Alfred Newman

A Certain Smile

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One of Alfred Newman's last hits for 20th Century-Fox before he went independent, A Certain Smile makes a pleasant soundtrack CD, not least from Johnny Mathis' lead-off track, which sets the mood for the entire disc to follow. Newman at his most lyrical and accessible can seem like Muzak, except that the quality of the writing, for the strings, winds, and reeds, and their recording, shows through even on the nearly half-century-old master sources. The result is a beautifully textured body of music that, at its most exuberant (as on "The Bus, Romanza"), would also fit into the late-'50s audiophile "space age pop" category. As the anonymous notes point out, Newman was a master recycler of his own best work, the central "Dominique Theme" from this score having originally appeared in his score for Dark Angel (and later serving as the basis for John Williams' theme from E.T.), a portion of another section derived from his music for Daddy Long Legs, and yet another section lifted from his earlier scores for The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Prince of Foxes. The score of A Certain Smile has been filled out on the disc by four selections from Newman's music for The Robe (1954), which make their first appearance in properly edited form. It's a sort of strange pairing of subject matter, the early religious epic's bold horn-driven passages and seriously reverential music bearing little in common with the later film's light romantic subject matter or approach, except in their comparable levels of soaring lyricism. The sound quality is excellent throughout, given the age and technical limitations of the source material, and this release's status is that of an at-least-partly clandestine, quasi-legal archival issue for the collector's market.