ABSTRACT

One of the most discussed incidents in the history of film music involves the breakup of director Alfred Hitchcock and composer Bernard Herrmann over the score for Torn Curtain (1966). The generally accepted explanation is that Hitchcock was under pressure from the studio to get a pop-oriented score that would produce a hit recording. Yet this seems inadequate to account for the termination of a successful ten-year collaboration.1 Presumably the studio could have obtained the desired hit tune without compromising Herrmann’s underscore, as Herrmann already had demonstrated in his earlier Hitchcock collaboration The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and more recently with Joy in the Morning (1965), the film he scored just prior to Torn Curtain in which he incorporated a pop song performed in the film by star Richard Chamberlain. The explanation also fails to take into account that Torn Curtain was hardly the first time studios had attempted to derive a hit song from a Hitchcock production. Jack Sullivan, in Hitchcock’s Music, cites Rear Window (1954) as “the beginning of Hitchcock’s increasingly debilitating obsession with hit tunes,”2 though in fact efforts to come up with musical promotional tie-ins began even before the director made his first sound film. And despite Sullivan’s claim, the push for hit songs seems as much a result of increasing corporate control of the film studios as of any personal obsession on Hitchcock’s part.