For Otto Preminger’s film about a Chicago card dealer (Frank Sinatra) who falls victim to heroin addiction, then tries to get the monkey off his back, Elmer Bernstein came up with a powerful, pioneering concoction of cool jazz, big band and the Hollywood symphonic style. The score sets a bunch of moods—tension, anxiety, the grand swagger of being a cool guy in a tough town—with varied orchestrations and memorable melodies. How memorable? I haven’t seen the film (also highly recommended) in 30 years, yet a half-dozen tunes from Bernstein’s score still lodge in my brain. I’m humming one now and—without the aid of any drug—man, do I feel juiced!
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