The Film Music Society is pleased to offer previously unreleased recordings of eminent film composer Dimitri Tiomkin's scores from four historically significant World War II documentary features.
The World War II Documentary Music of Dimitri Tiomkin includes nearly 79 minutes of Tiomkin's music from the Army orientation films of producer Frank Capra - "The Battle of Russia" (1943), "Tunisian Victory" (1944), "The Negro Soldier" (1944) and "San Pietro" (1945) - ranging in style from inspiring military marches to themes that underpin the despair of war, from American gospel and jazz to traditional Russian folk melodies, from the modern beat of the big band to the classical strains of Tschaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.
The recordings in this collection originated from 16 inch acetate transcription discs owned by Tiomkin, which were transferred to 1/4 inch magnetic tape in the mid-1980s by innovative recording engineer Bob Auger. The tapes remained in the possession of Tiomkin's wife Olivia until earlier this year when they were transferred to digital format for restoration and inclusion on this CD.
Accompanying these recordings is a deluxe 16-page booklet containing never-before-seen photographs and authoritative liner notes by Tiomkin expert Warren Sherk.
The World War II Documentary Music of Dimitri Tiomkin is a Limited Edition release of 1000 copies.
THE BATTLE OF RUSSIA - The 60-minute documentary was the fifth of the Army Special Service's "Why We Fight" series. Assembled under the supervision of Lt. Colonel Frank Capra, the film is a sublimely assembled collection of authentic newsreel footage from both the U.S. Signal Corps and various Soviet sources. Narrated by Anthony Veiller, Battle for Russia is designed to clarify the history of America's Russian allies to military and civilian audiences alike, and to emphasize the importance of Russo-American cooperation in defeating the Nazi juggernaut. The film's highlight is the siege of Stalingrad, alternately terrifying and awe-inspiring. The musical score was by Russian expatriate Dmitri Tiomkin, who'd previously collaborated with Capra on "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." 1943
TUNISIAN VICTORY - Like the military operation it celebrates, "Tunisian Victory" is a joint Anglo-American project. Produced by the British Film Unit and the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the film was supervised by England's Hugh Stewart and Hollywood's Frank Capra. Running 75 minutes - unusually long for a documentary, even a wartime one - the film covers the length and breadth of the allied North African campaign, from first landings to final triumph. The film is narrated by Bernard Miles and Burgess Meredith, respectively impersonating a British "Tommy" and an American GI. "Tunisian Victory" was distributed to civilian audiences by MGM. 1944
THE NEGRO SOLDIER - During WWII, the U.S. government produced numerous documentaries, often under the supervision of Frank Capra, designed to build support for the war. One of the more curious entries in this effort was "The Negro Soldier." The structure of the film is that of a black minister who preaches a sermon to his all-black congregation. Over the course of 40 minutes, the minister recounts the contributions of blacks in American military history, from Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre to the men who served in WWI, along the way touching on the War of 1812, the Civil War, the exploration of the West and the building of the railroad, the Spanish-American War, and the building of the Panama Canal. Throughout, the filmmakers blend archival footage and Hollywood re-creations to illustrate the preacher's words, and even include a re-creation of the destruction by the Nazis of a WWI monument in France to African-American soldiers. The film then slips into a more general history, telling of Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and the roles blacks have played in such fields as law, medicine, global exploration, music, education, art, academia, and athletics. The second half of The Negro Soldier moves into the present, describing the crimes of the Germans and Japanese and filling the screen with graphic images of hangings, bombings, and bodies; following the sentimental story of a young man through basic training; and wrapping up with a slew of images showing African-Americans serving in all aspects of military life, from infantrymen and tank destroyers to engineers and quartermasters. "The Negro Soldier" was written by Carlton Moss, who would become an important figure in African-American independent cinema, and the following year the U.S. Navy released a follow-up of sorts, "The Negro Sailor." 1944
SAN PIETRO - "The Battle of San Pietro" was Hollywood filmmaker John Huston's first effort for the U.S. War Department. Scripted by British novelist Eric Ambler, the film, largely comprised of on-the-spot combat footage, concentrates on a grueling battle in the Italian stronghold of San Pietro. The Germans, making full use of the town's natural fortifications, dug in and began defending their position by slaughtering hundreds of Allied troops. The 143rd infantry regiment lost 12 of its 16 tanks in the bloody battle. Huston and Ambler concentrate on the men of the 143rd, sparing the audience nothing in showing the bodies of the victims, intercut with shots of those same unfortunates, grinning and gabbing in the hours before their deaths. The filmmakers fully intended Battle of San Pietro as an anti-war film, but the military brass, concerned that the relatives of the dead soldiers would be subject to undue agony by so uncompromising a film, demanded that the picture be recut, toning down the stench of death and emphasizing the resilience of those who survived. Even in its truncated form, "The Battle of San Pietro" was strong stuff for a home-front audience weaned on the optimistic propaganda dispensed by newsreels and fictional Hollywood war pictures. 1945