Variations on a Theme, No. 1: Jane Eyre (1943)

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In the spirit of awards season, which is about to get underway, I am starting a series of posts highlighting original film scores that were not Oscar-nominated but which were every bit as deserving as the ones chosen for the Academy Award category in those particular years. Let’s start with a score that might be my all-time favorite.

Bernard Herrmann – Jane Eyre (1943, dir. Robert Stevenson)

Winner at the 1944 Academy Awards: Alfred Newman, The Song of Bernadette (1943, dir. Henry King)

Bernard Herrmann’s work on the 20th Century Fox production of Jane Eyre is my favorite of all of his scores, an impeccably made set of compositions that express and expand upon the beauty of Stevenson’s film. The music heard in “Main Title” (1) sets the scene for the Gothic romance, while the alternately lovely and ominous “Mr. Mason” (2) continues cues first heard at the beginning of the film in “Jane’s Departure,” combining the sounds of Jane’s love and fear. All of the film’s themes are tied together in “The Finale” (3), bringing dramatic resolution to the story. It is a score befitting such a finely-crafted film, worthy of its two great stars at the peaks of their powers, Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.

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