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Christopher Palmer Collection of Roy Webb Scores

An inventory of his collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Palmer, Christopher
Title: Christopher Palmer Collection of Roy Webb Scores
Inclusive Dates: 1935-1955
Quantity: 12 linear ft.
Abstract: Original and reproduction motion picture music scores from 44 films, story synopses, production credits, cast lists, reviews and news clippings
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
http://scrc.syr.edu

Biographical History

CHRISTOPHER PALMER (1946-1995)
by Patrick Russ

Christopher Palmer was born September 9, 1946 in Norfolk, England. As a young boy, Palmer gained an appreciation for film music while listening with his father to BBC broadcasts. He pursued keyboard studies in Saxlingham as church organist, as his father had done.

Following graduation from Cambridge University with a joint degree in linguistics and music, he initially embarked on a writing career which brought him in contact with many film music composers in Great Britain and America. He first visited Hollywood at the invitation of Miklos Rozsa, who had been impressed by Palmer's critique of his work. At Rozsa's suggestion, he tried his hand at orchestrating part of Rozsa's score for the film Last Embrace. Palmer's combination of intellect and brilliant musical instinct allowed him quick mastery of the craft. Shortly afterwards, Elmer Bernstein also used Palmer to orchestrate his score for Heavy Metal and thus began another lifelong collaboration.

In addition to Rozsa and Bernstein, Palmer maintained long working relationships with Bernard Herrmann (Taxi Driver, Obsession), Maurice Jarre (Passage to India, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), Stanley Myers (The Witches), Dimitri Tiomkin (Tchaikovsky), and many others in over one hundred films, establishing himself as arguably the finest symphonic orchestrator of his generation. He also served as musical director for Milos Forman's Valmont. These career partnerships benefited the current film world, for through his frequent use of musical assistants Palmer tutored the future orchestrators of several contemporary film composers.

Palmer brought to public attention film music from Hollywood's Golden Age through symphonic suites and dozens of film music recordings. His tireless efforts have introduced a new generation to memorable scores of Sir Malcolm Arnold, William Alwyn, Sir Arthur Bliss, George Gershwin, Bronislau Kaper, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Jerome Moross, Alfred Newman, Alex North, Conrad Salinger, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, Sir William Walton, Franz Waxman, and Roy Webb. Among his last recordings was Elmer Bernstein's original score to The Magnificent Seven, never before released on disc, which received Germany's 1994 Echo Award for Best Soundtrack.

Throughout his life, Palmer's masterful reconstructions of classical works by Debussy, Puccini, Vaughan Williams and Walton resulted in the resurrection of important symphonic works otherwise likely lost. Jose Carreras, James Galway and Julian Lloyd Webber join a long list of world-renowned performers who have recorded his arrangements.

A prolific writer, Palmer often produced a full biography or analysis of major compositions of each composer he researched. He leaves behind a substantial body of publications including The Composer in Hollywood, The Britten Companion, biographies of Bliss, Delius, George Dyson, Herbert Howells, Prokofiev, Ravel, Rozsa, Szymanowski, Tiomkin, and an English translation of Milhaud's autobiography Notes Without Music, which includes an additional chapter by Palmer. He also edited works of nonmusical literary figures such as poet James Farrar and novelist Arthur Machen.

Christopher Palmer was widely respected throughout the music community. A consummate musician, his multifaceted career incorporated symphonic orchestration, recording, writing, and lecturing for a 25 year period until his death on January 22, 1995 from an AIDS-related illness at age 48.

During the last days of his life, when a weakening Christopher could talk very little, and finally could respond only by locking eye contact, one of his daily visitors was Elmer Bernstein, who figured so prominently throughout Palmer's working life. "I was with Christopher at the beginning of his career," remarked a saddened Elmer. "It's only fitting that I be there at the end." As providence would have it, Elmer was not allowed to be there at the end, but instead had to fly to Berlin to conduct a recording of Christopher's orchestrations of Franz Waxman's scores for Sayonara and A Place in the Sun: A Scenario For Orchestra."

Temperamental but unfailingly loyal, possessing keen wit and remarkable insight, restless to pursue each path as far as it might lead, Christopher's loss will be strongly felt by his many friends and colleagues.

ROY WEBB (1888-1982)
(Based on the Roy Webb chapter in The Composer in Hollywood, c1990 Christopher Palmer)

Roy Webb composed music for and was associated with over 300 motion pictures, primarily for the RKO Radio Pictures studio in Hollywood, California.

Born in New York City in 1888, Webb as a young boy was introduced to the Metropolitan Opera by his mother, and to Gilbert and Sullivan operettas by his uncle. Webb also studied drawing and painting at the Art Students' League in New York for five years, and after high school he studied classical music at Columbia University. His true interest, though, was in lighter contemporary music and Webb and his brother Kenneth produced several Varsity shows, with Roy writing, arranging and conducting the music.

While still a student at Columbia, Webb was invited by conductor Herbert Stothart to work on the production of Wildflower. The show was Webb's first professional job and marked his Broadway debut. Soon after, Webb became an artistic director at the New York Players' Studio, and Victor Baravalle engaged him to conduct Stepping Stones, a musical by Fred Stone, which ran in New York and on tour for two and a half years.

Baravalle then became Musical Director at RKO (known then as Radio Pictures) and in 1929 invited Webb to Hollywood to orchestrate the score for the film Rio Rita. Webb stayed on and spent nearly his entire career at RKO as a musical director until the studio closed in 1955, and was sold to Desilu television. Among the many notable RKO films of various genres Webb composed music for are Bringing Up Baby, Crossfire, Enchanted Cottage, I Remember Mama, Kitty Foyle, Last Days of Pompeii, Mighty Joe Young, and Rachel and the Stranger.

Webb's forte, however, was writing for the film noir genre, a specialty at RKO studios, namely the gangster (Dick Tracy), thriller (Farewell My Lovely, Notorious, The Window), and horror (The Body Snatcher, Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, The Leopard Man) films.

After RKO ceased production, Webb continued to write music scores on a freelance basis including Blood Alley and Sea Chase for Warner Bros. studios. His last major motion picture score was for the acclaimed 1955 Paddy Chayevsky screenplay Marty. Webb also wrote music for television programs such as Wagon Train and Shirley Temple Story Book.

In 1961 the house in which Webb and his wife Jean lived was destroyed by fire, and many original documents of his compositions were lost. However, copies of most of his film scores are preserved in the RKO Archives housed at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Webb died in 1982 in a Santa Monica hospital at the age of 94.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

Spanning the years 1935 through 1955, the Christopher Palmer Collection of Roy Webb Scores documents the career of American film music composer Roy Webb (1888-1982) at the RKO Radio Pictures studios in Hollywood, California.

The collection (Oversize packages 1-38) encompasses original and reproduction motion picture music scores from 44 films. In addition, related materials including story synopses, production credits, cast lists, reviews and news clippings for some films are bound with their respective scores.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Although listed alphabetically on the inventory, some scores and selections are bound together (e.g., Farewell My Lovely is bound with The Spiral Staircase and The Locket). Such scores are cross-referenced and listed in alphabetical order, which accounts for disruptions in the numerical sequence of the oversize packages on the inventory.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on this material.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

A compact disc entitled The Curse of the Cat People: The Film Music of Roy Webb, containing selections of original soundtrack recordings of Webb's music for RKO films, is housed in the Belfer Audio Archive and Laboratory.

The library holds the papers of several other motion picture music composers including Miklos Rozsa and Franz Waxman.

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Subject Headings

Persons

Palmer, Christopher
Webb, Roy, 1888-1982

Subjects

Composers, United States
Conductors (Music), United States
German Americans
Motion picture music, Scores
Music, 20th century
Musicians, United States
Orchestral music, Scores

Genres and Forms

Clippings
Reviews
Scores
Synopses

Occupations

Composers

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Christopher Palmer Collection of Roy Webb Scores,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of John Waxman, June 1996

Finding Aid Information

Created by: GK
Date: Dec 1996
Revision history: 31 Aug 2005- EAD file created (MRR)

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Inventory

Scores by Webb
Oversize 1 At Swords Point (1952: RKO Radio Pictures) (alternate title: Sons of the Musketeers)
Conductor's score (Selection) - original sketch
Lead sheet (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 39 Badman's Territory (1946: RKO Radio Pictures)
Piano conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 2 Bedlam (1946: RKO Radio Pictures)
Piano conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 3 Blood on the Moon (1948: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with review of film and related article, n.d.
Oversize 4 The Body Snatcher (1945: RKO Radio Pictures)
Lead sheet (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 5 Bombardier (1943: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Born to Kill (1947: RKO Radio Pictures)
See Scores by others : Sawtell, Paul. Deadlier Than the Male
Oversize 6 Cat People (1942: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with The Curse of the Cat People score, review of Cat People, n.d., and article relating to Roy Webb on endpaper, n.d.
Conductor's score (Selections) - reproductions
Article on producer Val Lewton, n.d.
Oversize 7 Clash by Night (1952: RKO Radio Pictures)
Lead sheet (Selections) (bound reproduction)
See also Hitler's Children
Oversize 8 Cornered (1945: RKO Radio Pictures)
Lead sheet (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 9 Crossfire (1947: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with music cue sheets, n.d., and National Film Theatre Programme Notes, n.d.
Two photographs from film
Film advertisement (reproduction)
Film story synopsis, production credits and cast list
See also Split Second and Hitler's Children
Oversize 6 The Curse of the Cat People (1944: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with review of film, n.d., and related article, n.d.
Oversize 10 Dick Tracy (1945: RKO Radio Pictures)
Piano conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 11 Enchanted Cottage (1945: RKO Radio Pictures)
Piano conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Hollywood Bowl Version (July 19, 1945):
  • Conductor's score (bound reproduction)
  • Film story synopsis, production credits and cast list
Oversize 12 Experiment Perilous (1945: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor/piano conductor score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 13 Farewell My Lovely (1944: RKO Radio Pictures) (alternate title: Murder, My Sweet)
Piano conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with The Spiral Staircase and The Locket
Photograph of Roy and Jean Webb (1974)
News clippings on Farewell My Lovely and Raymond Chandler, n.d.
Oversize 14 Fighting Father Dunne (1948: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 15 Flight For Freedom (1943: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 16 The Ghost Ship (1943: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction with film review mounted on endpaper, n.d.)
Oversize 17 Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951: RKO Radio Pictures) (working title: Mother of a Champion)
Lead sheet (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with holograph notes (reproduction) on music cues
See also Hitler's Children
Oversize 18 Hitler's Children (1943: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with conductor's score (reproduction) main title selections for Crossfire, Split Second, Hard, Fast and Beautiful (working title: Mother of a Champion), Clash by Night, Last Days of Pompeii.
Also bound with Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by Leith Stevens, from the film Night Song (alternate title: Memory of Love), piano solo (reproduction)
Oversize 19 I Remember Mama (1948: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Correspondence relating to Roy Webb photographs
News clippings obituaries on Irene Dunne, n.d.
Oversize 22A & B I Walked With a Zombie (1943: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) - reproductions
Oversize 20 Joan of Paris (1942: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 21 Kitty Foyle (1941: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 18 Last Days of Pompeii (1935: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selection, main title only) - (reproduction)
See also Hitler's Children
Oversize 22B The Leopard Man (1943: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with I Walked With A Zombie and The Voice of the R.K.O.
Oversize 13 The Locket (1947: RKO Radio Pictures)
Piano conductor's score (Selections) - reproductions, some with annotations
Oversize 23 The Lusty Men (1952: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 24 Magic Town (1947: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with music cue sheets (partial), n.d.
Oversize 25 Mighty Joe Young (1949: RKO Radio Pictures)
Lead sheet (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Murder, My Sweet (1944: RKO Radio Pictures)
See Farewell My Lovely
Oversize 26 Notorious (1946: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selection) - original sketch
Piano conductor's score (Selections) - reproductions with annotations
Piano conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with music cue sheet (partial), n.d., review of film mounted on endpaper, n.d., news clipping relating to Alfred Hitchcock, n.d.
Holograph notes
Oversize 27 Out of the Past (1947: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction) - bound with review of film, n.d.
Oversize 28 Quality Street (1937: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 29 Rachel and the Stranger (1948: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 30 Second Chance (1953: RKO Radio Pictures)
Lead sheet (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 31 The Secret Fury (1950: RKO Radio Pictures)
Lead sheet (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 32 Sinbad the Sailor (1947: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Sons of the Musketeers (1952: RKO Radio Pictures)
See At Swords Point
Oversize 13 The Spiral Staircase (1945: RKO Radio Pictures)
Piano conductor's score (Selections) - reproductions, some with annotations
Oversize 33 Splt Second
Lead sheet (Selections) (bound reproduction)
See also Hitler's Children
Oversize 39 Tall in the Saddle (1944: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 34 They Won't Believe Me! (1947: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Film story synopsis, production credits and cast list
Oversize 35 The Tuttles of Tahiti (1942: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 36 Underwater (1955: RKO Radio Pictures) (working title: The Big Rainbow)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
Oversize 39 Valley of the Sun (1942: RKO R adio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selection) (bound reproduction), which includes Webb scores "The Sentence" and "Fight"
Oversize 22 The Voice of the R.K.O. (n.d.,: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selection) - reproduction
Oversize 37 The Window (1949: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (Selections) (bound reproduction)
National Film Theatre Programme Notes, n.d.
Oversize 38 Zombies on Broadway (1945: RKO Radio Pictures)
Music cue sheets (partial) - n.d.
Conductor's score (Selections) - original and reproductions, some with annotations
Scores by Others
Oversize 39 Sawtell, Paul. Deadlier Than the Male (released as Born to Kill, 1947: RKO Radio Pictures)
Piano conductor's score (bound reproduction)
Oversize 39 Sawtell, Paul. Trail Street (1947: RKO Radio Pictures)
Conductor's score (bound reproduction)

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