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The Bridge on the River Kwai \ The Key OST

Composers: Malcolm Arnold, Kenneth Alford
Cat No: FILMCD1001
Format: Audio CD (Mono)
Release Date: 31 May 2010

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Buy The Bridge on The River Kwai\ The Key OST From The Bridge On the River Kwai / the Key (Original Soundtrack Recordings) - Various Artists
Track Listing
1OvertureMalcolm Arnold/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra4:27
2The River Kwai March / Colonel BogeyMitch Miller and his Orchestra2:28
3Shear's EscapeMalcolm Arnold/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra4:03
4Nicholson's VictoryMalcolm Arnold/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra4:47
5SunsetMalcolm Arnold/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra3:52
6Working on the BridgeMalcolm Arnold/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra3:02
7Trek to the BridgeMalcolm Arnold/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra8:31
8Camp Concert DanceMalcolm Arnold/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra1:22
9FinaleMalcolm Arnold/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra2:15
10Colonel BogeyThe Band of HM Royal Marines Conducted by F. Vivian Dunn2:52
11The Key (To Your Heart)Mitch Miller and his Orchestra & Chorus2:25
12U-Boat AlleyMalcolm Arnold & Orchestra13:32
13The KeyMalcolm Arnold & Orchestra3:32
14StellaMalcolm Arnold & Orchestra11:29
15Chop Suey PolkaMalcolm Arnold & Orchestra2:12

Sir Malcolm Arnold was a prolific film composer, writing music for over 120 documentaries and feature films between 1947 and 1969, including The Belles of St. Trinian's, Trapeze, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness and Whistle Down The Wind. This was in addition to numerous symphonies, concertos, ballets, chamber music, orchestral suites, choral music, solo songs, and works for wind and brass bands.

He wrote his first film score in 1947 for the documentary Avalanche Patrol. He was advised to send his score for Beckus the Dandipratt to the Rank Organisation’s Denham Film Studios by his colleague Sidney Twinn, who was one of the violinists in the LPO. Conductor John Hollingsworth, who was the assistant music director at Denham Studios, had previously heard some of Arnold compositions and within a week he was asked to write his first film score. Arnold claimed that his love of film made writing film music easy for him. Also he would write music that he would want to hear if he was in the audience.

His most popular score and the one that made him a household name was for The Bridge on the River Kwai in 1957. This epic film was shot in Ceylon in Cinemascope and based upon the Pierre Boulle novel The Bridge Over the River Kwai. It tells the fictional account of the construction of the Burma-Siam Railway by Allied prisoners of war under the supervision of the Imperial Japanese Army. It concentrates on the battle of wills between Colonel Nicholson, the British commander and the camp commandant Colonel Saito over the construction of the bridge.Meanwhile Allied commandos were determined to destroy the bridge. This was his third and final score for a David Lean film (the others were Hobson's Choice and The Sound Barrier). Malcolm Arnold turned down the opportunity to write for David Lean’s next film Lawrence of Arabia and never worked on another Lean film.

One of the reasons for Malcolm Arnold’s success in film composing was his ability to work fast. But for Arnold, the music for The Bridge on the River Kwai was the worst job he had in his life, with only ten days to write 45 minutes of music. The film’s producer Sam Spiegel, wanted the film to be ready for the propsed release date. While Lean left Arnold to his own devices, Spiegel was a hands on producer and wanted a theme to illustrate Nicholson’s increasing obsession to complete the bridge. There was a row between them and Arnold walked out, but he had to acquiesce.

In a letter to Malcolm Arnold from David Lean dated 4 February 1958 he wrote" I thought your score was simply brilliant…. You didn’t miss a bloody point… The way you sneak in the march theme when old Nicholson wins and starts to do up that button on his tunic is sort of miraculous…"(Track 4: Nicholson’s Victory). "I like the kite scene very much…the sheer attack of the music saved that awful dummy shot of Holden falling into the river"(Track 3: Shear’s Escape). The score was not a typical Hollywood score, with the use of exotic sounding instruments (Track 7: Trek to The Bridge) and "spiky rhythms and jagged orchestral flourishes impart a sharply realistic almost noir-ish edge"(Gramophone Film Music Guide, 1998).

One of the memorable highlights was the entry of the prisoners of war whistling of the Colonel Bogey March, to illustrate the British stiff upper lip. It was written in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford. Arnold wrote the River Kwai March as an orchestral counter-march to it. The soundtrack became a major success, due in part to the pop arrangement of the Colonel Bogey March and the River Kwai March by Mitch Miller & His Orchestra (Track 2), which sold over a million copies throughout the world. Although due to copyright issues, the Colonel Bogey March and the River Kwai March have been seldom recorded together since the release of the film, Chandos’ 1992 CD release of Sir Malcolm Arnold’s film music needed to have two separate pieces.

Prior to 1956, Arnold’s film scores were conducted usually by Muir Matheson or John Hollingsworth. Afterwards he was allowed to conduct them, meaning not just more money, but also the ability to select whichever musicians he wanted. According to Anthony Meredith and Paul Harris biography of Malcolm Arnold, he earned about £10,000 for each of his Anglo-American films, £250,000 to £300,000 in current prices.

The film was a major success at numerous awards including the BAFTAs and Golden Globes. At the Academy Awards it won seven awards including Best Picture, Best Director (David Lean), Best Actor (Alec Guinness) and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Film. Due to the film’s success, according to Malcolm Arnold he was offered "…every bloody war movie that there was!".

He was unable to collect his Oscar as he was busy working on the soundtrack for The Key. Although he did have an Oscar lunch at Shepperton Studios. The Key is based upon the novel Stella written by Jan de Hartog. Set in early years of the Second World War about the Salvage Service ocean going tugs which played a major part in maintaining the Atlantic convoys. Each mission to rescue a torpedoed ship was considered to be suicidal, but the tugs being inadequately armed and virtually defenceless against attack by plane or submarine. The location scenes were shot off the Dorset Coast and the Royal Naval Dockyard at Portland.

The story concerns an American called David Ross (William Holden) who recently became tugboat captain and meets an old friend Chris Ford (Trevor Howard), also a tugboat captain. They go back to Chris’ flat, which he shares with a woman called Stella (Sophia Loren) who is distant. It transpires that she was a fiancée of a tugboat captain who died on the eve of their wedding. Due to the shortage of accommodation, another captain moved in. Prior to his death, he gives a copy of the key to Chris, so he can move into the flat when he dies. Chris gives a copy of the key to David, who accepts it against his better judgement. Chris dies during a mission, the day after proposing to Stella. David moves in and starts a relationship with Stella.

The film was a mixture of action, romance and supernatural and this is reflected in the music composed by Malcolm Arnold. The Key (To Your Heart) (Track 11) was recorded by Mitch Miller & His Orchestra and included on the Columbia’s Original Soundtrack Album, although it does not features in the film. American lyricist Al Stillman wrote the lyrics. It is based upon one of Malcolm Arnold’s source music cues, which was used twice in the film, firstly in the dancehall and also played on the flat’s radio. We can only assume The Key (To Your Heart) was recorded by Columbia to help sales of the soundtrack album, of which Mitch Miller was the head of A&R. The other source music cue was Chop Suey Polka (track 15) and also played in a dancehall. While U Boat Alley (Track 12) and Stella (track 14) are combinations of various cues throughout the film.

Producer Notes

The source for these transfers were three copies of both The Bridge On The River Kwai (American Columbia CL1100) and The Key (American Columbia CL1185). The best portions were used to preserve the tonal range of the recordings.

Both recordings feature distortions during loud passages, electronic clicks, squeaking floorboards and chairs. These are inherent to the original master tapes and not the LP pressings. The same problems can be heard on both the Sony 1995 CD re-release of The Bridge on the River Kwai and the DVD releases of both films. When Sony re-released The Bridge On The River Kwai on CD in 1995, in the notes it is described as having "… a booming, raw quality to it – somewhat distant and distorted, with some studio noises amplified by the mono sound". Due to advances in audio restoration software a number of the problems have been resolved. Although other noises can not be easily erased without affecting the dynamic range, if you listen to Sunset (Track 5) you can hear someone’s breathing. This track was also cut at the wrong speed for the original album and has been corrected. Although both soundtracks still have a "booming raw quality" due to the recordings being taken directly from the film recording sessions rather than a regular recording studio session.

The problems with the recording of The Bridge on the River Kwai are small compared to that of The Key. During most of the tracks, there were sudden changes in the background hiss, indicating different takes had been cut together. Although most of background noise has been reduced or erased without affecting the dynamics of the music, at certain points the background hiss can still be heard.

The upper dynamic range of The Key (Track 13) for some unknown reason is lower than other tracks on the record. While on Chop Suey Polka (Track 15) it has been impossible to reduce the hiss on, without it compromising the music dynamics.

Track 10 is taken from HMV CLP1312, a studio recording made in the 1959 by HM Marines Band and is one of the numerous recordings of Colonel Bogey made due to the success of The Bridge on the River Kwai.
The Bridge on The River Kwai
Wikipedia Entry

The Key
Wikipedia Entry

Sir Malcolm Arnold
Wikipedia Entry
The Official Website of Sir Malcolm Arnold CBE 1921-2006