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A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann Hardcover – June 3, 1991


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition ~1st Printing edition (June 3, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520071239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520071230
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"An exceptional work. I stand in awe of anyone who can piece together the puzzle of a man's life so fully, especially a man as odd and contradictory as Herrmann. A brilliant job."-Leonard Maltin; "Bernard Herrmann was a master of psychology. His incredibly innovative music 'inhabited' the film it was in, creating moods that stayed with the audience long after the film was over."-Esa-Pekka Salonen, Music Director, Los Angeles Philharmonic --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

"An exceptional work. I stand in awe of anyone who can piece together the puzzle of a man's life so fully, especially a man as odd and contradictory as Herrmann. A brilliant job."—Leonard Maltin

"Bernard Herrmann was a master of psychology. His incredibly innovative music ‘inhabited’ the film it was in, creating moods that stayed with the audience long after the film was over. Steven Smith captures the very heart of what Herrmann represented. I highly recommend this book to anyone who truly wants a glimpse into the world of this musical giant who changed the very nature of film composing."—Esa-Pekka Salonen, music director, Los Angeles Philharmonic

"Fascinating. The scholarship is impeccable, the judgments sound, and the whole thing as compulsively readable as eating popcorn."—Nicholas Meyer, director and writer
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Steven C. Smith is a four-time Emmy-nominated producer and writer whose work includes the 1991 biography A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann (winner, ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award). He has written about film and music for the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Entertainment Weekly and the Hollywood Reporter. His 200-plus documentaries include work for A&E (the Biography series), Bravo, The History Channel, National Geographic and Lucasfilm.

Customer Reviews

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Bernard Herrmann is one of the great film composers of the 20th Century.
cg1-rj
And better yet would be to listen to some of his music while reading - the book vividly describes the music but hearing is believing.
Douglas T Martin
Good book detailing the life and music of the finest of all film composers.
robert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Douglas T Martin on March 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of Bernard Herrmann does not begin and end with Hitchcock. It actually begins with Charles Ives and ends with Martin Scorcese. Along the way Orson Welles, Francios Trouffet, Brian DePalma, Sinbad, Gulliver, Rod Serling, and the "It's Alive" baby turn up. A biography of Bernard Herrmann tells the history of the use of music in radio, television, and film. It also tells the story of a brilliant, infuriating, and ultimately tragic figure. If you have an interest in film composing - real composing, not gathering 10 pop songs on a CD and calling it a soundtrack - you owe it to yourself to read this biography. And better yet would be to listen to some of his music while reading - the book vividly describes the music but hearing is believing.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan@Idealtech.co.uk on January 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a splendid book. meticulously researched about one of film music's most charismatic and controversial figures. A raging restless talent who alienated all who cared for him. The spats with those he worked with. The music he composed and the constant disatisfaction he felt with that music. The frustration of not being able to write as he really wanted to. Opera in the grand manner. And to be a great conductor. Film music was always second-best and though he never composed down to the film, some of the movies definitetly were not worthy of his talent. The halcyon days with Welles and Hitchcock. The mediocrity of so many other films all contributed to the downward spiral of a genius. I don't expect you to agree with my views, I do beg you to read a book that is quite un-putdownable. Jonathan
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Walker on April 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
Though a major biography, the 1991 book has problems. There are mis-spellings ("Macken" is actually "Machen"), factual errors ("Riders to the Sea" is a one-act play, not a novel), and typos (e.g., "Herrmann like the film" should've been "Herrmann liked the film"). The prose is occasionally clumsy. There are inconsistencies. At one point we learn that Herrmann didn't drink, and later we find that he is drinking.

It is a challenge to tell when long quotes occur, since their typography is so close to the "normal" text. There is such a great proportion of quotes, there is at times a scrapbook feel. The running title at the top of a page does not indicate what chapter you are in, and each chapter heading should have indicated years of coverage in addition to its number. Most of what I am describing are editing problems, whose blame must be laid on the University of California Press. I hope the 2002 edition is better.

As a person, Bernard Herrmann was obnoxious, bullying, insulting, and disregarded the feelings of others. If this applied only to his music vocation, these qualities would be somewhat understandable, but he was liable to gratuitously lash out at whoever crossed his path, whether taxi drivers or party guests.

Nonetheless, his music is a thing for love, enthusiasm, and admiration.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reginald D. Garrard VINE VOICE on April 7, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of filmdom's most innovative and influential composers was the late Bernard Herrmann. Remembered mostly for the six films that he scored for director Alfred Hitchcock, the composer had successes with other filmmakers, along with a long tenure as lead conductor of the CBS Orchestra on radio. During his time at CBS, he wrote many compositions for the medium, and finished an opera based on Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights".

Author Smith has compiled a fascinating look at Herrmann, exposing the man's genius that went hand-and-hand with his tempetuosity. The book also reveals how Herrmann suited his music for the characters that were to be seen onscreen, crafting each note to the storyline and the director's wishes.

"A Heart at Fire's Center" is a must-read for those that admire the man, as well as for those that have an interest in the nuances and mandates of scoring for the movies.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Scivally on October 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
The true test of a film book is, does it make you want to see the films discussed? The true test of a composer's biography is, does it make you want to listen to the composer's music? Steven C. Smith's A HEART AT FIRE'S CENTER scores on both counts. This is a throroughly detailed and fascinating biography of a composer whose influence continues to be felt in film music (take a listen to the opening theme of M. Night Shyamalan's SIGNS - James Newton Howard has obviously been listening to Herrmann's PSYCHO suite). With wonderful details on Herrmann's collaborations with Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut and Martin Scorcese, this is a must-have book for every student of American film - and film music.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mystery Devotee on February 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steven Smith's study of the life of Bernard Herrmann thoroughly traces the development of Herrmann's career with all of it's frustrations and many of it's achievements. The author takes great care to portray Herrmann's complex personality frequently given to outbursts of anger and frustration to even his closest supports and friends. Herrmann's disappointments in his less than successful conducting career, struggles to achieve acceptance as a composer of serious music, and blow ups with major directors including Hitchcock , with whom some of his greatest film scores were achieved, are well documented by Smith. Herrmann's early work to promote the music of Charles Ives, including recordings of movements of two of Ive's symphonies are described. Quoting the composer's views of music for film and the aesthetics of film, the author has written a throughly documented and enjoyable book for those interested in an important composer of 20th century American film scores.
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