Monday, September 27, 2010

The Movie's Music Revisited

Researcher and co-author of the book, Clear Intent, Barry Greenwood continues to discover interesting pieces of history surrounding both "U.F.O." and the people involved with its production, and I'm grateful that he shares his work with us. Today, he contributes another gem I knew nothing about when exploring the 1956 motion picture's background in the seventies.

I've long wondered, attempting even to prod recorded music companies on the issue, why the admirable musical soundtrack for "U.F.O." was never released in an LP or CD anthology. If showbiz folks can get away with consuming an entire disc with music from the movie, "Night of the Living Dead," is it so much more to ask that the beautifully multifaceted composition for an obscure film scored by the accomplished Ernest Gold be re-released or newly performed for commercial sale?

A few years ago, recording artist Andrew Gold -- son of Ernest -- recalled for me that he vaguely remembered his father working on the music for "U.F.O." but he was a very young child at that time and was unable to offer any information. All I knew, even after consultation with a music publishing company, was that the score for the movie was also called "U.F.O."

However, I never dreamed that the score's various movements and cues, both short and long, each had a name. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Greenwood, the pages shown here -- for some reason, these items of United Artists publicity material are stored among a collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society -- allow more of the story to be told.

Immediately apparent on the first page, beyond attributions to the cataloging organization B.M.I., is a reference to Ivar Productions. "U.F.O." was a Greene-Rouse production released through United Artists, but during my earliest inquiries decades ago, the only time I encountered this production co. name arose when I discovered there was a very early videotape (commercially released, I assume) of the movie, and a printed description in some obscure page (not in my collection) listed Ivar Productions. As I recall, and I'm stretching what I think I remember, Ivar had some connection to Ricou Browning of the "Creature From the Black Lagoon" movies. Whatever relationship any of this had with the UFO documentary (I suspect none), I simply do not know.

But aside from that -- how wonderful and logical that key portions of Clarence Greene's "U.F.O." music were marked off with titled orchestral segments. From Capt. Thomas Mantell's death ("Col. Hicks" and "The Wreckage") to the important introduction of Al Chop ("Al Chop") and an eventual historic UFO chase over Washington, D.C., coupled with subsequent official government concern, the cue sheets designate how Ernest Gold's composition (conducted for the film by Emil Newman), created a dramatic mood and musical intrigue for a 1956 documentary motion picture requiring and enhanced by both. Even standing alone, had there been no movie, Gold's work remains a treasure -- yet, curiously undiscovered by the musical soundtrack industry.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tom Towers as Writer

A month after "U.F.O." hit national movie screens, Towers wrote this column for the old Los Angeles Examiner. As aviation editor, he never shied away from the UFO issue while informing his readers about topics of aviation in general.

(Thanks to researcher Barry Greenwood for this clipping.)

Tom Towers and the Junket

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Tom Towers worked tirelessly in helping southern California plan for airport growth and expansion, and early on he recognized the need for noise abatement as "the jet age" came into fashion. His familiarity with progress in aviation gave him the opportunity to write about all manner of things in the air -- including UFOs -- during his time as aviation editor for the old Los Angeles Examiner. An old fifties newspaper photo reproduced (poorly) here shows writer Towers, standing second from left, attending a session previewing a 1959 Beechcraft airplane in Palm Springs at the Palm Desert Airport.

Apparently, for a time in 1957 Towers also moderated his own local Sunday TV show, though I'm unaware of its content. Airports and noise were probably involved, and perhaps UFOs as well, as only a year had passed since the release of the movie starring Towers. Complicating things, A TV host named Chris Roberts was listed as talking about UFOs earlier on the Sunday Morning shown in the scan displayed here (sorry about the visual quality).

During my correspondence with Tom Towers in the 1970s, one subject that never came up was his minor notoriety in a seventies "junket" controversy. Even though he had done crime reporting in his earlier newspaper career, I was unaware of the public admonishment awarded his own "crime" via local California media, particularly via articles appearing in the Van Nuys Valley News (ref. especially Nov. 12, 1977). Towers, then an administrative assistant for the Dept. of Airports, and several other airport and city officials flew off to the annual International Civil Airports Association conference, held in Vienna in September, and made the mistake of flying first class -- which cost the city of Los Angeles almost an extra $1,000 for each of the five.

The uproar from the city controller about the "expense account mentality" obviously reverberated throughout Los Angeles and hands were slapped through the power of the press. The conference seems to have provided some valuable insight regarding airport noise and the like, but the first class flight expenses apparently negated the benefits accrued in the eyes of some and portrayed Towers and other officials equivalent to, yes, snakes on a plane.

Following this, I wonder if future conference attendees were forced to fly in the cargo hold, accompanied only by crated dogs and cats? Sure wish I could have had a few words from Tom himself about this colorful situation.

(Thanks to Barry Greenwood for providing archival news clippings and for alerting me to the Vienna matter.)