Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Richard Addinsell: The Admirable Crichton

Richard Addinsell (1904-1977) is known universally for his magnificent parody of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 for the wartime film Dangerous Moonlight (1941) – the ‘Warsaw Concerto’. Addinsell was prolific in writing film music with an excess of 50 credits on the International Movie Database. Hits include Love on the Dole (1941) the comedy Blithe Spirit (1945), Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1951) and the Sea Devils (1953). However, one film for which he contributed some attractive music, but is not credited, is the social satire The Admirable Crichton (US Title: Paradise Lagoon) (1957).

Philip Lane has explained that there is a mystery about the production of the score for this film. Addinsell had accepted the contract for writing the music, however, after he had composed the dance music sequences, he ‘proceeded to walk away for reasons that are not clear.’ On face value, it would appear to have been an ideal project for a composer with his particular track record. The task was completed by Douglas Gamley who is duly credited in the film. Gamley (1924-1998) was an Australian composer and conductor who was twenty years younger than Addinsell, and is recalled for directing the music to The Little Prince (which won an Academy Award in 1974) and The Land that Time Forgot (1975)
The Admirable Crichton is presented as a comedy, but is intended to examine societal relationships at the turn of the century. A landed family on a sea voyage are wrecked on a desert island. It turns out that the butler, Crichton, (More) has a greater range of practical survival skills denied to his master. The roles are reversed and Crichton become Lord of the Desert Island. After a number of tribulations they are rescued by ship and return to England, where life continues as before.
The two dances which are recorded by Chandos on their retrospective of Addinsell’s film music are derived from scenes in the family mansion in England, the yacht which was wrecked and on the desert island.  The first dance is a Polka followed by a Galop. It is basically light-hearted and are parodies of music that would have been popular in the years before the story’s fictional setting. The second is an attractive ‘waltz sequence’ that explores a variety of nostalgic moods in its short space. It is a delight to listen to.  
The Admirable Crichton starred Kenneth More, Cecil Parker, Sally Ann Howes and Diane Cilento. It was based on the 1902 stage play by the Scottish author Sir James Barrie (1860-1937)
The music can be heard on Chandos CHAN 10046 Audio samples can be heard on AMAZON. They are the tracks 16 & 17 of this CD


Paul Brownsey said...

John, I can't allow a mention of Addinsell to go by without mentioning his marvellous music for a marvellous film, The Greengage Summer. It is inextricably bound up with my own adolescence. I used to track it down in reissue cinemas across London to capture its magic again.

I'm a little puzzled that you should call the Warsaw Concerto a parody. Sure, it was modelled on Rachmaninov (I believe he was originally asked to write the music), but it was a homage rather than a parody.

I gather that the Big Tune of the WC started off as a rumba he wrote for an Oxford Ball. Yep, it works as a rumba!!

John France said...

Thanks for that! Yes I too enjoy The Greengage Summer very much...

And, yes, I will concede 'homage' instead of 'parody'! It is just that he out Rachs Rach in this work!

Paul Brownsey said...

Do you know Malcolm Arnold's John Field Fantasy? Now I'd call the climax of that a Rach parody--a rather unsettling one because so little that's gone before paves the way for it.