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Stanley & Iris
Album Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:

Co-Produced by:
Tom Null
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Varèse Sarabande
(January 27th, 1990)
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Regular U.S. release, but out of print by the mid-1990's and valued between $30 and $50 for quite some time.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... only if you are an extremely avid collector of John Williams' music and appreciate his soft and very restrained character scores for small ensembles.

Avoid it... if you have no interest in exercising patience with one of the composer's most underachieving and ineffective scores for an equally disappointing film.
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WRITTEN 6/13/98, REVISED 11/10/11
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iTunes (9.99)

Stanley & Iris: (John Williams) Despite its promise at small venues and with awards voters, Stanley & Iris was slammed by critics left and right and lost the interest of audiences almost immediately after its 1990 debut. With a screenplay written by husband-and-wife team Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr., and directed by veteran Martin Ritt shortly before his death, the film reunited the team that brought Norma Rae and, more recently, Murphy's Romance to the big screen. The purpose of the film was to make a statement about illiteracy, posing Jane Fonda as a working class widow attempting to befriend and teach Robert DeNiro, a working class illiterate, how to read and write. Despite a solid supporting cast of actors typecast from previous successes like Moonstruck and Parenthood, the movie was sunk by Fonda's unrealistic and unsympathetic performance in a title role, one that eased her into retirement from acting thereafter. Poor dialogue and predictable plotlines have continued to cause laughter of a mean-spirited nature many years later, and while ardent fans of composer John Williams may not want to hear it, the score doesn't help Stanley & Iris much either. Nestled in between Williams' lofty and adventuresome scores of 1989 and 1990, Stanley & Iris represents one of the composer's relieving deviations from his fully orchestral exercises in bombast that he tended to take once every two or three years at the time. Unfortunately, his respite in the soft warmth of light character drama could not salvage the film and did little to further his own career path. In many ways, the film lacks spark, personality, and any kind of memorable touch to distinguish itself from other character dramas, and the exact same statement can be made about Williams' music. Over the years, the status of the score's album as a collectible caused an aura of desirability that many fans seem to feel towards Stanley & Iris. Not surprisingly, some film music critics hail Stanley & Iris as a superior effort from the maestro, but when you look at it with the perspective of Williams' larger career in mind, the composer really did nothing to meet his own high standards by injecting much needed inspiration into the film. As such, the score is one of his rare failures.

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Average: 3.1 Stars
***** 60 5 Stars
**** 41 4 Stars
*** 44 3 Stars
** 43 2 Stars
* 47 1 Stars
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Very melodious music
S.Venkatnarayanan - May 7, 2008, at 3:13 a.m.
1 comment  (1410 views)
Still available at Varèse...   Expand >>
Walensky - November 4, 2005, at 2:12 p.m.
2 comments  (2634 views)
Newest: November 4, 2005, at 5:00 p.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 28:56
• 1. Stanley and Iris (3:24)
• 2. Reading Lessons (2:26)
• 3. The Bicycle (3:07)
• 4. Factory Work (1:23)
• 5. Finding a Family (1:41)
• 6. Stanley at Work (1:31)
• 7. Looking after Papa (3:10)
• 8. Stanley's Invention (1:17)
• 9. Night Visit (1:58)
• 10. Letters (3:25)
• 11. Putting it all Together (1:46)
• 12. End Credits (3:03)

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The insert includes notes from Robert Townson about the score and film. The following is an excerpt from the latter half of those notes, discussing the score:

    "The wide ranging emotions of the characters, which also include Stanley's elderly father and lris's pregnant teenage daughter, are beautifully and delicately captured in John Williams' poignant orchestrations and themes. The main title eloquently sets the atmosphere for what becomes an impressionistic poem-like presentation of the score. Solo piano, flute and strings are the dominant components of both the main title and the score, with the development of the characters' musical themes tracing the progression of the relationship between Stanley and Iris.

    Film experiences of this caliber are as rare as film scores of such inspired insight, and the combination of these two elements are more mutually exclusive than one might think. In John Williams' case, however, after scoring an unparalleled number of truly outstanding and memorable motion pictures and treating them all to a bounty of musical riches to help further elevate them, it is no wonder that he is considered among the best to ever practice his craft. Be it with the assistance of a huge symphonic pallet or working within an economy of means, as is the situation here, Williams always knows just what to say-what needs to be said-after which it is impossible to imagine any film of his existing without his contribution."
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Stanley & Iris are Copyright © 1990, Varèse Sarabande and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/13/98 and last updated 11/10/11.
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