Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

The Selznick Studio, 'Spellbound', and the Marketing of Film Music

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2010), 4, (1), 77–98.

Abstract

This article examines the Selznick Studio's attempts at marketing film music, beginning with 1939's Gone With the Wind and culminating in Miklós Rózsa's Academy Award-winning score for 1945's Spellbound. Through a detailed analysis of the unsuccessful relationship between Selznick's Vanguard Productions and ARA Records, which released a Spellbound film music album, this project is understood as part of a prehistory of the flourishing of film 'soundtrack' albums by the mid-twentieth-century. Through archival research, the Selznick/ARA relationship is used here as a case study of the marketing of film music (music culled from the actual score, not pop songs 'inspired by the film') and its treatment as a potential moneymaker, all contextualised in relation to changes in the relationship between film studios and recording companies during the 1940s and '50s. The Selznick/ARA cross-promotional relationship is juxtaposed with later successful efforts in cross-promotion by the Decca and MGM record labels in the '50s and '60s. Vanguard and the Selznick Studio's insufficient understanding of the recording industry nevertheless foreshadows Hollywood practices to come, and the Spellbound album stands as a noteworthy early experiment, and an argument for film music's importance apart from its relationship to the filmic image.

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Author details

Barnett, Kyle