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Submitted by James Nice

Allan Gray
by Alexander Gleason

Allan Gray's name may not be immediately recalled by all music enthusiasts, his last important works were, after all, composed in the mid 1950s, and his significant musical career spanned a period of under 20 years, but his contribution to popular music of our time should not be underestimated - if only for his superb collaborations with (now) cult film-makers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and his 'discovery' of a bright young composer and arranger by the name of Bob Farnon!

Gray was born Josef Zmigrod on the 23rd of February 1902 in Tarnów, a small Austrian town near the Polish Border (which, during the war, was to become - and remain - part of Poland). His education included music and philosophy at the University of Heidelberg and during the early 1920s he studied piano under the famous european pianist and teacher Breithaupt, (a fellow pupil being one Claudio Arrau). Around this time he is also know to have studied composition under no less a tutor than Arnold schoenberg (his fellow studenrs here included Anton Webern and Kurt Weill) and by the last 1920s he had made it to the very heart of the Berlin arts scene, working for producer Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater company on the Kurfurstendamm, (where he would have rubbed shoulders with the likes of Eric Wolfgang Korngold and Friedruch Hollander - while down in the theatre's basement Hans May and Mischa Spoliansky would have been composing political and comedy material for the, now infamous, caberet shows).

Gray's activities rapidly expanded into a variety of fields; popular songs, a Children's operetta, radio revues, and not least music for the newly burgeoning German talkie industry.

In 1931 he was approached by the Allianz-Tonfilm company who were completing a film adaptation of Alfred Doblin's "Berlin-Alexanderplatz" and Gray's score must have merited some attention, because by the end of the year he was working for the prestigious UFA company on their production of "Emil and the Detectives", scripted by the young Billy Wilder. [With assistance from Emeric Pressburger]

Through the early 1930s Gray established himself as one of Germany's most important film composers, in severla instances he worked on pictures of such prestige that they were filmed in multi-lingual versions - a particular example is Karl Hartl's "F.P.1" a bizarre semi-science fiction epic about a future trans-Atlantic air service where planes land and refuel on a series of mid-ocean 'Floating Platforms'. The German version starred Hans Albers, the French version Charles Boyer, and the British, Conrad Veidt - all of whom were compelled to 'sing' a signally inappropriate ballad about lost love in a lighthouse! None of the three were singers by nature but in 1932 a song or two was still deemed to be an absolute necessity in a talking picture! Veidt's number seems to have been cut from the British release but was put out on an HMV 78, and subsequently reissued in 1980 by EMI after it had been unearthed and sniggered at by disc jockey Terry Wogan. Veidt's sinister delivery (in broken English) of Donovan Parson's awkward lyrics conceal a disconcertingly delicate waltz melody, and this strange concoction proved an unexpected hit almost fifty years after its creation. Gray was now working on projects with the major figures of the European film industry, including Robert Siodmack and Max Ophüls but, as with many German-based artists of the 1930s the political situation was rapidly becoming unacceptable, and after several composing assignments that involved visits to Britain, Gray settled here around 1936 and entered what can be regarded as his golden period, producing film scores of very high quality for many and varied subjects.

"The Challenge" [screenplay by Emeric Pressburger] for example, a mountaineering epic recently revived at the National Film Theatre, presents an epic score that compliments the spectacle of its remarkable Alpine cinematography superbly; while by contrast "Kate Plus Ten" a Jack Hulbert comedy catches the whimsy of its subject cleverly combined with a train motif that could have equalled Stauss's "Bahn Frei" had it ever been commercially recorded (which of course it never was).

In 1943, after a pause in activities, which we must assume was at the time when many European emigrees were classified as 'aliens', Gray was at last commisioned by film-maker Michael Powell to score a propaganda short "The Volunteer" starring Ralph Richardson - this would be the start of a six-film collaboration with "The Archers" film unit (Powell and Pressburger), which many modern film buffs now rate as some of the most extraordinaty and idiosyncratic examples of the art of cinema ["some of"?? <G> ] - Gray undoubtedly rose to meet their unpredictable requirements.

"Colonel Blimp" for example features 'Commando Patrol' a combination of chase and dance band theme, 'the Mill' melody, pseudo Prussian marches, comedy stings, love themes and in fact the whole gamut of the musical repertoire came into play in the movie's two hours and forty minutes (and happily his orchestrator and musical director was none other than Charles Williams which clearly didn't harm the proceedings).

The hauntingly beautiful quality of the score for "A Matter of Life and Death" with its etherial piano melody and intentionally sparse arrangements, again compliment the bizzare Powell/Pressburgerian view of Heaven and Earth (Heaven is black and white, only earth is in Technicolor!) - and if a TV documentary made some three or four years ago is to be believed "I Know Where I'm Going!" is regarded as one of the most beloved British films, by movie enthusiasts across the world (just ask Martin Scorsese).

The mystical nature of the story makes it a natural for innovative use of traditional melodies and 'other-worldly' effects. The recurring and unforgettable theme melody starting with a run of soaring string chords is Gray's alone but other sections of the score can be attributed to a variety of additional collaborators, not least conductor and arranger Walter Goehr; while the song from which the film takes its title is the work of Robert Farnon, arranging a most delicately intricate weave of voices from the ladies of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir - and the dance music early in the film is supplied by Phil Green and his orchestra. [At the restaurant where Joan met her father]

The Archers team moved on to composer Brian Easdale for their next scores (particularly the ballet for 'The Red Shoes') which must have been a bitter pill for Gray to take, [especially as he had written a score for the ballet but it was rejected] but his talents were again vindicated in the shape of John Huston's 1952 production of "The African Queen" starring Humphrey Bogart and Kathleen Hepburn, [and filmed by Jack Cardiff] a British production that looked (and clearly had to sound) like a Hollywood movie. John Hubtley points out the aptness of the 'little boat theme' and how Bogart later sings his own silly ditty which is ultimately taken up by the full orchestra and becomes the triumphant closing melody of the film.

During the immediate post-war period Gray had also been composing various popular songs (frequently with lyricist Tommie Conner), contributing material to a number of stage revues such as "Sauce Tartare". In a more serious vein he supplied incidental music for Peter Brook's triumphant 1946 production of Love's Labours Lost at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Stratford-on-Avon (revived 1947) and Robert Donat's Much ado about Nothing (also '46) at the Aldwych Theatre.

His last major musical project was for television when, in 1953 Douglas Fairbanks Jr. began a series of British-made filmed half hour dramas (which Fairbanks produced, narrated and starred in a selection of); they were designed primarily for the American market, with an eye to the forthcoming demands of British commercial television. In co-operation with Bretton Byrd, Gray scored 117 episode of "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents" during a period of just under two years and having worked at such a furious pace, presumably sat back and watched the royalties pour in during the next decade or more as the series ran and ran world-wide.

We know little about the last years of Allan Gray's life, the obituary in the 'Times' tell us he was married and presumably must have lived in some comfort in Amersham, what we do know is that he left behind some great music for some 'classic' movies, and hopefully will someday get some of the recognition, that he so richly deserves.

Editor's note: I am indebted to Allan Gray's friend, Peggy Jones, who has kindly provided much documentary information that forms the basis of this tribute.

Allan Gray [Josef Zmigrod]
b. 23rd Feb 1902 (Tarnow, Austria -[later Poland])
d. 10th Sept. 1973 (Chesham Bois, Amersham, Bucks.)

His work on films with Powell and/or Pressburger indicated in bold

Berlin - Alexanderplatz (Germany 31)
Emil und die Detektive (31)
Die Gräfin von Monte-Christo (Germ. 32) [The Countess of Monte Cristo]
F.P.1 antwortet nicht (Germ. 32)
 No Reply from F.P.1 (GB 32) [British version of the above]
 I.F.1 ne repond plus (Fr. 32) [French version of the above]
Mensch ohne Namen (Germ. 32) [A Man with no Name]
 Un homme sans nom (Fr. 32) [French version of the above]
Brennendes Geheimnis (Germ. 33) [The Burning Secret] [aka. Fin du Saison]
Hände aus dem Dunkel (Germ. 33) [The Hand of Darkness]
Rund um eine Million (Germ. 33) [About a Million]
 Une fois dans la vie (Fr. 33) [French version of above]
  [aka. Une seule fois dans la vie / La Ronde aux millions]
Mauvaise Graine (Fr. 34) [Bad Blood]
Emil and the Detectives (GB 35) [aka. Emil] [remake of German version]
First Offence (36) (GB 35) [British version of Mauvaise Graine]
The Marriage of Corbal (36) [aka. The Prisoner of Corbal]
Secret of Stamboul (36) [aka. The Spy in White]
Wolf's Clothing (36)
School for Husbands (37)
The Challenge (38) [remake of Der Berg Ruft (Germ. 37)]
Kate Plus Ten (38)
Sans Lendemain (Fr. 39) [aka. La Duchesse de Tilsitt / Maquillage]
The Vanishing Train (41)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (43) [aka. Colonel Blimp]
The Silver Fleet (43)
The Volunteer (doc. 43)
A Canterbury Tale (44)
I Know Where I'm Going! (45)
Latin Quarter (46) [aka. Frenzy]
A Matter of Life and Death (46) [aka. Stairway to Heaven]
Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill (48)
Madness of the Heart (49)
The Woman with No Name (50) [aka. Her Panelled Door / Happy now go]
No Place for Jennifer (50) [aka. Nobody Loves You]
The Reluctant Widow (51)
The Late Edwina Black (51) [aka. The Obsessed]
The African Queen (51)
The Planter's Wife (52) [aka. Outpost in Malaya]
Women of Twilight (53) [aka. Twilight Women]
The Accused (TV compilation 53)*
The Genie (TV comp. 53)*
Thought to Kill (TV comp. 53)*
The Triangle (TV comp. 53)*
Dangerous Voyage (54) [aka. Terror Ship]
The Death of Michael Turbin (TV comp. 54)*
Destination Milan (TV comp. 54)*
Forever my Heart (TV comp. 54)*
The Last Moment (TV comp. 54)*
The Red Dress (TV comp. 54)*
Solang' es hübsche Mädchen gibt (Germ. 55) [aka. Beautiful Girls]
The Big Hunt (US/India doc. 58) [aka. Jungle Fury]
The Iron Mask (50's reissue of Douglas Fairbanks' 1929 silent feature)
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents ... (TV series 53/54) [with Bretton Byrd] - 117 episodes
 (also known on British TV as Saturday Playhouse / Crown Theatre / Fireside Theatre / Summer Theatre etc.)
Somme issued as 2/3 episode cinema feature compilations - *see above

Commercial recordings

Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
   Commando Patrol - R.A.F. Dance orch. cod. Jimmie Miller Decca F 8364
A Matter of Life and Death
   Prelude (opening titles - QHLO cond. Charles Williams Columbia DX 1320
[reissued on EMI CDGO 2059]
This Man is Mine
   Prelude (opening titles - QHLO cond. Charles Williams Columbia DX 1320
Non-Commercial (sound-track) recordings
Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill
   'Proposal scene' [LSO cond John Hollingsworth] Rank FM 30
Madness of the Heart
   'Paul and Lydia's theme' & 'Farandole' [LSO cond. Muir Matheson] Rank FM 69
The Reluctant Widow
   'Love themes' [orchestra cond. Norman Delmarr] Rank FM 94
The Planter's Wife
   'Prelude' (o. titles) [LSO cond. Ludo Philip] Rank FM 133

Publishers library recordings

CatalinaBoosey & Hawkes OT 2164
Maddness of the Heart (voc- 'Marlana')V 2182
On SafariPaxton PR 627
Romantic MelodyPR 615
Tropical MysteryPR 627
Always RomanticBrull/Harmonic CBL 35
At the ExhibitionHarmonic HMP 28
Bell PreludeCBL 353
Big ShadowCBL 339
Black-eyed BeautyCBL 340
Blood and ThunderCBL 1011
Brull Cues (1-19)CBL 553
Cadet's RallyCBL 295
Carnival of JoyCBL 303
Castle of MysteriesCBL 1010
Cavalier's MarchCBL 1008
Collector's PieceCBL 380
Courtier's Conversation PieceCBL 1009
Crime and PassionCBL 1010
Drum MontageCBL 295
18th. Century MelodramaCBL 1007
Fearful JourneyCBL 339
Feuding and FightingCBL 1011
Flight Music[reissued on KPM 332 CD] CBL 347
Florida ExpressHMP 291
For FunCBL 475
Gallant RenezvousCBL 1009
General Purpose MusicCBL 511
Gorgeous Hussey[reissued on KPM 331 CD] HMP 286
Grand GuinolCBL 380
Grottoes and CavesCBL 365
Hot ChaseCBL 340
Jilted LoveCBL 1011
Journey SouthCBL 395
Mambo OriginaleCBL 52
Manhatten SplashCBL 295
Minuet RomantiqueCBL 1008
Nagging SuspicionCBL 1011
Native JamboreeCBL 516
The Nightwatchman's GhostHMP 295
Perfect HostessCBL 395
Portrait of Love[reissued on KPM 331 CD] HMP 285
ProclamationCBL 1007
Red for DangerCBL 338
Rickshaw GirlCBL 516
Ride into BattleCBL 1008
Romantic ElegyCBL 1007
Royal WaltzCBL 1007
Samba ChicCBL 52
Sidewalk Can-CanCBL 347
Silent HeroesCBL 1007
StratosphericsCBL 353
Sweet CaressCBL 475
Swing DoorsCBL 37
TensionCBL 1007
Vive la PolkaCBL 303

Other Published Items include ...

Counting Stars int he Moonlight (46)
    (lyrics - Tommie Conner)
P. Maurice
Don't say that nobody loves you (44)
    (lyrics Tommie Conner)
P. Maurice
I Know Where I'm Going (45) Boston (US)
I'm All Yours (49)  
Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (43)
    I see you everywhere (lyics Desmond O'Conner)
P. Maurice
    The Mill went round and round
       (lyrics - Tommie Conner & Harris Weston)
P. Maurice
Madness of the Heart (49) LaFleur (B&H)
A Matter of Lifes and Death (46)
    So Heavenly (lyrics - Tommie Conner)
P. Maurice
    A Matter of Lifes and Death
       (piano solo arr. Robert Hanmer)
P. Maurice
The Night and the Music (stage show 45)
    Cowbell Serenade (lyrics Bob Musel & Eddie Lisbona)
P. Maurice
No Reply from FP1 (32)
    Airman's Song / Where the Lighthouse ...
    Eng. Lyrics - Donovan Parsons)
Pretending (35) Feldman
That Autumn in old London Town
    (lyrics - Tommie Conner)
P. Maurice
What do we do now? (Film 45)
    Join in the Chorus
    (lyrics - Tommie Conner)
P. Maurice
You like it - yes?, You like it - No?
    (lyrics - Alan Stranks, Harris Weston & Geoffrey Parsons)
P. Maurice
You're Mine
    (lyrics - Nicholas Bennett)
P. Maurice

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