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More Chan Music Mysteries!

Greetings fellow Chan sleuths,

We are still trying to figure out how music cross pollinates from Universal Pictures to 20th Century Fox, from Sherlock Holmes to Charlie Chan and from London to Panama.

For your viewing and listening pleasure, compare the music at the end of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"

There is a short excerpt here:

Listen to the music beginning at 1:58

THEN, check out "Charlie Chan in Panama"--the scene where Jimmy discovers Dr. Grosser's PLAGUE INFESTED RATS! Yikes!

The video is here:

Start listening at 23:30

The orchestra in the Holmes film is better than the scrappy crew playing for Chan, but it's obvious that a) this is the same music and b) it is a different performance. The tempos are very different (faster vs slower), but it's the same music.

(The preceding two minutes of "Chan" music are bits and pieces of the Holmes music re-composed a bit.)

Somebody had to get the sheet music from Universal, decide it would work for Chan and put it into the score--however it was composed or compiled.

"Panama" credits Samuel Kaylin for "Musical Direction" and Wikipedia says he wrote music for Chan films. OK so far.

But IMDB says the composers for "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" are Robert Russell Bennett (of "Victory at Sea" fame), David Buttolph, Cecil J. Mockridge, David Raskin, and Walter Sharf.

So: Somebody had to have plagiarized this music. There are other examples of more subtle "borrowings" in other Holmes/Chan films, but this is the clearest "theft."

This is the sort of thing that we're hoping a "film person" can help figure out. We musicians are perplexed...and intrigued.

Many thanks for any insights!


Re: More Chan Music Mysteries!

Very interesting. Like to hear more.

... but correction, please: "Adventures" is a fox movie

Re: More Chan Music Mysteries!

Yep. Both "Adventures of SH" and "Chan in Panama" are Fox movies--oops. But the question of "how did they put these movie scores together?" remains. Was this a matter of a "composer" recycling material when he wrote a new score for a Chan movie (like, say, John Williams wrote "Star Wars?"). Or were these movie scores compiled from a collection of per-existing and newly-composed things? If so, who did that and how did they do it?

Re: More Chan Music Mysteries!

Well, every studio had their "Music Directors" - and if there wasn't a budget for a new musical score for a particular film, the musical director - who was a composer himself, usually - could "cut and paste" music cues from other scores to weave into a "new" score. For years, I've tried to figure out where the music cues from THE DEVIL BAT (1941) came from. I've never heard them from any previous film, but it appears that David Chudnow had them in his music library of "cues." the sloppier way of doing this was to have a film music editor literally "cut and paste" music tracks together, but the best way - if you had a musical director - was to rework "cues" from older "library" scores and write them into a fairly seamless musical score.

When pressed for time, composers like Has Salter or Frank Skinner or Max Steiner or Erich Wolfgang Korngold might take small pieces from other earlier compositions and weave them into new scores. I suspect that they did this at Fox more often than we might realize! I've heard cues from CHANDU THE MAGICIAN used in CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT and THE GORILLA - for example!

Question on CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT - are those "reconstructed" main titles for the film? The music seems like a patch job - from the rarely heard "exit music" CHANDU THE MAGICIAN (which is sadly, NOT on the "official" version of the film on DVD - and I suspect - the Blu-Ray version). I've heard that the film was one of the first to make it to TV - was there a problem with the main titles on that film?

Re: More Chan Music Mysteries!

10,000 thanks for this. This is what we've always wondered about. Do you have any idea how long the "music director" had to do the cut-and-pasting? Days? Weeks? Months?

We can envision these folks keeping a notebook of "fight scene," "suspense," "diabolical chase," and whatnot so that they could cobble these together pretty quickly. But it would still be a huge job.

And...did the studios have copyists to write out the parts for the orchestra musicians?

It would be SO interesting to get interviews with these people.

Again, many thanks.