“Miracle On 34th Street (1994)”
Music By Bruce Broughton
Disc One/30 Tracks/Disc Time: 67:53
Also Features “Miracle On 34th Street (1947) & “Come To The Stable”
Music By Cyril Mockridge Musical Arrangements and Direction by Alfred Newman & Lionel Newman
Disc Two/36 Tracks/Disc Time: 62:38
La-La Land Records Soundtrack Album Review
Grade: B (BEST OF 2014)
What both 1947 and 1994 have in common is that both years have in common is one special film which is “Miracle On 34th Street” which introduced the world to a young beautiful girl and superstar actress, the late Natalie Wood as well as Oscar Winner Maureen O’Hara. Also, the film was a major showcase for Macy’s which boosted its’ commercial appeal all over the world. The original film directed by the late George Seaton revolves around a young girl named Susan (Wood) who takes to a kindly department store Santa Claus (Edmund Gwenn) who claims to be the “real” thing after replacing the actor who was originally hired to be Santa during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by non-nonsense events director Doris Walker (O’Hara) who’s Susan’s mother and taken a strong interest in Kris Kringle. When he’s institutionalized, a young lawyer agrees to defend him in court in time for the holiday.
While the original film has become an instant classic, the 1994 remake which was a disappointment for Fox when it was released despite positive critical reviews and featured a solid script by the popular John Hughes has become a bit of a cult film garnering the attention it should’ve received twenty years earlier. While the remake took place in a modern setting, it featured a stellar cast that included Oscar Winning Director and Actor Sir Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle along side Elizabeth Perkins (“Big”), Dylan McDermott (“The Practice”) and Mara Wilson (“Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Matilda”) amongst others. With it’s lovely Chicago setting (Macy’s refused to back this production here in New York) and excellent production value, the film is pretty much in the same league as its’ famed predecessor.
Another thing the films have in common is the work of two stellar composers to bring musical magic to their respective versions of the film. Cyril Mockridge brought his own Christmas spirit to the film with charming adaptations aided and abetted by the legendary Alfred Newman to bring the perfect musical atmosphere to the film. On the flipside, the underrated Bruce Broughton was in the middle of a stellar period and was coming off two memorable scores for the brilliant western, “Tombstone” which is still one of his more memorable score amongst soundtrack and fans of the film along side the other John Hughes produced comedy, “Baby’s Day Out”, in which he wrote an inspired score based on the “Blue Danube”. Broughton’s wonderful score which is the main concentration of this two-disc reissue of the long out of print scores by both composers originally issued by Intrada Records and Percepto Records respectively.
Broughton’s score is a grand and operatic one that features a great homage to the Christmas season as well as whimsical side of the story told through the eyes of Mara Wilson. Opening with the regal and festive “Main Titles”, Broughton brings in the spirit of the Christmas season and the film establishing the film’s central theme. Chorus, sweeping romantic strings, woodwinds and harp that really bring a cheerful and dramatic balance to the score later on. The score mixes alot of Broughton’s deft gifts of majestic and intimate writing that is seldom done nowadays that captures the musical spirit of a film and the score he marries to it. The main theme is played lovingly throughout the score in various different settings and guises that shift from whimsy and cheerful to dramatic and sad at times. Those elements highlighted in the tracks “The Secret”, “People We Love” (one of my favorite tracks on the album and just listen to that beautiful chorus), “The Mom And The Myth”, “I’m A Symbol”, “Susan’s Christmas Wish”, and “Big Fat Fake”. Broughton also writes a lovely and beautiful “Love Theme” complete with a Kenny G influenced saxophone solo that spins off the tracks “The Engagement Ring”, “Meet Me At St. Francis” and “Christmas Morning”, which flesh out the love theme in a more dramatic rendering with passion and love. The score is also full of Christmas cheer where Broughton gets to mix in a little classical influence into the traditional Christmas carols which highlight the harpsichord as a primary solo instrument. Featured in the tracks “North Pole Moon”, “Merry Mayfield”, “Charmin’ Armin”, “Completely Out Of His Mind”, and “The Bellevue Carol”, which are wonderful tracks in keeping the cheery spirit of the score with Broughton having fun with the material as well he should.
While the original score which is mostly adaptations of traditional Christmas songs by Cyril Mockridge which include “Good King Wenceslas”, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” and “Silent Night” and features a very brief score by the composer which is very effective in it’s traditional dramatic writing that is highlighted in the magical tracks “Susie’s Dream House/Store Montage”, “Mr. Macy Sees The Light”, “A Letter To Santa”, “Party On Long Island/X-Ray Machine” and “Trailer Finale”, that does keep the Christmas arrangements alive, but with plenty of original material by Mockridge to make it positive. While his second score included here, “Come To The Stable” features a much better score that is very dramatic and passionate with grand golden age writing that is now really unheard of to be honest with you. Opening with the terrific “Main Title/Arrival In Bethlehem” which is a wonderful track which features some expansive string writing and tender dramatic writing. This dramatic writing agumented by a lovely chorus gives the score some nice balance. These tracks are highlighted by the tracks “Hill For The Hospital”, “The Bishop Relents”, “The Nun’s Shoppe”, “Striking Water”, “Failed Mission” and “Revelation” that feature Mockridge writing some of his best material in a rather underrated career often overshadowed by other composers in the Fox ovure by the likes of Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman amongst others.
La-La Land Records’ reissue of these fine scores is a great example of why the label has become one of the best. Their commitment to excellence and to bringing soundtrack collectors the best of the best and this easily one of their finest. Bruce Broughton’s score deserves this reissue because it is a charming score and if the film had been the hit the studio expected it to be, then it would’ve had a long enduring score album to be available to the public all this time. However, without his score we wouldn’t have Cyril Mockridge’s charming score to the original film or “Come To The Stable” either and would’ve been lost again. This is a very solid and special release to celebrate the Christmas season before and after with. Strong thumbs up!