Lassie Come Home:
The Canine Cinema Collection

Daniele Amfitheatrof · Herbert Stothart · Bronislau Kaper · Scott Bradley · André Previn · Elmer Bernstein

Listeners have long requested M-G-M’s Lassie film scores on CD, and with good reason. Warm and lyrical, they are nostalgic treasures from the family film genre. Lassie Come Home, in particular, has a long reach—and star Roddy McDowall himself admired Daniele Amfitheatrof’s score. This premiere Lassie anthology collects music from all seven films in as complete a form as possible—but due to the era during which they originated, many cues are missing or in some way compromised.

Prior to the introduction of magnetic film in the early 1950s, Hollywood studios recorded musical scores on optical film. Most of M-G-M’s surviving optical music recordings were transferred to monaural ¼″ tape during the 1960s and ’70s. (Some scores survive on their original optical masters, but not those for the Lassie films.) By that time, many cues had become lost or were too deteriorated to play back and—for whatever reason—scores from the post-WWII era (1945–1950) were hardest hit. A set of acetate transcription discs survives at USC’s Cinematic Arts Library (where M-G-M donated their historical music department materials) but those begin with productions from 1950. All of this is to say that pre-1950 M-G-M soundtrack recordings tend to exist partially or not at all—although this unsatisfactory situation is still far better than at most other studios.

Although the booklet accompanying the five CDs in this box set includes background information on the films as well as complete track listings, film stills and vintage promotional artwork—all beautifully presented by FSM art director Joe Sikoryak—our customary, in-depth, track-by-track analysis for each of the scores in this collection can be found here online (please use the menu at right to navigate between the films).

For the seven Lassie films, here is what survives:

Lassie Come Home (1943, Daniele Amfitheatrof, disc 1), Son of Lassie (1945, Herbert Stothart, disc 2) and Courage of Lassie (1946, an M-G-M “staff” score, disc 3) exist in partial form.

Hills of Home (1948, Stothart), The Sun Comes Up and Challenge to Lassie (both 1949, André Previn) are completely lost.

The Painted Hills (1951, Amfitheatrof, disc 5) exists in complete form between the surviving optical tracks (on ¼″ tape) and USC acetates.

For the “lost” cues and scores, we have used music-and-effects tracks to complete Lassie Come Home (on disc 1) and to present the main title from Hills of Home (on disc 3) as well as the sparkling Previn scores in reasonably complete programs (on disc 4). As one might expect for these films, they contain a lot of dog barks, but the ear has a way of becoming accustomed to such things.

Unfortunately, the “M&E” tracks also need an explanation. These were maintained by the studio so that the films could be dubbed into foreign languages (simply replace the dialogue and voilà). But the M&E tracks were often created ex post facto, and in some cases omit or substitute cues—that is, they sometimes use the wrong music. That is why disc 4 includes some cues taken from the “composite” (finished) soundtracks, dialogue and all. As a bonus, disc 5 concludes the collection with Elmer Bernstein’s delightful score to the non-Lassie film It’s a Dog’s Life (1955)—complete and in stereo, as it comes from the three-track magnetic film era.

The online notes here on our Web site, written by Alexander Kaplan, Jim Lochner and Frank K. DeWald, supplement those that Jim Lochner wrote for the printed booklet that accompnies the box set, providing detailed analysis of each track as well as additional information about the films. The online notes found here are also available as a PDF file for more convenient printing. —