THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNDER
Score by Dave Grusin
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Story: A deaf mute lends help and comfort to those around him in a southern town.
One of the most significant scores in the Dave Grusin filmography, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” was his first composition for a dramatic feature. "It was an opportunity for me to do something orchestral that I hadn't had a chance to do before - the size of the orchestra and the kind of music it was,” he states. "It's probably the first chance I had to do what I grew up thinking was serious film music."
Only in his second year in writing for the big screen, the score reveals Dave Grusin's exceptional gift for the craft, his sensitivity for interpreting inner emotions through music and an ability to compose expressive melodies. In so doing, he lived up to the trust placed in his limited experience by those who translated this literary classic to film.
The poignant and stirring main title theme, used briefly in the body of the film as well as over the end credits, communicates the innate human goodness of Mr. Singer as much as the many sequences showing his concern for others and his actions to help them. Use of a harpsichord sound lends additional pathos to the opening melody before blossoming into a rich orchestral treatment of the piece.
Dramatic underscoring in the 1968 motion picture is limited. The use of virtual silence in many extended scenes without dialogue - especially in the first ten minutes - subliminally pulls us into the world of the deaf. Wanting to hear, but being left unfulfilled.
Perhaps this early project, where absence of music made as much of a statement as scoring, gave Dave Grusin a new perspective on his profession. Having grown up with the wall-to-wall concept of the great film composers he so admired, working on pictures like this, he started to take on a more minimalist philosophy.
On the other hand, music plays a vital role in the storyline of “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter,” with characters listening to and playing source music in quite a few instances, including the vibrant moments where Mick describes the symphony to Mr. Singer in words and gestures.
In fact, “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” contains a substantial amount (some 26 minutes) of source music - long cues even employing complex mixtures of same, as in the carnival sequence. There is even a piece which combines Mozart's Hefner Symphony with rhythm and blues, an item- called “Symphodelic” - on the soundtrack album, but which does not appear in the movie as released.
Whereas one might expect him to have used a geographical hook on which to develop the music for this film, its Georgia location being of prime importance in the story, instead Dave Grusin has chosen emotions as his musical basis.
The secondary music is composed of a light theme and a dark one. The former, pastoral in nature, evokes a pleasant summer day, and the carefree feelings that calls to mind. The darker theme, used after the young couple has made love by the lake, is grave, troubled and with a strong undertone of uncertainty.
Additional music includes a lively and vivacious piece used when Mick is dressing for her party (capturing something of her stage of life, between girlhood and womanhood) and a bluesy theme which relates to the world of Dr. Copeland.
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" is the score which brought Sydney Pollack's attention to Dave Grusin as a film composer, and eventually led to them working on nine motion pictures together.
The promise shown in this film is one which was fulfilled each time Dave Grusin worked on a vehicle of depth and weight. While his fusion jazz leanings made him an ideal composer for light comedies and romances, his genuine strengths as a film scorer show up on such more dramatic works as "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter."
Stars: Alan Arkin, Sondra Locke, Laurinda Barrett, Stacy Keach, Percy Rodriguez, Cicely Tyson
Director: Robert Ellis Miller
Producers: Thomas C. Ryan & Marc Mason
Released: Warner Bros. 1968