The fact that Jerry Goldsmith, David Raksin, and now Elmer Bernstein have all died in the space of a month may make people talk about the end of an age in film music. Bernstein himself addressed this issue in an impassioned speech in 1998:
People say to me, 'You know, what has happened to film scoring?' I hear this all the time. I hear it from filmmakers. 'You know, what happened, you know, what happened to the great film scorers?' Well of course it's a nonsensical question because I'll tell you, I teach a class at USC, and I'm here to tell you that there's nothing wrong with film scoring and the people that I teach there, I just hope to see them fed into our business. There's nothing wrong with film scoring and there's nothing wrong with the talent, but there is something wrong, seriously wrong with the process and the system.
Bernstein went on:
The composing of music is an art. In our business, art is the only three-letter dirty word because art requires courage, and it's very hard to have courage when you spend a year and a half ... two years developing a project, shooting a project. A project which costs millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars. And you blow it out all one weekend on sixteen hundred screens, and what happens on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of that weekend determines whether that picture is going to survive or not. It's a numbers game. Everything about our business has become a numbers game. We're automated and that is not a good atmosphere for art. And that is the problem we're facing.
In any case, Bernstein wrote a lot of wonderful music, from Man With the Golden Arm in 1955 to Far From Heaven two years ago. Sweet Smell of Success is my personal favorite — it hints at the hot emotion behind the film's ice-cold facade.