Abstract

In his first film score, Erich Wolfgang Korngold adapted the works of Felix Mendelssohn so that the music seemed to interact and respond with the visual editing of the film, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Warner Bros., 1935). By detailing the facets of this unusual production, which range from Korngold's presence on the set to the publicity department's efforts to spotlight Mendelssohn's music and Korngold's arrangements, I argue that the score for Dream played an important role in elevating film music and film composers within the hierarchy of Hollywood production and publicity. Not only was the Mendelssohn-Korngold score given greater consideration during the film's making, but also audiences were reminded to listen to the film's music, a facet rarely acknowledged in other contemporaneous publicity drives. Importantly, these changes were effected and rationalized through the self-conscious foregrounding of the music, principles, and rhetoric of nineteenth-century Romanticism. Documents at the Warner Bros. Archive reveal how the confluence of these factors not only established the unusual tenor of Korngold's career within the Hollywood studio system but also helped construct the film composer's public image as an incongruously independent artist working within an otherwise collaborative medium.

This content is only available via PDF.