“House by the River” is a 1950 American crime film noir directed by Fritz Lang (1890-1976) and starring Louis Hayward, Lee Bowman and Jane Wyatt. The screenplay was written by Mel Dinelli. It’s based on A. P. Herbert’s novel “The House by the River”.
George Antheil composed the score. R. Dale Butts orchestrated it. The conductor is not credited - Antheil usually did not conduct his own film music. Antheil's score for this Fritz Lang film is usually just mentioned briefly in the context but never discussed any further. It is unknown to me if there exist any written parts of the original score. As it seems, Antheil did not keep a great order with his own music before his untimely death.
About the story:
The unsuccessful writer Stephen Byrne tries to force his servant Emily Gaunt sexually while his wife Marjorie Byrne is visiting a friend and accidentally strangles her. His crippled brother John Byrne coincidently comes to his house in that moment, and Stephen asks him to help to get rid of the corpse and avoid a scandal, since his wife would be pregnant. The naive and good John helps his brother to dump the body in the river nearby his house. Stephen uses the disappearance of Emily to blame her and promote his book. When the body is found by the police, all the evidences points to John, and he becomes the prime suspect of the murder.—Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Here is what the BFI has to say about the film:
"While there are perhaps, objectively speaking, more significant films by Lang that we ought to have included – we know, The Big Heat (1953)! – it’s always fun to include an underdog, deserving of further consideration. If nothing else, House by the River shows what Lang was capable of doing with serious budgetary restrictions (he made this for the down-and-out Republic Pictures), his visual inventiveness elevating what in other hands could play to the lowest pulp denominator. Clearly having fun with the depths of amorality on display, it’s Lang’s darkly brutal examination of sexual dysfunction and creative decay, suffused with a ripe whiff of southern gothic."
“House by the River” is a 1950 American crime film noir directed by Fritz Lang (1890-1976) and starring Louis Hayward, Lee Bowman and Jane Wyatt. George Antheil composed the score. It is unknown to me if there exist any written parts of the original score.
I've revisited this film and score a couple of weeks ago.
The four videos are revised and newly uploaded with adjusted volume and richly illustrated. I've also added chapters to the videos so the listener can easily access the various selections (see the embedded videos in my previous post). I think the outcome is rather pleasing now.
After rewatching the film after more than 25 years I must say that I still think "House by the River" is not that good as some critics think.
The leading actor, Louis Hayward, has his moments but just doesn't fully grasp the crazy character he's playing. He looks more convincing on the stills in my opinion! On the other hand, Jane Wyatt is excellent and a pleasure to watch how her character suffers her insane husband.
The low budget is certainly a major problem. The sets and background paintings are often rediculous and just not convincing. There certainly are some languesque camera mouvements - as interesting as they are, I found them rather distracting.
Antheil's score is easily one of the best elements in the entire film.
A few more trivia about "House by the River":
Fritz Lang originally wanted a black woman to play the role of Emily Gaunt but the producers refused. Dorothy Patrick was cast for the part instead. I wish Lang could have had his way.
George Antheil lived in Berlin for a while in the 1920s. It is quite possible that he met Fritz Lang in those days, when the Austrian-born director was already a big name in the world of cinema. Antheil was interested in films from an early age and met numerous figures from various artistic fields. On the other hand, it is not certain whether Lang himself actually saw to it that Antheil was hired for the soundtrack of "House by the River". The composer had already worked for the "unpretentious" studio before and belonged to its stable of composers to a certain extent.
There could also be a connection between Fritz Lang, George Antheil and Kurt Weill. - Weill and Antheil were both born in 1900, and both composers certainly met during Antheil's stay in Berlin. - As we all know, Lang commissioned Kurt Weill to compose the musical score for his film "You And Me" in 1938; however, Weill's music was partially replaced by that of other studio composers. Antheil and Weill each scored only one Fritz Lang film.