Music In Film...Robert Redford

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Welcome to the third installment in a series of hub articles dedicated to music in film. Each article focuses on one director, and the composers and songwriters he or she has collaborated with over the years.

The link to the introduction of this series and the first installment (Steven Spielberg) appears below:


“I don't know what your childhood was like, but we didn't have much money. We'd go to a movie on a Saturday night; then on Wednesday night my parents would walk us over to the library. It was such a big deal…to go in and get my own book.”

--- Robert Redford

In the above excerpt from an interview, Redford was referring to the days when he was an only child, growing up in a struggling Irish Catholic family during the WWII years in Santa Monica, CA. Possessed of a strong work ethic, they didn’t complain about things; feelings and thoughts were largely communicated by storytelling which became part of his life.

The war years of Redford’s youth were intense, patriotic times. As he grew into the world he wanted to tell stories about the America he had observed. Somewhere, “between the black and white, and the red and blue,” there exists what he calls the “gray zone” in American life where feelings were more complicated.

The phrase, “movie star turned director,” hardly quantifies this complex and deeply caring filmmaker. Frustrated by the lack of compelling stories and characters in Hollywood films, Robert founded the Sundance Institute in the spring of 1981. The Institute has since grown into an internationally renowned resource for independent film and music artists. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences awarded Redford an honorary Oscar in 2002 for his accomplishments with Sundance and other contributions to film.


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“The importance of music to film is the new hybrid that is growing stronger.”

--- Robert Redford

In creating the fusion of music and film, composers are faced with a myriad of difficult decisions; they must reach a collaborative agreement with the director and write a score that complements and/or enhances the tone of various scenes.

Most of Redford’s films center on conscience regarding changing family dynamics and values, respect for the natural world, and the soul-searching quest to find answers that reside within us. To Robert, storytelling is an important part of humanity. Music is an integral part of his artistic synergy and collaboration with other artists that realize the story through film.

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· Ordinary People

“Feelings are scary. And sometimes they're painful. And if you can't feel pain... you won't feel anything else either.”

In 1980, Redford surprised the Hollywood community with his directorial debut, Ordinary People. Adapted from Judith Guest’s novel, this timeless story centers on three members of an upper-middle class family living in an affluent Chicago suburb. The film opens after the tragic drowning of the older teenage son during a boating accident, and the suicide attempt of his brother who is beset with grief and survivor guilt over his death. Beneath the struggle to maintain normal outward appearances, Beth, her husband, Calvin, and their son, Conrad, are compelled to confront their feelings when love -- which has been unexpressed and taken for granted -- is inordinately and painfully tested.

Ordinary People is an intelligent and deeply moving motion picture that garnered critical acclaim. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture; Redford won for Best Director; and Timothy Hutton, Best Supporting Actor:



The music we hear in the above trailer is a combination of Marvin Hamlisch’s original scoring and Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Both support the narrative in a beautifully understated theme. The Baroque Canon opens the film in a melancholy setting with deserted docks at the water’s edge, a solitary bird, and the drifting leaves of fall. Redford’s intuitive sense with music in film is further exemplified by his knowing when not to use it. For example, we don’t hear Pachelbel’s Canon again until the close of the poignant, final scene that takes place during the following winter:




· A River Runs Through It

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.”

A River Runs Through It is a period drama adapted from the semi-autobiographical novella written by Norman Maclean. Set on the Blackfoot River in Missoula, Montana, the story begins in 1910. It follows the life journey of the steady and thoughtful Norman, his rebellious and talented brother, Paul, and their father, a strict Presbyterian minister. For a family with unfulfilled dreams and emotions seldom expressed, fly fishing on the river becomes their uniting metaphor. Man’s spiritual affinity for the natural world bonds these men, and helps them to recognize their unconditional love for each other regardless of their differences.

Redford narrates this Oscar-nominated film that is grounded in traditional family values. Speaking for Norman who is an elderly man, Redford brings his written words to the screen with a lyrical and profound sense of poetry. Like the haunting waters, the striking cinematography and musical scoring emphasize a part of all that has gone before him while sustaining the mysteries of life:


Composer Mark Ishman’s rich, melodic themes pull us in with the same measured poetry…from the rhythmic currents of the river and the casting rod to the rainbow’s rise. Isham’s soundtrack was also nominated for an Academy Award.


“As part of the collaboration process, Bob describes his thoughts and observations about his films very much from an actor’s perspective. He talks about the character’s emotional arc, the emotional high points, and the evolution of emotion over the length of the film – all very precisely and elegantly expressed. He has great taste in music.” --- Mark Isham


Norman Maclean (Craig Sheffer ); Paul Maclean (Brad Pitt); Reverend Maclean (Tom Skerritt).


· The Horse Whisperer

“They could see into the creature's soul and sooth the wounds they found there with secrets uttered softly into troubled ears. These men were known as the Whisperers.”

Following a tragic accident on snowy country road, a young teenage girl on horseback loses her best friend and riding companion when she is hit by a large truck. Grace and her beloved horse, Pilgrim, survive but are seriously injured. The physical and emotional trauma of the incident cause them both to withdraw from life. Pilgrim exhibits dangerous behavior to anyone who approaches him; Grace is remote and distant from her parents and friends. Her mother, Annie, is desperate to help her daughter. Leaving New York and a troubled relationship with her husband behind, Annie drives Grace and Pilgrim to the Montana mountains. There, she seeks the help of Tom Booker, a Montana horse whisperer with mystical gifts. It is a cross-country odyssey that brings them to an extraordinary journey of healing and redemption.

In the video that follows, Tom tells Grace that there is a point when she and Pilgrim won't need him anymore. “And we’re there,” he says. The rising of the horse with Grace culminates in life altering realizations for Grace, her parents and for Tom, himself. Thomas Newman’s beautiful score echoes the film’s theme with the traditional and elegant melodic form that is Redford’s signature:


Tom Booker (Robert Redford); Annie MacLean (Kristen Scott Thomas); Grace MacLean (Scarlett Johansson); Robert MacLean (Sam Neill)

The original song, "A Soft Place To Fall," by Allison Moorer and Gwil Owen was nominated for an Academy Award.


· The Legend of Bagger Vance

“It's hard and you stand out there on that green, green grass, and it's just you and the ball and there ain't nobody to beat up on but yourself.”

The Legend of Bagger Vance is based on the 1995 novel by Steven Pressfield. The story takes place in Savannah, Georgia in 1931.

Rannulph Junnuh (Matt Damon) was an exceptional amateur golfer until his harrowing experiences on the battlefield during World War I. In the years following the war, he retreats into a world of self-imposed exile where his spirit and confidence are consumed by alcohol and cynicism. Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron), Junnuh's former love, inherited a golf course from her father. To help revitalize Savannah, she organizes a high-profile golf match between two celebrated golfers. Junnha is quickly enlisted to play in the tournament. When Junnah loses hope of playing with any semblance of skill, he is visited by a mysterious gentleman, Bagger Vance (Will Smith), who offers to be his caddy.

Many viewers theorize that the mysterious caddy is either Bhagwans from Hinduism or a guardian angel. Regardless of what we believe, Bagger Vance represents our teacher, spiritual guide and conscience. The golf game – with every swing and drive – actually serves as a metaphor. It is a search for, and connection with, one’s soul and calling. Similar to A River Runs Through It, it is that place and moment in time where everything comes together…when feeling and listening reconnect us to what we knew and loved:


The inspirational score (one of my favorites), was by composed by Rachel Portman. In the above video, the piano first establishes the base rhythm. It is soon joined in a spiritual harmony by strings, then the chorus, all floating upward to meet Junnah’s ball in the air as it soars across the field.

Composer, Mark Isham, once remarked…

“Robert wants to show us that we must learn from life – from history, nature and from the other lives around us. And from those lessons, to try to do the right thing. What the music adds to that is to see the beauty in all things – even the sadness.”

This writer couldn’t agree more.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Are you a fan Redford’s films?

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Note: My apologies for omitting such films as Lions for Lambs and The Conspirator. (Redford did not direct The Natural.) Several hubs would be needed, at minimum, to encompass Redford’s entire body of work.



Sources:

  • Dark Horizons: Interview: Robert Redford for "The Legend of Bagger Vance"; November 3rd 2000
  • Robert Redford Interview – Music in Film; Sundance London; 2012
  • Film Music; Interview With Composer Mark Isham; by Danial Schweiger; April 7, 2011



Written content has been copyrighted, 2014, by Genna Eastman (Genna East). All rights Reserved. Said copyrights do not extend to the videos that are utilized solely for learning purposes.


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Comments 37 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Bev and I were discussing Redford the other day. Neither of us thinks he is an outstanding actor, but there is something compelling about him that makes us watch him anyway....and his humanitarian efforts are excellent.


ocfireflies profile image

ocfireflies 2 years ago from North Carolina

Another enjoyable and informational hub/V++ for sure

Kim


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@billybuc

You brought up and excellent point, Bill. When people look at Redford…especially the younger version, they think this is an “ivy league” guy who grew up in a world with certain amount of privilege. The exact opposite is true. When I read interviews with artists who have worked with him, they all say the same thing: He’s a deeply caring, loving person, and very intelligent but also vulnerable…he often tries to hide this behind a wall of reserve and professionalism to the outside world. He is extremely well read. I think this is part of his compelling mystique when we see him on screen.

@ocfireflies

Thank you, dear Kim. As always, it is a pleasure “to see” you and to read your encouraging comments. :-)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 2 years ago from sunny Florida

Sometimes the music in a film, dvd, and the like speaks as much to my soul as any word or action that unfolds before me.

To know that Robert who made my heart throb (I admit unabashedly) recognized the significance of music makes my heart throb even more.

Thank you for sharing this tribute ...and insight to this man.

Angels are on the way ps


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

I love the music in films, and these videos didn't disappoint either, I think music makes a film, and even though Robert Redford tends to be a little before my time in his films I do like some of them, he is one of the originals as I call them! lol! great hub Genna!


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Robert Redford both on screen and in the Director chair is a big part of our shared heritage. He is an American icon on screen and a stellar Director whose films touch us in their breath and grandeur. I would have a tough time just picking a favorite from the four you presented here. Again, you have gathered a large amount of information and condensed it in an enjoyable and informative fashion.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

So interesting--many of these films for me all deal with a man's inner world--and all of them deal with feelings and inner states of some kind---and the scores are so reflective of these--great selctions


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 2 years ago from South Carolina

Hi Genna,

I am a huge fan of Robert Redford, as actor and director and I enjoyed this hub and the film clips you added to it. Makes me want to see these masterpieces all over again.

Voted up across the board except for funny.

Sending Hugs and Blessings,

Gail


DnWW 2 years ago

The composer is Redford’s voice and writes music that is part of his dialogue and philosophy as a teacher. Brilliant, Genna, and beautiful. I think Redford is a better director than actor, but he always hit me as more of an observer of life around him. I now know why.

Dana


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Dear Genna,

You had me at that very first quote of his, as I can so relate! I just love Robert Redford, and even more so now after reading your insightful hub into the wonderful man he is and one of such integrity and insight into the human spirit.

I truly love all of these here you have so expertly chosen to highlight.

Superb hub once again! Up and more, tweeting, pinning and sharing

Blessings for a lovely weekend ahead.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

he is a man filled with class, integrity, plain old grit.. a very enjoyable hub.. thank you for sharing


always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

I have never missed any of Redford's movies. Not only is he an excellent actor, he has directed some very important movies such as ' Ordinary people ' how grief and guilt can almost destroy a family. At one time it was rumored that he was going to get into politics, he would've gotten my vote. Thank you for highlighting these wonderful old movies. Beautifully crafted..


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@Pstraubie48

I like Redford as well…it’s hard not to. :-) He doesn’t ascribe to violence, and feels that there is far too much of it films these days. I agree with him. Thanks for that wonderful comment. :-)

@NellRose

Hi Nell. I hadn’t seen Redford’s films until his 1992 A River Runs Through It, with Brad Pitt -- the third film he directed. I later saw Ordinary People—his first directorial film – from 1980 and was blown away by how amazing it is. Who knew the “handsome heartthrob” was so immensely talented as a director? Thank you for the visit, and that very nice comment.

@Mckbirdbks

Hi Mike. Thank you! It’s hard to choose – isn’t it? My fav is Bagger, with Will Smith and Matt Damon. The music is extraordinary; I love Rachel Portman’s music. (She also composed the soundtrack to The Cider House Rules.) Ishman said that collaborating with him on the musical scoring was a privilege. Good to see you. :-)


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@AudreyHowitt

Hi Audrey. You have beautifully described the heartbeat of many of his films. (I haven’t seen them all.) His love of nature comes through as well. Have a good weekend, Audrey, and thank you! :-)

@HappyBoomerNurse

Hi there. :-) I had the same feeling when writing this hub. Thank you for that generous comment and for you encouragement and votes. :-)

@DnWW

Hi Dan. I agree with you, my friend. Well, until we saw last year’s All Is Lost. Here is a man in his 70’s whose mostly silent performance keeps one mesmerized as he struggles, alone, with nature’s challenges in the ocean after his sailboat is damaged beyond repair. It reminded me of the tale of Ulysses. It’s no wonder he was nominated for every acting award under the sun. Thanks for the visit..hugs to Moll.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

I am a Robert Redford fan too and for all the reasons you bring up in this hub. This is so interesting and informative to look at his use of music in the films he has directed. His films are truly a work of art with metaphoric and philosophical themes and meanings. Besides the music the camera work of his films is phenomenal also. Great write!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@FaithReaper

Hello Faith. Thank you so much for those very thoughtful words, votes, and encouragement…it makes my day. I hope you have a wonderful weekend! :-)

@FrankAtanacio

Hi Frank. I agree with you…he is a class act n every way. It’s good to see you and thank you for the comment. :-)

@AlwaysExploring

Hi Ruby. :-) I didn’t see Ordinary People until the 90’s, and I was floored...it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. In that video above, Beth -- the perfectionist who was a victim of her own upbringing -- is talking about Conrad to her mother. Her son is struggling to communicate his emotions following a thwarted suicide attempt. Yet Beth can’t meet her mother’s eyes as she fixates on the plate she broke in her mother’s kitchen. “I really think this can be saved,” she says. The music Redford chose and collaborated with Hamlisch is perfect. Thanks for that great comment, my friend.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@Suzettenaples

You said it perfectly. And the cinematography in many of his films is simply stunning.

I seem to like older films; the new ones have too much gratuitous violence to pull in viewers. Good ones seem to be a rare commodity these days. I see perhaps 3-4 every year, tops... that’s not much considering how many are being produced. Lol…I’m probably the last person that should be writing this series. Thank you for the visit, and the comment.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 2 years ago from TEXAS

The only film here with which I hadn’t been very familiar is ‘Ordinary People’, which I now want to have. I’ve not watched A River Runs Through It’ in quite awhile but this revisit to it is so nostalgic for me that it bring tears to my eyes. George loved the movie, which was about one of his two greatest passions, fishing. The other was golf, though he wasn’t alive when ‘Bagger Vance’ came out. Some of his favorite films were about that subject, so when I acquired it not so long ago, I thought throughout the movie how he’d have loved it. ‘The Horse Whisperer’, was another film which he also loved. Redford is definitely George’s sort of man, like two peas in a pod. Of course, I love Redford's work, too, both as an actor and as a director. I fell in love with him when he debuted in “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’ and loved Bacharach's score in it. George and I always loved to say “Who ARE those guys?” at the ranch when a rare passer-through passed through, in remembrance of that famous line.

The scores in each of these films fit their messages and, actually, they seem to fit WHO Robert Redford IS, and who I knew my George to be. This was an extraordinary visit to RR's work and to each film, Genna. Thank you.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 2 years ago from TEXAS

PS - I realize Butch Cassidy wasn’t his first or debut movie. He’d already been in several TV roles and a movie or two before it, but Sundance was his debut for me as a recognizable actor. I think my all-time favorite of his roles is in “Out of Africa” and the music in that film is amazing, though he didn’t direct it, of course. Ah! This is such a walk down memory lane!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hi Nellieanna…

You will not be disappointed with “Ordinary People,” my friend. It is a superb film. Your George was a wonderful man; from your dear descriptions and reminiscences of him, I am reminded of Redford. I remember that line with Redford & Newman (“Who ARE those guys?”) They were great friends in real life, and liked to play practical jokes on each other. I think Redford was very comfortable in his role as Finch Hatton (magnificent scoring with that film). Thank you for your wonderful comments! :-)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 2 years ago from TEXAS

Thank you, Genna. I've just ordered "Ordinary People". Happily, I had enough bonus points on my Discover card to pay for it, which is a real bonus, indeed! Matter of fact, I don't have "Butch Cassidy, et al" in my collection. Perhaps it will be my next acquisition.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hello Nellieanna...

I think you will enjoy this film, Nellieanna. I would love to hear your thoughts after you have viewed it. :-)


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I admire Redford's acting and his work ethic. I was surprised he played a villain in the last Captain America movie. He did a superb job of making the role part of the film's excitement. I also saw the recent film (Lost on the ocean) and found his solo role really held the audience attention for the duration of the movie. Thanks for the good background read on this actor.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you! I appreciate the visit and the wonderful comments. :-)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 2 years ago from TEXAS

I have received and watched "Ordinary People" and I like it, and intend to view it again soon. It's terribly sad, as only authentic feelings of the heart and predicaments of people in real situations can be. I felt their anguish and have nothing but great admiration for Redford in making the film and the actors for living it so authentically. I'm glad you recommended it!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 2 years ago from TEXAS

By the way - have been focusing on Elizabeth I, rewatching the series and then reading online history of her, where I ran across the name Hatton. It's not a very common name, so it stuck in my mind. Seems that "Sir Christopher Hatton KG (1540 – 20 November 1591) was an English politician, Lord Chancellor of England and a favourite of Elizabeth I of England." I'm always curious about history and name connections. Wonder if Denys Finch Hatton was descended from that line?


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hi Nellieanna…

Yes, OP is a very sad film, and timeless as well. In the final scene, this young man and his father are finally able to express their love for each other. Pachelbel’s Canon is very popular and is played at both weddings and funerals, oddly enough, denoting change within a family. The irony of Redford’s thematic placement of the Canon (I have no idea if this was part of his reasoning), serves as bookends in a sense (the open and closing credits) that also signify dramatic changes within the Jarrett family. It is also a beautiful, elegant composition with distinct voices of 3 and 4. I think his choice was perfect.

How wonderful about Elizabeth I. Is this the Helen Mirren series? It is more faithful to historical accuracy than the films with Cate Blanchett. Elizabeth is a favorite historical figure of mine. She was a remarkable woman. I am amazed with how she held on to her reign when so many wanted to see her fall/fail when she ascended to the throne. I assume Walsingham and Cecile and helped in this regard, although fictional accounts often misinterpret their roles during her rule.

Finch Hatton could have descended from that line…what an intriguing idea!

I always love your comments, dear Nellieanna…thank you! -)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Genna, I love everything Robert Redford is associated with, movies, causes, music. This is a wonderful hub. Thank you for the research you put in and for sharing. Voted up.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, John. He is a fascinating individual, and one for whom I have tremendous respect. It's good to see you, and I appreciate the kind words and vote. :-)


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Robert Redford has such tremendous depth beyond his good looks and superior acting skills. I loved him in The Way We Were, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting (which had wonderful music, too) and to know that his talents go beyond the superficial is really amazing. Thanks for this slice of his incredible work as a Director and for the insight into the man himself.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Peg. I agree...I know that many in the industry were surprised with his directorial debut of "Ordinary People." I have enjoyed his performances, too. Thanks, again, for your support of this series...I enjoyed writing the installments. :-)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 19 months ago from sunny Florida

O Genna I must be a true Redford fan...I am intimately familiar with each of these films.

Each one is unique and captivating and worth viewing again and again. The perfect balance between music and story is one of the reasons I am drawn to them no doubt. Music is food for the soul on any day.

Well done

Voted up ++++ Shared and Pinned to Awesome HubPages.

Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps


Genna East profile image

Genna East 19 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

I agree, and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. Although, I think Portman’s “Seeing the Field” is in a tie for first place. I enjoyed your visit, and lovely comments. Thank you.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 11 months ago from South Africa

Very interesting series, thank you, Genna. Composing music for a film is most certainly not easy. I take my hat off for all composers. And also the directors of films. Bringing eveything together requires a lot of talent. Once upon a time I was in love with Robert Redford, or rather with his poster in my scrapbook :)


Genna East profile image

Genna East 11 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Martie. You're certainly weren't alone in your fondness for Redford; he was, and still is, a handsome dude with oodles of character and talent. He's one of my favorite directors/actors. I recently saw him in one of his first films, "Barefoot in the Park." (I think his sense of comedic timing is one of his unheralded gifts.) Rumor has it that Ms. Fonda had a crush on him -- as did Barbra Streisand. But he would never tell; he's a gentleman. :-) I love the style of music he uses in every film he produces.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 months ago from Houston, Texas

Although I have never personally gone fishing I gained an appreciation for the beauty of fly fishing after watching the movie A River Runs Through It. Robert Redford is not only an excellent actor but director as well. It was fun reading this hub. :)


Genna East profile image

Genna East 7 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Peg. :-) It was a pleasure writing this series. There is an art to fly fishing; it's a past time that involves skill, and soul as well. Redford has always been a favorite of mine, and I am glad you enjoyed this hub.

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