About this Piece
Hungarian-born concert and film composer Miklos Rózsa collaborated only once with Alfred Hitchcock, on the David O. Selznick-produced Spellbound (1945). In fact, the word "collaboration" may be an overstatement: according to Rózsa’s witty autobiography A Double Life, the men met only twice during the entire production. Hitchcock left Rózsa largely to his own devices (as he would with most composers), but the filmmaker did have two "precise requirements," Rózsa recalled: "a big sweeping love theme for Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, and a ‘new sound’ for the paranoia which formed the subject of the picture. I immediately suggested the theremin, an electronic instrument bearing the name of the man who invented it."
After viewing the unfinished film, Rózsa "immediately jotted down" the love theme with little effort. Both that melody and his agitated "paranoia" theme met with Hitchcock’s and Selznick’s approval; in fact, the compositions inspired so much enthusiasm from the controlling producer that Rózsa "was bombarded by the famous Selznick memos, which virtually told me how to compose and orchestrate the music scene by scene. [I] completely disregarded all his ‘musical’ ideas."
Neither Hitchcock nor Selznick attended the final recording session, but they had little reason to worry. Rózsa’s Spellbound score offered the perfect framework for Hitchcock’s then-topical mix of psychoanalysis and romance; it also earned Rózsa his first of four Academy Awards, and was subsequently re-arranged as the immensely popular Spellbound Concerto, a work which is Rózsa’s most recorded. The composer himself last heard this work performed at a 1993 session at MGM studios as John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra recorded it for their 1994 release, Hollywood Nightmares.
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.