by Warren M. Sherk
Last month we examined songs with lyrics by Frederick Herbert for the 1944 film The Bridge of San Luis Rey scored by Dimitri Tiomkin, as well as Frederick Herbert’s family musical legacy. (As in part 1, we will use the name Frederick Herbert throughout to avoid confusion with the various forms of his name that include Herb Stahlberg.)
While it’s likely that Dimitri Tiomkin was acquainted with Frederick Herbert’s father when both were employed by MGM beginning in late 1929, it’s not clear how and when Tiomkin and Frederick Herbert met. We do know that by the summer of 1944 they were working together on what appears to be their first project, Milk and Honey, an operetta later known as Sweet Surrender.
In 1943, Frederick Herbert had found work at MGM as a music mixer. Between 1943 and 1946 he worked in that capacity on Cry Havoc, Meet Me in St. Louis, Anchors Aweigh, and The Postman Always Rings Twice.
After writing the songs for The Bridge of San Luis Rey, over a three-year period beginning in 1946, Tiomkin and Herbert would collaborate on songs for four more films.
Whistle Stop is a 1946 film noir crime drama starring George Raft. It’s worthy of viewing if only to see a fresh-faced Ava Gardner as the female lead.
In the Dimitri Tiomkin collection at USC’s Cinematic Arts Library, there is a Hollywood Recordings demo record of the song “Once Again” from the film, with music by Dimitri Tiomkin and lyrics by Frederick Herbert.
The song serves as source music during a montage featuring Jorja Curtright preparing for an evening out. Raft places a disc recording on his turntable at home and a male crooner is heard in the song that begins with the lyric, “Once Again.”
VIEW: “Once Again” from Whistle Stop on YouTube (start at 24:56)
For the 1947 film Duel in the Sun, Dimitri Tiomkin and Frederick Herbert wrote three songs. The lilting country and western-flavored song, “Headin’ Home” from Duel in the Sun begins with the Herbert lyric, “The sun is headin’ west and so am I, Toward the western sky.”
Evidence in the Dimitri Tiomkin collection at USC’s Cinematic Arts Library documents this song titled “Heading Home” and two others, “Tempting You” and “On the Rio Grande.” While none of the three songs appear on the film’s cue sheet, “Headin’ Home” was used in the film and was published as sheet music concurrent with the release of the film.
For the 1947 film It’s a Wonderful Life, Tiomkin and Herbert wrote a song with the same title that director Frank Capra opted not to use in the film. Tiomkin was not pleased.
Tiomkin later wrote in his 1959 autobiography, Please Don’t Hate Me…
“The picture was in the best Capra style. Frank thinks it the finest he ever made. I don’t know. I never saw it after it was completed. After the music was on the sound track, Frank cut it, switched sections around, and patched it up, an all-around scissors job. After that I didn’t want to hear it. In our picture work Capra had spoiled me. He had left it to me to be the judge of the music, and I had come to expect it.”
“This is a complaint a composer often has in Hollywood. Big-time directors make themselves writers, musicians, everything; they revamp dialogue, and cut and shuffle the music track to suit their fancy. It would not matter if it were only a case of tunes; but it is unendurable when the music is composed and has structure.”
“Frank and I had no wrangle about the matter. I said nothing. We simply did not see each other for a year and a half.”
As the 1948 film Red River opens we hear the sentimental song, “Settle Down” by Dimitri Tiomkin and Frederick Herbert. For more on the song read, Classic FM picks Red River as the Greatest Western Movie Score.
“Settle Down” will be published for the first time in The Dimitri Tiomkin Anthology Volume 2, which is preparation now by the Hal Leonard Corporation. The long-awaited companion volume to The Dimitri Tiomkin Anthology published in 2009 will be available later this year as a digital download.
Tiomkin recast “Settle Down” as “My Rifle, My Pony and Me” for the 1959 motion picture Rio Bravo. The latter featured lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, who with Ned Washington (High Noon), would supply the words to many of Tiomkin’s most memorable songs from the 1950s and 1960s.
Red River was the last film collaboration between Tiomkin and Frederick Herbert. They were persistent in their attempts to mount their musical, Sweet Surrender, but it was never produced. (Check back for our feature article with the backstory on that project.)
Frederick Herbert continued his career as a music editor and supervisor editor at Universal from 1951 until 1966. At the same time Herbert continued to pen song lyrics for at least a dozen Universal films: Westerns, war films, and Abbott and Costello comedies, most with composer Arnold Hughes.
Frederick Herbert’s death on September 2, 1966, was noted in Variety the following week.
Born Frederick Herbert Stahlberg and using professional names that include Herb Stahlberg, Herbert Stolberg, Herbert Stollberg, and Frederick Herbert, in ASCAP Ace Repertory his two song credits for The Bridge of San Luis Rey are indexed under the name “Heinz Stahlberg.”