M-G-M’s 1954 color biopic Beau Brummell tells the story of British dandy George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778–1840). Son of a commoner and a confidant of the Prince of Wales (later King George IV), Brummell set numerous trends in men’s fashion and grooming: the popularity of trousers, elaborate collars and cravats, natural hair color (rather than powdering), and daily bathing. After a very public falling-out with Prince George, Brummell maintained (for a time) his influence in fashionable circles, but eventually fled the country to avoid gambling debts. He died penniless and insane in a French asylum.
Playwright Clyde Fitch dramatized Brummell’s story in 1890, on a commission from actor-producer Richard Mansfield. Warner Bros. released a silent film version of the play in 1924 starring John Barrymore and Mary Astor, and in 1938 sold the property to M-G-M for a remake with Robert Donat in the lead. That production never materialized, but in the early 1950s the studio assigned the role to Stewart Granger, who was then starring in a run of colorful adventure, historical and romantic pictures such as Scaramouche, The Prisoner of Zenda, Young Bess, All the Brothers Were Valiant and Green Fire. M-G-M initially cast Eleanor Parker as the love interest, before assigning the role of Lady Patricia Belham to ingènue Elizabeth Taylor. Renowned actor and playwright Peter Ustinov costarred as Prince George. Karl Tunberg wrote the screenplay, while Sam Zimbalist produced and Curtis Bernhardt directed.
The first-rate production sported authentic British locations (such as Ockwells Manor near Windsor Castle), lavish costumes and fine supporting performances. Less successful was the drama: although the film’s romance is ostensibly between Brummell and Patricia, the film’s central relationship is the symbiotic friendship of Brummell and Prince George. Brummell, who is provocative, brilliant and charming but at heart insecure, lives vicariously through the prince as a test subject for his own theories of politics, breeding and culture. The prince, meanwhile, is a capricious weakling who gains—through Brummell’s support—the confidence to become a meaningful and just ruler. Brummell pushes the prince to fight the political battles of his day but eventually overreaches, creating a rift between them. Brummell flees England and—in the film’s telling—dies many years later after a heartfelt visit from the monarch reconciles their friendship.
Beau Brummell was produced by M-G-M’s British studios, where it was scored by English composer Richard Addinsell (1904–1977). Originally a law student, Addinsell switched his studies to music, abandoning each educational pursuit prior to obtaining a degree. He first achieved success as a composer in the theater before transitioning to film. Addinsell’s best-known work remains the “Warsaw Concerto” from Dangerous Moonlight (1941) but his other notable film scores include The Amateur Gentleman (1936), Fire Over England (1937), Dark Journey (1937), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), Under Capricorn (1949), Scrooge (1951), A Tale of Two Cities (1958), The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961), The War Lover (1962) and Life at the Top (1965). Muir Mathieson (Addinsell’s frequent collaborator) conducted the Beau Brummell score, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Addinsell provided a fine musical accompaniment for Beau Brummell based around various waltz themes, including one for Brummell’s friendship with the prince and another for his romance with Lady Patricia. The themes flow naturally out of source cues, aesthetically as well as functionally, and the score works best as an evocation of the period—tasteful, elegant and very English—with one standout set piece, “The Hunt” (track 25). If anything, the score seeps too effortlessly into the scenery, reinforcing the film’s strength (the sense of period) rather than shoring up its weakness (the drama).
Possibly for this reason, producer Sam Zimbalist turned to Miklós Rózsa to rescore the opening and closing cues, a matter of some delicacy as Rózsa had specified in his M-G-M contract that no composer could alter his music, nor could he be asked to do the same to anyone else’s. The composer’s relationship with Zimbalist, however, was an important one: Rózsa had achieved a major triumph with Quo Vadis (1951) and they would later collaborate on Tribute to a Bad Man (1956) and—most importantly—Ben-Hur (1959).
“Since Zimbalist was a personal friend, I agreed to make an exception in this case, on the condition that I received no screen credit,” Rózsa wrote in his autobiography, Double Life. “Now that the composer I replaced is dead, there seems to be no harm in saying that the whole of the final scene is mine.”
Rhino Records previously released some of Rózsa’s music for Beau Brummell (the “Main Title,” “Farewell” and “Finale”) on the 1999 compilation Miklós Rózsa at M-G-M (Rhino R2 75723). Tracks 12–14 of this CD feature the totality of Rózsa’s recordings for the project, in stereo sound from the 35mm three-track masters.
- 12. Main Title (recorded 6/16/54)
- Rózsa was responsible for the film’s regal main title and foreword music, so obviously in his style that for years it tipped off admirers as to his involvement.
- 13. Rondo (7/14/54)
- Early in the film, the Prince of Wales (Peter Ustinov) flamboyantly conducts an orchestra at a royal banquet. Rózsa recorded this orchestral arrangement of the final movement from the String Quintet in C major, G. 349 by Luigi Boccherini (1743–1805).
- 14. King’s Visit/Waltz Theme Reminiscence/Farewell/Finale (8/25/54)
- Rózsa’s music returns for the film’s lengthy final scene, in which the King of England (the former Prince of Wales) visits the dying Brummell in France. Rózsa’s music adds immeasurably to the reconciliation between old friends and their heartfelt parting as Brummell prepares to die, incorporating Addinsell’s love theme on solo violin (at 2:16) and his “Main Title” waltz melody (at 3:02). Rózsa continues Addinsell’s waltz for the end cast.
Tracks 15–31 present the original Richard Addinsell score to Beau Brummell (including the never-before-heard main and end titles), as recorded in England and archived on monaural 17.5mm magnetic film.
- 15. Main Title 1M1
- Richard Addinsell’s opening cue introduces three of the principal themes of the score. It begins with a fanfare announcing the love music to come, followed by one of the score’s most prominent waltz themes (at 0:41, with a strong Tchaikovsky flavor) and a concluding theme on solo trumpet (at 1:10), which will be developed in the latter part of the picture. Although perfectly fine, one can imagine how producer Sam Zimbalist preferred Rózsa’s bolder approach to Addinsell’s wistfully romantic style.
- 16. Pavilion Waltz 1M6/2MA
- This source cue is heard at the royal banquet after the prince’s conducting (track 13), as Brummell argues with the prince; Addinsell provides a high-society atmosphere by introducing a waltz theme that will attach to their relationship. The balletic “Main Title” waltz returns (at 1:51) as a contrasting midsection.
- 17. Outside Pavilion 2M3
- After the banquet, Brummell attempts to initiate a romance with Lady Patricia (Elizabeth Taylor). Addinsell’s cue hovers between score (with a love theme for their relationship) and source music (with a waltz treatment of the love theme recalling the music heard at the banquet).
- 18. Fireworks 4M3
- Fireworks illuminate the night sky in celebration of the prince’s birthday, for which Addinsell provides a symphonic flourish.
- 19. Prince of Wales Dance 5M2
- Brummell dances with Patricia at the prince’s birthday ball. Addinsell’s lilting cue begins like a ländler before evolving into the love theme waltz.
- 20. The Cake 5M3
- A royal fanfare (ambiguously score or source) accompanies the unveiling of the prince’s birthday cake. (In the finished film, a trumpet fanfare bridges 5M2 and 5M3; it has deteriorated beyond use.)
- Prince of Wales Dance 5M4
- After the birthday guests depart, the prince and Brummell talk alone—the prince is delighted with Brummell’s friendship and dances to an imaginary version of the “Main Title” waltz, which Addinsell plays as score.
- 21. Patricia Visits Brummell, Part 1 5M6
- Patricia calls upon Brummell at his manor but rejects him as a suitor—his risk-taking frightens her. The first part of Addinsell’s tender music re-introduces the reserved, plaintive motive first heard in the “Main Title.” It is strongly suggestive of British composer Frederick Delius and acknowledges Patricia’s conservative nature.
- 22. Patricia Visits Brummell, Part 2 6M1
- Addinsell further develops the motive in the second part of the cue, where it is joined by the love theme.
- 23. Hurdy Gurdy 6M2
- Lord Edwin Mercer (James Donald) informs Brummell and the prince of his impending marriage to Lady Patricia. Brummell reacts by ordering the carriage in which they are riding to stop so that he can rescue two dogs from an abusive street performer. Addinsell reworks the first two themes of the “Pavilion Waltz” (track 16) as a light, up-tempo piece of source music for the street act.
- 24. Hunt Breakfast 7M1
- At a breakfast prior to a fox hunt at a country estate, Lady Patricia announces her engagement to Lord Edwin. Addindell’s score enters as Brummell indicates to Patricia that he continues to have feelings for her. Meanwhile, the prince is heartbroken when his own true love, Mrs. Fitzherbert (Rosemary Harris), expresses her desire to travel abroad. The “Main Title” waltz, the love theme and the motive from track 21 play sadly for both relationships.
- 25. The Hunt 8M1
- Addinsell’s showiest and most symphonic cue in the score is this delightful piece for a the fox hunt, during which Brummell chases Patricia on horseback—leading to a romantic encounter underscored by their love theme at its most passionate, along with fragments of the motive from “Patricia Visits Brummell.”
- 26. Patricia’s Bedroom 8M2
- Patricia wakes in the middle of the night, thinking of Brummell, but goes to Edwin, and informs him she never wishes to see Brummell again. The love theme plays against a gentle string accompaniment.
- 27. Windsor 9M1
- The prince and Brummell visit King George III (Robert Morley) as part of a political maneuver to declare the monarch unfit to rule, and thus gain power for themselves. Addinsell provides dissonant string harmonics as the insane king attacks a servant.
- 28. Almacks 10M1, 10M3
- After their power play fails, the prince and Brummell have a falling-out. These waltzes play as source music at a banquet during which Brummell famously insults the Prince, asking Lord Byron (Noel Willman), “Who’s your fat friend?” The first section reprises the opening of the “Pavilion Waltz” (track 16) with a ragged ending as the musicians stop playing when the prince arrives; the second part features a return of the “Main Title” waltz.
- 29. Patricia and Brummell 11M1
- Patricia confesses her love for Brummell but now it is he who rejects her—for her sake, as he must flee the country to avoid creditors. The love theme leads to the anguished strains of the “Patricia Visits Brummell” motive, underscoring his frustration.
- 30. The King Is Dead 11M2
- News is posted of the death of King George III. Baroque organ is followed by a royal fanfare (as the Prince of Wales is crowned King George IV) and then, many years later, the waltz theme from the “Main Title” returns on solo violin as the king reflects upon old times. The theme continues in an unused continuation of the cue, as the king asks Lord Edwin to send (discreet) financial assistance to Brummell in France.
- 31. End Title 12M4/12M4A
- This is Addinsell’s original version of the film’s conclusion, which Rózsa replaced (track 14). Addinsell’s take is quite different and much shorter, utilizing the reserved theme from “Patricia Visits Brummell” (track 21), a quote of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” (see track 45) and the “Main Title” waltz theme—albeit in a much more upbeat arrangement than Rózsa later provided. Addinsell also uses the love theme (on solo trumpet) and the “Patricia Visits Brummell” motive, before closing with the “Main Title” waltz for the end cast.
- 32. Bugle Calls/Trumpet and Drums 1M2/1M3
- The film opens with Brummell executing a maneuver on horseback at the prince’s inspection of his royal regiment. These short fanfares figure in the ceremonies.
- 33. Milanollo 1M4
- The prince and Brummell engage in a testy exchange at the inspection while this source cue plays in the background. German composer Johann Valentin Hamm (1811–1874) wrote the piece for Italian violinists (and sisters) Teresa and Maria Milanollo, who featured it on an 1845 tour of England, after which the Band of the Coldstream Guards began performing the tune (it has since become their official quickstep march).
- 34. Prince Conducts 1M5
- Addinsell recorded the end of the fourth movement from Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 for the prince to conduct at his banquet; the finished film instead features music of Boccherini (see track 16).
- 35. Pavilion Source 2M1
- This brisk source cue—of unknown origin—was recorded for the royal banquet but not used in the film.
- 36. Scenes and Variations 4M2
- Brummell plays the beginning of a German song (“Der Schweizerbub”) while preparing to host the prince; this solo piano setting is similar to the statement of the theme in Chopin’s 1826 set of variations on the tune.
- 37. Organ Source 8M3
- The demented King George III plays Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565) at Windsor Palace (prior to track 27).
- 38. God Save the King 12M1
- Late in the film, the British national anthem is heard as King George IV disembarks in Calais.
- 39. L’Entente Cordiale 12M2
- This military march by French composer Gabriel Allier (1863–1924) follows, as the king rides in a carriage down a Calais street.
- 40. Rondo
- This is an earlier—and longer—recording made of the Boccherini piece that Rózsa ultimately conducted for the finished film. It may be a pre-recording from England—in which case the Culver City cue sheet crediting Rózsa with the arrangement heard in track 13 might be in error.
- 41. Rule Britannia 4M1
- This arrangement of “Rule Britannia” was not used in the finished film.
- 42. Patricia Visits Brummell, Part 1 5M6
- This is a shorter alternate version of track 21, not used in the film.
- 43. Hurdy Gurdy 7M1
- The “Hurdy Gurdy” source music (see track 23) is reprised after Brummell rescues two dogs from a street performer. (The cue has been placed here to avoid repetition in the main CD program.)
- 44. Unknown Score
- No written music or slate number exists to identify this brief bit of unused Addinsell score featuring the principal waltz theme.
- 45. For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
- This is a minor piece of source music although it figures in the story: Brummell gives the prince a birthday gift that comes to signify their relationship: a musical snuffbox that plays “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” The music box tune was recorded in Culver City and recurs numerous times throughout the film. This is a raw studio recording with some humorous banter as the recording crew attempts to lay down a clean take. —