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Stanley & Iris
Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
John Williams

Co-Produced by:
Tom Null

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
January 27th, 1990

Also See:
The Accidental Tourist
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Presumed Innocent

Audio Clips:
3. The Bicycle (0:33):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (266K)
Real Audio (165K)

5. Finding a Family (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

10. Letters (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

12. End Credits (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release, but out of print by the mid-1990's and valued between $30 and $50 for quite some time.


Stanley & Iris
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Sales Rank: 225481

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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.

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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Despite its flaws, Williams' music for Stanley & Iris is pretty and respectful. It reminds of a more innocent time and place, just as scores like A Patch of Blue and Raggedy Man existed in the same role for Jerry Goldsmith. But Williams' subdued character scores, with The Accidental Tourist most recent at the time, fluctuate greatly between the magical and the mundane, and Stanley & Iris gravitates towards the latter. Designed for piano, woodwinds, and strings, the score's tempos are relaxing and its volumes are restrained. Its two sweet themes are simple and repetitive, drawing similar performances from piano and flute in several cues. The piano is the heart of the urban piece, often setting a soothing rhythm in the background while a woodwind performs a central theme in the middle ranges and a moderate string section provides your elevator music-like accompaniment in higher ranges. An occasional trumpet and French horn repeat the same themes again, utilizing familiar rhythms. Then it's the cellos. Then it's back to the piano. Only once does Williams' piano spur the score into showing signs of life; at the start of "The Bicycle," the faster, more ambitious performance emphasis from the opening of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial's "Over the Moon" concert piece get the cue rolling with gusto. The composer had already proven himself capable of providing truly engrossing music in the form of smaller character themes, having done so specifically for the director several decades prior in Conrack. There were restrained sections of Hook that did just that concurrently, and from the same year, the family theme from Presumed Innocent, which shares many characteristics with the Stanley & Iris melody (as heard in the opening and closing cues on the album), express similar ideas with much more authenticity. The usual, brilliant twists of key and rhythm aren't present in Stanley & Iris; it is about as simple-minded as the composer can get, and compared to his usual level of complexity, the score fails to maintain much interest. The album from Varèse Sarabande is only 29 minutes in length and fell out of print only a few years after production. Although another pressing eventually resurfaced and normalized its price, it was always curious to see collectors shell out over $50 for Stanley & Iris, because it is among Williams' most underachieving and ineffective scores in the digital era. ** 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 337,294 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.92 Stars
Smart Average: 2.94 Stars*
***** 40 
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    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Very melodious music
  S.Venkatnarayanan -- 5/7/08 (4:13 a.m.)
   Re: Still available at Varèse...
  F -- 11/4/05 (6:00 p.m.)
   Still available at Varèse...
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 Track Listings: 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)

 Notes and Quotes:  

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."

  All artwork and sound clips from Stanley & Iris are Copyright © 1990, Varèse Sarabande. 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 6/13/98 and last updated 11/10/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.