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1990 Alhambra

1990 Bay Cities

1997 Varèse

2011 La-La Land

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Orchestrated by:
Herbert W. Spencer

Labels and Dates:
Alhambra A

Bay Cities

Varèse Sarabande
(September 9th, 1997)

La-La Land Records
(September 27th, 2011)

Also See:
Raiders of the Lost Ark

Audio Clips:
1997 Varèse Album:

1. The March from 1941 (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

2. The Invasion (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

5. To Hollywood and Glory (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

9. Finale (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

The three 1990 and 1997 albums were regular commercial releases, though the 1990 issues are out of print. The 1997 Varèse product was priced at normal retail levels for over a decade. The 2011 La-La Land album is limited to 3,500 copies and available through soundtrack specialty outlets for an initial price of $30.



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Buy it... if you're among the many who have heard your local marching band crucify the famous title march from 1941 and seek to enjoy the official performances of that sickeningly positive idea as they dominate the entire parody score.

Avoid it... if you don't believe that John Williams can do no wrong, because there is mental instability to be gained from extended exposure to this, the most obnoxious score from the best period of his career.

1941: (John Williams) As much as director Steven Spielberg has attempted through the years to defend his 1979 production of 1941, his sympathetic audience is limited. Nestled in between Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the silly parody of World War II Hollywood hysteria was a joint venture between Columbia and Universal that earned enough at the box offices to satisfy the studios (the film lost money in America but doubled its numbers overseas) but failed to gain much support among critics or parts of the industry. It was an important learning experience for the director, who thereafter was more disciplined in his adherence to schedules and budgets. Actor John Wayne, offered a role in the film despite being in his dying days, condemned the picture as unpatriotic and attempted to persuade Spielberg to abandon it. Eventually, 1941 gained a bit more respect in its lengthier, televised director's cut and was recognized with three technical Academy Award nominations. The difficulty that most had with the film is that its puns simply weren't funny, and the entirety of the script was offensive in many socio-political ways (especially to the Japanese). Despite a stellar cast and pokes of fun at other films (including Jaws in the opening reel and The Godfather later on), Spielberg's sense of humor was lost on many who didn't appreciate the subtleties that he was referencing, especially in regards to Hollywood insider topics, ultimately leaving it up to spectacles like exploding gas stations and a submarine-destroyed Ferris wheel (admittedly an amusing idea) to retain interest. The plot basically outlines the mostly fictitious fears of Hollywood right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a time at which the mainland figured that Los Angeles could be the next target. Spielberg once remarked that 1941 might have fared better as a musical and, in retrospect, that's a keen observation. Instead, he requested 90 minutes of straight forward comedy music (on top of some source usage) from John Williams, with whom he had already enjoyed great success.

Williams had just recently tackled the documentary-style war film Midway, yielding a march that quickly became a staple of the composer's concert tours. For 1941 Williams would write an equally memorable march, though one at the complete opposite end of the emotional spectrum. If the march from Midway was a sincere throwback to the days of John Philip Sousa, then the one from 1941 would be an imitation of what Sousa might have produced on modern drugs. If Williams succeeded in accomplishing one thing with his music for 1941, it would be the reflection of Spielberg's completely carefree (and some would say careless) attitude. As such, the problems with the film translate directly to its parody score. The most interesting aspect of Williams' choice of tone for 1941 is the abandonment of the proven technique of scoring incredibly dumb comedy films with a serious, dramatic score to accentuate the fallacies of logic on screen. Instead of using a straight forward action score worthy of any war film from the period to generate its own laughs, Williams gets caught up in the atmosphere of the ridiculous, catering to the ambitiously flighty environment of the picture with an equally bright score of obnoxiously positive spirit. Because so much of his work for the film is based upon regurgitated variations on the title march, that piece has become the only lasting identity for the work. It's likely that you've heard the theme performed by a marching band at some point in your life, its de-emphasis on strings making it conducive to such ensembles. Even if those groups manage to capture the hopeless humor of the piece, their woodwinds will likely mangle the difficult middle passage. At the very least, even if you can't tolerate the bubbly, incessant tone of this march, you still have to appreciate the complexity of the underlying composition. Throughout the rest of the score, Williams provides musical parodies of himself and other 20th Century masters of Americana, touching upon phrases from his own work and exploring absolutely no new stylistic territory when stating the stern bass-dwelling motif for the ridiculous villains or dainty alternative for the sappy romance element. The secondary ideas of lesser outward flair, though, especially those on strings, are frequently marginalized. All too often, Williams invariably comes back to the snare-ripping, bass string chopping rhythm of the title theme and, in most cases, lengthy versions of the theme itself.

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Ultimately, 1941 is an extremely tiring score, one that is so effective in being trite and irritating that it in turn might cause the same response from the listener. This music, more than any other in this fruitful period for Williams, will test your patience. All of that said, it remains a sentimental favorite for many collectors of the composer's works of this period, the composition technically adept at the very least. On its initial album presentation, the score was adjoined by the period jazz imitation piece "Swing, Swing, Swing" humorously coined by Williams, several sound effects of booming cannons in at least four tracks, and a wild John Belushi quote at the end. The extensive editing of the score in the film (necessary because of last minute attempts to salvage the picture) absolutely butchered Williams' intended narrative flow, and matters weren't improved upon when several very disjointed splices of material were made for its commercial album releases as well, several of which nearly ruining "The Sentries" with sudden shifts in gain levels. Isolated score tracks on the DVD edition of the film made fuller presentations possible on lengthier bootlegs, but these also suffered from significant editing issues. In 2011, the La-La Land label finally issued a comprehensive 2-CD set containing Williams' originally recorded intentions on the first CD with the album arrangements, five source pieces, nine alternate takes, and the original trailer cue written by Williams for the movie's advertisement campaign on the second. The 77-minute presentation on the first CD in that set is a clear winner for enthusiasts of this score, featuring an impressive improvement in sound quality, no interruptions from dialogue or sound effects, and a substantial amount of exposure for the secondary motifs that reside firmly in Williams' style of the period. With the statements of the title march less frequent compared to the other character ideas in the fuller version, the score becomes slightly more palatable. Still, the incessantly cheerful spirit remains intact even at the longer running time, and seventy minutes of music from 1941 could drive a person mad. In a way, this fact confirms that Williams indeed accomplished his mission with 1941, matching Spielberg's awkward jokes with equally preposterous music. If you love the spirit of the title march, then revel in a score that extends that theme and its tone to much greater lengths, especially on the superior 2011 set. Otherwise, get the hell out of its way and plug your ears when your local marching band inevitably crucifies it. ** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 338,223 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3 Stars
Smart Average: 3.02 Stars*
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 Track Listings (All 1990 and 1997 Albums): Total Time: 38:02

• 1. The March from 1941 (4:06)
• 2. The Invasion (8:17)
• 3. The Sentries (3:28)
• 4. Riot at the U.S.O.* (1:16)
• 5. To Hollywood and Glory (3:12)
• 6. Swing, Swing, Swing (4:03)
• 7. The Battle of Hollywood (5:37)
• 8. The Ferris Wheel Sequence** (1:28)
• 9. Finale (6:14)

* traditional, based on "The Rakes of Mallow," arranged by John Williams
** includes "By the Beautiful Sea," composed by Harry Carroll

 Track Listings (2011 La-La Land Album): Total Time: 155:14

CD 1: (77:08)

• 1. "1941" Main Title (1:36)
• 2. Chrissie Takes Another Swim (4:38)
• 3. Sub Commander/Wild Bill Kelso (3:44)
• 4. Donna's Obsession/Birkhead's Pitch (2:59)
• 5. Poppa's Got a Gun (1:13)
• 6. You Have Been Chosen/You, You, You (2:11)
• 7. Capture of Hollis/Kelso Lost (3:08)
• 8. The Crackerjack Box (1:30)
• 9. The Sentries (2:17)
• 10. The Escape of Hollis (1:17)
• 11. More About Donna (1:02)
• 12. The Count Down/Swing, Swing, Swing (4:41)
• 13. The Brannigan (1:19)
• 14. Here We Go (4:22)
• 15. Kelso in Barstow (3:42)
• 16. Service Tunes* (0:50)
• 17. Encounters (0:56)
• 18. Kelso's Attack/Deep in the Heart of Texas** (3:15)
• 19. Eat Lead (2:48)
• 20. Defending the Homeland (1:46)
• 21. Wally Saves Betty (2:00)
• 22. Sound Off/Stolen Motorcycle*** (4:23)
• 23. Ward's Big Gun (1:45)
• 24. Going My Way Sister (2:08)
• 25. More Kelso (0:59)
• 26. Taking Aim (1:10)
• 27. The Ferris Wheel (3:08)
• 28. The Tank Approaches/Finale (5:26)
• 29. "1941" End Credits (6:18)

CD 2: (78:06)

The 1979 Soundtrack Album: (38:26)
• 1. The March From "1941" (4:11)
• 2. The Invasion (8:20)
• 3. The Sentries (3:31)
• 4. Riot at the U.S.O. (1:18)
• 5. To Hollywood and Glory (3:14)
• 6. Swing, Swing, Swing (4:06)
• 7. The Battle of Hollywood (5:39)
• 8. The Ferris Wheel Sequence (1:29)
• 9. Finale (6:16)

Source Music: (12:40)
• 10. In the Mood - written by Joe Garland and Andy Razaf (3:43)
• 11. Jingle Bells - written by James Lord Pierpont (2:59)
• 12. Down By the Ohio (Instrumental) - written by Abe Olman and Jack Yellen (3:57)
• 13. Play-Off (0:15)
• 14. Goodnight, Sweetheart - written by Ray Noble, Jimmy Campbell, Rudy Vallee, and Reg Connelly (1:42)

Additional Music: (25:54)
• 15. Promo Trailer (2:30)
• 16. Sub Commander/Wild Bill Kelso/Capture of Hollis (Alternate) (4:23)
• 17. The Escape of Hollis (Alternate) (1:14)
• 18. Kelso in Barstow (Alternate (3:43)
• 19. Defending the Homeland (Alternate) (1:06)
• 20. Sound Off (Alternate) (2:41)
• 21. More Kelso (Alternate) (0:55)
• 22. Finale (Alternate) (3:04)
• 23. "1941" End Credits (Alternate) (6:55)

* contains interpolation of "Anchors Away" by A. H. Miles and D. Savino
** contains interpolation of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" by D. Swander and J. Hershey
*** contains interpolation of "The Duckworth March" by W.L. Duckworth

 Notes and Quotes:  

The inserts in the 1990 and 1997 albums contain a short note from Spielberg. That of the 2011 La-La Land album includes extensive details about score and film. In fact, the booklet in the 2011 album is so thick that it barely fits into the jewel case.

  All artwork and sound clips from 1941 are Copyright © 1990, 1997, 2011, Alhambra A, Bay Cities, Varèse Sarabande, La-La Land Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 8/15/09 and last updated 10/12/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.