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ClassicsOnline Home » WAXMAN: Mr. Skeffington
Born on Christmas Eve 1906, Franz Wachsmann, was the only child in the family to show an interest in music. Though obviously gifted, his father insisted that he obtain a stable occupation, music not considered as such. As a good son he went into banking, saving all he could so that he could pay for a musical education. He succeeded in this objective, studying in Dresden and Berlin, while supporting himself as a jazz and nightclub pianist. It was in the latter world that he came into contact with people working in the film industry, and he later found employment as both orchestrator and conductor.
A beating by young Nazis prompted the young Jew to leave Germany with his wife, and after a brief period in France, arrived in Los Angeles, changing his name to Waxman. He soon found employment in Hollywood, his scores such an instant success, that he was in heavy demand. Much of his output was linked with horror movies, which his style of composing radically changed. Nominations for Oscars, and countless highly acclaimed scores in the 1940’s made him one of the most famous film composers of all time, the demand, as with so many other composers, leaving others to orchestrate ?the very aspect of Waxman that had been his major attribute.
We need not here go into the traumas of making the film, Mr. Skeffington, the tantrums of Bette Davis as its star almost wrecking the project.. By the time Waxman was set to work, the film was complete, and he was then to add one of his most extensive scores, hardly a moment in the film being without music. However one looks at this film, it would now have the title of a Soap Opera. It is the story of the beautiful woman whose flirtatious instincts lead her to divorce, only to meet in her desolate later life, her former rich husband who is now blind and broke. He, still remembering the beautiful woman he married, is happy to renew the reunion, unable to see the old hag that she has become.
Waxman's score ran to 146 minutes, and the scoring left to another 'classical' orchestrator, Leonid Rabb. It is for a large orchestra, including four saxophones, two pianos and organ. Often a dramatic score as the story unfolds, it is here cast in 17 sections that follow the progress of the film, Waxman’s score cleverly capturing the slowly degrading Fanny, both in looks and personality.
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WAXMAN: Mr. Skeffington