Korngold referred to his film scores as “operas without singing.” He had actually composed several successful operas as a young wunderkind in Europe, but in 1932 Max Reinhardt brought him to the United States to arrange the music for the Warner Bros. film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which was based on Reinhardt’s famous production of the play at the Hollywood Bowl). Along with Max Steiner (another European musical prodigy), Korngold would establish the lush Germanic Warner Bros. house sound in the 1930s and ’40s. Kings Row (1942) was the film version of a popular bestseller that explored the dark underside of an American small town. Korngold allegedly misconstrued the title and created this regally imperialistic introduction that eventually influenced John Williams’ Star Wars and Superman scores.
Deception (1946) was a full-tilt Bette Davis melodrama about a musical love triangle between a pianist, a cellist, and a composer. A key element in the goings-on is a concerto composed, to devious ends, for the cellist. It is effectively “performed” on-screen by actor Paul Henreid, to a prerecorded playback by Eleanor Aller (who had become first cellist at Warner Bros. in 1939 and was a member of the Hollywood String Quartet).