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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Little Jewels of Perfection 3: How to Murder Your Wife: Soundtrack 2


A few months ago we noted that B had very kindly sent me the MGM Soundtrack Treasury box set because it contained one of my favourite scores: Neal Hefti's sublime How to Murder your Wife (1965) (which is also one of my favourite films!).

Well, on our recent visit to Warsaw we met up with B and she presented us with what looked like a single cd of the soundtrack. Very kind but she had already given it to me. We were somewhat puzzled. However, on closer inspection, it proved to be much more than a duplicate.

A record company, Kritzerland, who specialise in rare soundtracks planned to issue a single cd version of the score rather than the very expensive box set. The original album, as issued on vinyl in 1965 and on cd in the boxed set, as was very common at the time, was a re-recording with some added lyrics put to some of the music in a way that Henry Mancini had done with some of his scores. The original soundtrack master had been lost. The record company wanted to get hold of the original album master for thier new release but, much to their surprise they accidentally re-discovered the original soundtrack master. All 55 minutes and 22 tracks of the original soundtrack score which were believed lost. This is the limited edition (1000 copies ) CD that B gave me last week (it was only released on September 2nd). If you want one you can still get them on the internet but they are selling our very fast indeed. Even Kritzerland don't have any any more.

To say we were delighted is an understatement by some degree. This is, in our opinion, the best comedy soundtrack score composed and one of the most enjoyable scores ever. The opening six minutes of the score are backed by no less than six of Hefti's hopelessly catchy melodies as well as showcasing the most desirable home ever seen in cinema!
Opening of How to Murder your Wife

We showed the film to Agent DVD and HMS but they weren't impressed. Films, especially comedies, are a very personal thing. For Triple P the charm of the film is actually rooted in the peripherals. Stanley Ford's (Jack Lemmon) town house being one. The interiors were designed by Richard Sylbert with wonderful sixties set decoration by William Kiernan. The exteriors were actually an amalgamation of two buildings. The exterior onto the street is 174 1/2 East 75th Street New York (you can look at it via Google Maps Street view) and the roof exterior is a now demolished building near the New York Hilton (which can be glimpsed in the background of a few of the scenes).

Cartoonist Mel Keefer supplied the wonderful cartoon strips supposedly drawn by Stanley Ford
As someone who has been known to do the odd bit of drawing a studio like Stanley Ford's with a cast iron spiral staircase would be splendid!
Secondly, of course Neal Hefti's music which perfectly captures a moment in time and place; an urbane New York in the pre-Vietnam mid sixties when America still had the confidence to enjoy its new consumer society without guilt and a world where pop music had yet to conquer all.


Thirdly, Terry-Thomas in his greatest film role as butler Charles; a few facial movements transmitting a myriad of scheming thoughts in a few seconds. It was Thomas' most enjoyable film to make, he later said, and he picked up his biggest pay cheque of £200,000 for it.


Finally, an incandescently beautiful Virna Lisi proving herself to be a wonderful comedienne and making one of the greatest entrances in motion picture history; rising like Venus from a cake, dressed only in a whipped cream bikini.


She should have been a bigger star but was hampered by a violently jealous husband who terrified the rest of the cast and crew during filming.
So, we are most grateful to B once again and have the soundtrack playing as we dress for dinner in Old Montreal!

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