182
9. CHARLOTTE’S THEME 204
10. POWER AND WEALTH THEME 265
11. ELLIOT’S THEME AND “MICKEY MOUSING” 280
12. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 284
Charles Francis Leinberger
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