The journeys of two great Pal-taculars (both with stop motion) to vinyl and disc were like adventures in themselves
MGM Presents A George Pal Production
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM
The Voices from the Original Sound Track
MGM Records S-1E3 (Stereo) 1E3 (Mono) (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Boxed with Hardcover Souvenir Book / 1962)
LP Reissue: MCA Records MCA-39091 (1986)
Narrator: Charles Ruggles. Producer/Editor: Jesse Kaye. Music Adaptation: Gus Levene. Story Adaptation: David P. Harmon. Running Time: 41 minutes.Performers: Laurence Harvey (Wilhelm Grimm, The Cobbler); Karl Boehm (Jacob Grimm); Russ Tamblyn (The Woodsman, Tom Thumb); Yvette Mimieux (The Dancing Princess); Beulah Bondi (Gypsy); Jim Backus (King); Clinton Sundberg (Prime Minister); Walter Brooke (Mayor); Sandra Gale Bettin (Ballerina); Robert Foulk (Hunter); Terry-Thomas (Sir Ludwig); Buddy Hackett (Hans); Otto Kruger (King); Martita Hunt (Story Teller); Arnold Stang (Rumpelstiltskin); Peter Whitney (Giant); True Ellison (Snow White); Pamela Beaird (Cinderella); Stanley Fafara (Hansel); Diana Driscoll (Gretel); Ruthie Robinson (Little Red Riding Hood; and the Voices of Stan Freberg and Dal McKennon (Elves).
The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm is the easily most lavish storybook fantasy feature film that millions have never seen. Or if they did, perhaps not in the full, expansive manner originally envisioned. One of George Pal’s favorite projects, Brothers Grimm was so big a project, his responsibilities dictated that he bring in Henry Levin to direct the connecting narrative thread sections.
Songs/Instrumentals: “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm”, “The Dancing Princess,” “Above the Stars”, “Ah-oom”, “Gypsy Fire”.
Pal directed three adaptations of Grimm fairy tales. Two of them, “The Dancing Princess” and “The Singing Bone,” were chosen because they were lesser-known and might seem more novel to audiences. The more familiar “Cobbler and the Elves” was perfect for filling the taller, triple-wide, wraparound Cinerama image with stop-motion Puppetoons. A fourth sequence, “The Dream,” combined as many fairytale characters as Pal could get into the sequence, including Russ Tamblyn (who plays two roles) returning in the role of “tom thumb” from Pal’s 1958 fantasy feature (the subject of this Animation Spin).
The rebirth of this magnificent 1962 Cinerama production on Blu-ray after a ten-year restoration odyssey is big news in an industry looking for new “content” when there are things the public rarely or never saw properly, to begin with. Brothers Grimm was considered a dead issue after years of indifferent neglect left the elements suffering water damage and other seemingly unsolvable problems, in addition to the time, money, and inside support needed.
For those of us who had only the music to enjoy and the Cinerama to imagine, there were several fine recordings but no soundtrack album of just the score and songs ever released on vinyl. When the film was first released, MGM Records decided to produce a deluxe boxed album with a hardcover book (adapted from the theater program) and a dialogue album, completely rescored with melodies from the film but no actual soundtrack music.
The dialogue from the soundtrack is plentiful, with narration recorded by Charlie Ruggles just after he played Hayley Mills’ grandfather in The Parent Trap, and the same year he voiced Aesop for Jay Ward’s Aesop and Son cartoons. The soundtrack score of Leigh Harline (Pinocchio, Silly Symphonies) is replaced by a fully-orchestrated studio score arranged and conducted for the album by Gus Levene (arranger for The King and I, The Music Man, and other films).
Brothers Grimm is not a ”book musical” but instead a fantasy with songs by Bob Merrill (Funny Girl, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol). The album presents them briefly in deference to the story. The catchy main title song was the most frequently covered piece from the Merrill compositions, recorded by David Rose, Lawrence Welk, Don Costa, Henry Mancini, and Les Baxter.
The album contains generous helpings of the two major stop-motion sequences, with Stan Freberg and Dal McKennon, two favorite Pal voices, as the Elves. The song, “Ah-Oom,” is re-created for the album with what sounds like session singers, including the legendary Bill Lee.
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film Score Monthly FSM Silver Age Classics Vol. 13 No. 4 (Two Compact Discs / 2010 / Stereo) Also includes soundtrack music from The Honeymoon Machine (1961)
The true Cinerama version of Brothers Grimm was produced in seven-track stereo, which may have a lot to do with the complexity and cost of making a soundtrack album in 1962. “Wonderful” as the cover versions of the music story album above were, an actual soundtrack was the stuff dreams were made of. This 2010 Film Score Monthly two-disc set was a massive accomplishment. The entire Leigh Harline background score, all the Bob Merrill songs in various forms and reprises, medleys, and transitions are included in full stereo.
Bonus tracks include alternate versions, even what Buddy Hackett sounded like before his voice was processed by Sonovox for “The Singing Bone.” In addition, the complete MGM David Rose LP is included featuring five songs and melodies as well as other movie songs. An additional soundtrack, Harline’s peppy score for The Honeymoon Machine, a silly romantic comedy with an unlikely Steve McQueen, caps off the package.
Even though the CD is out of print, Film Score Monthly’s website has retained the exhaustively thorough liner notes containing much more information on the film and its music than could be described in this post. Go to this page
for the track listing and basic information but click where the words “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” is highlighted at the top right above the track list. The track list itself offers a sample of every track on the 72-minute album.
Cinerama began in 1952, six years before stereophonic records were even available to the public, before other wide-screen movies, and even the opening of Disneyland. It’s well known that the threat of television had the movie industry in a panic. The movie studio powers-that-be sought magical answers as well as advice, like letting go of people they later realized they needed (like animation departments).
The Cinerama process was very expensive and limited in its capabilities, but it was an attention-getting, potentially career-making media sensation. Cinerama films were an event again and people traveled for miles to see them. In the early sixties, two Cinerama full-length features with celebrity casts and stories were set in production simultaneously. A total of five directors worked on the two features, including Pal and Levin.
John Ford, George Marshall and Henry Hathaway each directed a section of How the West Was Won, a feature perfectly timed for its era and loaded with the biggest stars of the day. In the numbers, it eclipsed The Wonderful World Brothers Grimm, a classic-style family fantasy without the benefit of the Walt Disney name, substantial stars but not major marquee names and an overall “little kids should like this kind of stuff” consensus. Grimm was nonetheless one of the year’s big moneymakers, but West hit a level in its day that Grimm could not reach. No further features were ever filmed in the original Cinerama format. The process was modified into a one-camera widescreen version. While still very impressive in such classics as It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, this was not the “true” Cinerama, just as latter-day IMAX in smaller neighborhood theaters wasn’t quite the same as the original IMAX. Cinerama eventually became a trademark and a releasing company.The Brothers Grimm fell into a similar fate as Wilhelm’s fairy tales almost did, rarely seen except in a highly reduced quality. The major networks never broadcast the film, while How the West Was Won was a sixties and seventies TV staple. Grimm was relegated to one-dollar children’s matinees under heavily traveled print conditions. The best version possible was released on VHS in 2006 and shown on TCM. This was a reduced circumstance under which most people formed their perceptions about its overall quality. The Cinerama Dome in Hollywood presented the best version available in 2015 but even then, it was not restored to the degree that it is now and therefore judgments have been distorted by any number of circumstances.
There were always those who believed in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and its lasting value in classic storybook filmmaking in the grandest possible scope. The new fully restored Blu-ray edition comes with a widescreen version and a “smilebox” disc that simulates the wraparound effect of Cinerama. It seems weird at first, but allow a few minutes to get used to it because you will see that the sets, art direction, and most photography were usually designed for the curved screen and wide-angle lens. Smilebox or widescreen, the film looks better than it was believed it could ever look.
Fictionalized as The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm is (what biopic is not?), the central struggle of Wilhelm Grimm to research, preserve and establish the worth of supposed “quickly read, easily forgotten” fairy tales strikes at the heart of those of us dedicated to similar bittersweet lives hopelessly and joyously devoted to such “other man’s trash” in the face of bewilderment and snark. I was a little verklempt by the end and I am not sorry.
Like Brothers Grimm, George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960) is highlighted by stop-motion as well as special effects that still astonish in their inventive artistry. Composer Russell Garcia (Limelight, Playhouse 90, The Wild Wild West) was Pal’s inspired choice to score this classic with eclectic themes and orchestration, just as inventive and endlessly replayable.
Also like Brothers Grimm, there was no Time Machine soundtrack or score LP album at the time of its release, except for a Verve Records’ 45 single with the Main Theme on one side and the “London 1900 Theme” on the other. Decades passed until listeners were able to enjoy Russell Garcia’s music, and the first time it ever appeared on recordings it was as a stunning digital re-creation by Garcia himself, which has now been restored to an even more crystalline brilliance.“Russ Garcia was the kind of person who didn’t brag about himself,” said Arnold Leibovit, producer of The Fantasy Worlds of George Pal (the feature film and the CD set). Leibovit has also produced two volumes of The Puppetoon Movie (more info here) and many other projects devoted to the creativity of Pal and the great people whom he offered opportunities to shine, including Russell Garcia.
Garcia’s work in film and television is well known even if his name may not be familiar to everyone. In this interview with Randall L. Larson, Garcia recalled his work on the 1952 classic Limelight: “Charlie Chaplin wrote the themes, the melodies. He was a real talent. The pianist that went to rehearse with Charlie — Charlie would sing or play one finger on the piano and Ray Rasch was the pianist — and he said, ‘Ray, why don’t you score this film? I’ve written all the melodies, why don’t score it?’ Ray said ‘Okay,’ but he didn’t know how to orchestrate, so he got me to work with him and I orchestrated the whole film. Of course, we had to do a lot of composing with Charlie’s themes, but they were all Chaplin’s themes.”
George Pal was impressed with Garcia’s work on a 1958 Liberty Records LP called Fantastica: Music from Outer Space. It is considered a forerunner of the “space music” concept album trend, during the home stereo system craze of the late fifties and early sixties when the “stereo” was proclaimed on LP covers and liner notes were accompanied by sonic charts.
“You can hear a lot of what influenced George in Fantastica,” Leibovit said. “George really understood music. So, Russ thought, ‘Oh boy, I’m going to get to write something really spacey and far out. But George didn’t like it too much, so Russ came up with something a little more ‘folksy,’ so to speak. George liked that, and what ended up happening is that Russ incorporated both ideas — the melodic, more emotionally stirring, and sweeter elements — and that he still brought in other ideas and it ended up becoming a little of both.” Leibovit’s extensive liner notes detail the remarkable range of innovative electronic and tactile sounds Garcia brought into the recording.
In 1987, Garcia and Leibovit decided to digitally re-record The Time Machine score from scratch, with only Garcia’s conductor’s score as a guide. “Russ had to write out the orchestrations for every instrument so that it would match the original way he had written it. That’s a big undertaking,” said Leibovit.To Disneyland Records enthusiasts, the Symphonie Orchester Graunke, conducted by Kurt Graunke, is the equivalent of the New York or London Philharmonic. This Berlin orchestra recorded the soundtracks for 1959’s Sleeping Beauty and Grand Canyon (and others uncredited) as well as countless Disney records like Highlights from Scheherazade, Great Piano Concertos, and Peer Gynt Suite for producer Tutti Camarata. For The Time Machine CD, Graunke conducted the Munich Symphony.
The 1987 CNP Crescendo Time Machine release was mixed and edited to match the film soundtrack, which was still not available on CD. According to Leibovit, there were changes in speed and other modifications. A suite was also added from Atlantis: The Lost Continent.
In 2005, Film Score Monthly finally released a limited edition Time Machine album of the MGM soundtrack (FSM Vol. 8 No. 13.). The music is in stereo with Garcia’s unique sound effects in mono. Since it was limited, it is now out of print.
Believing the score should be available for all to enjoy, Leibovit went back to the studio with the original digital elements of the 1987 version. The result is a restored limited edition available on the Puppetoon website and other retailers.
The restored and enhanced version contains several additional minutes of music. Some are noticeable right away. The Main Title begins with more notes than in the Crescendo edit. In comparing the two versions, there is a more specific prominence and clarity among the instruments and sections.
“I wanted people to be able to have the score to The Time Machine sounding exactly as Russ created it for George. When you listen to it, the music really transports you to another place and time – into the movie itself, or the times when you watched it.”
Great music is a great time machine.
[Portions of this post contain a sliver or two of earlier material.]