The practice of using stock musical cues (in lieu of newly composed music) was commonplace in M-G-M “B” movies at the time Rózsa joined the music department in 1948. Staff musicians Alberto (“Al”) Colombo and Rudolph G. (“Rudy”) Kopp regularly compiled “stock” scores—selecting cues from past M-G-M films, adapting them to the new timings and re-recording them with the M-G-M orchestra. Johnny Green, the studio’s head of music, abolished the practice at the dawn of the stereo era (around 1953), but prior to that time Rózsa’s music appeared in at least three M-G-M productions.
Peter Lawford starred in Rogue’s March (1953) as Capt. Dion Lenbridge, an 1890s British military officer drummed out of his regiment on a trumped-up charge of espionage. In an attempt to clear his name, he returns to the army under an alias, Pvt. Harry Simms. The score consists of a few original cues composed and conducted by the film’s musical director, Al Columbo, together with stock cues by several staff composers, including Bronislau Kaper, André Previn, David Raksin, Roy Webb, Daniele Amfitheatrof and Herbert Stothart.
- 30. Wiped Out
- A single Rózsa cue, adapted from “General’s Defeat” in Command Decision (a score otherwise lost), was spotted for late in the film. On duty in India, where the Russians are stirring up border troubles with Afghanistan (in an eerily familiar situation), Lenbridge and fellow officer Capt. Thomas Garron (Richard Greene) trek through dangerous mountain terrain (filmed partly on location in the Khyber Pass), only to stumble upon the bodies of an entire convoy of British soldiers wiped out by the Afghans. Rózsa’s music was intended to serve as a sort of lament for the fallen soldiers, but was not used in the film. The bugle fanfares at the end (not by Rózsa) were included to signal Lenbridge’s arrival back at his headquarters.
The wilderness adventure Desperate Search (1952) served the purpose of keeping Howard Keel, one of M-G-M’s biggest singing stars, busy between musicals. After finishing Show Boat (1951) and before starting production on Calamity Jane (1953), the physically impressive Keel starred as Vince Heldon, a pilot whose two small children are lost when their plane crashes in the mountains. Tensions between Heldon, his wife (Jane Greer) and his ex-wife (Patricia Medina, playing the children’s mother) added a small dose of adult drama to what otherwise was no more than a cross between television’s Sky King and Lassie. Rudy Kopp (credited as “musical director”) assembled and conducted the score from pre-existing cues by a long list of studio composers, including Amfitheatrof, Previn, Kaper, Conrad Salinger, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Rózsa. The Rózsa cues, spread throughout the film, all come from a single source: “Dix’s Demise” from The Asphalt Jungle (see disc 2, track 18). They serve as something of a leitmotiv for Vince’s seaplane (taking off, in flight or landing) and add a certain excitement to what is otherwise—in plot, script, acting and photography—a very ordinary black-and-white film.
- 31. Search Begins
- 32. Search Continues
- 33. Fruitless Search
- 34. Accelerated Search
- 35. Search Grows More Desperate
In Code Two (1953), directed by Fred Wilcox, three buddies (Ralph Meeker, Robert Horton and Jeff Richards) graduate from the Los Angeles Police Department Academy. They join the motorcycle division, and when one of them is killed on a routine traffic stop that turns bad, the others vow to catch his murderers. Al Colombo (who also conducted) compiled the score from cues by Previn, Amfitheatrof, Colombo himself and others.
- 36. Chase
- “Dix’s Demise” from The Asphalt Jungle also appears in Code Two, in an unexpected adaptation that segues in and out of cues by other M-G-M composers. Midway through the film, Chuck O’Flair (Meeker) lays a trap for the killers and engages them in a wild motor chase. The cue opens with Rózsa’s Asphalt Jungle finale, then segues to “Left Alone” from Roy Webb’s score for Cass Timberlane (1947). Rózsa’s music returns, followed by further recycled cues from Robert Franklyn and David Snell, but only the first Asphalt excerpt was heard in the film—the remainder of the cue (as well as a continuation entitled “Chase, Part Two,” not included here and not featuring Rózsa music) was dialed out and the sequence concludes without music. —