Erich Wolfgang Korngold


On BBC Radio 4 last evening in the ‘Front Row’ programme there was a very enlightening feature on Erich Wolfgang Korngold – Composer so well known in the Film field because of his days in Hollywood from around 1034 – and probably best known for his rousing score to ‘The Adventure of Robin Hood’ featuring Errol Flynn.


Kings Row

He later scored the film ‘Kings Row’ starring Ronald Reagan – and a clip from this was played on the programme.   Quite often when this work is played people say ‘Star Wars’ but No – it is Kings Row.  Apparently George Lucas wanted a similar dramatic score to his ‘Star Wars’ film and asked the composer to listen and take inspiration from Korngold’s film work, which he did and came up with the one we all know. At Ronald Regan’s Presidential Ball, he had a first rate orchestra and Conductor at the White House to play Korngold’s music, and the President just loved it – particularly the ‘Kings Row’ composition.


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In  1942, Warner Brothers released the film  “King’s Row,” which included in its cast a 31-year-old actor named Ronald Reagan, who claimed the film “made me a star.” The film’s musical score was by someone already a star – the Austrian-born Erich Wolfgang Korngold, famous for his earlier work for Hollywood swashbucklers like “Captain Blood” and “Robin Hood” starring Errol Flynn.

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Above: Anne Sheridan with Ronald Reagan


Korngold’s music for “King’s Row” proved unusually popular, and Warner Brothers prepared a form letter politely declining inquiries for sheet music or recordings. Back then, film score recordings were not common, and the big studios were jealously protective of anything – including music – that they owned. It wasn’t until 1979 — 37 years after the release of the film – that a full soundtrack recording of “King’s Row” was released, produced by the composer’s son, George, who was responsible for a major revival of interest in his father’s work. In fact, Korngold’s main title music from “King’s Row” may have provided the model for the American composer John Williams when he wrote his main title music for the 1977 sci-fi swashbuckler “Star Wars.”


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ABOVE: James Wong Howe – acclaimed film photographer on this film – Kings Row

The main title music for “King’s Row” was requested by the White House in 1981 for use at the inauguration of President Reagan, the star of this film – and later President of the USA


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