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Hitchcock’s 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much offered a rare showcase for British composer Arthur Benjamin, whose cantata "The Storm Clouds" was a perfect mix of concert hall splendor and dramatic scoring. Given the option to write a new work for the 1956 remake, Bernard Herrmann chose not to: "I didn’t think anybody could better what (Benjamin) had done." Instead, Herrmann re-orchestrated the original piece, adding expressive new voices for harp and other percussion.
Hitchcock made directorial revisions in the sequence as well, replacing the anonymous orchestra leader in the original with a clearly identified conductor -- and who better for the part than Herrmann himself? As a result, the 45-year-old made the choicest screen appearance by a real-life conductor since Leopold Stokowski shook hands with Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. How fitting that the extraordinary partnership of Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann was thus cemented both in image and sound.
Steven C. Smith is the author of A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann (University of California Press, 1991), and a recipient of the Deems Taylor Award for writing on music. He is currently a writer/producer on the A&E television series Biography.