Hello, Self-Styled Siren here, popping in while Nathaniel is out. Over at my place I often post a Hollywood Anecdote of the Week, because after all, nobody gives anecdote like Hollywood. This is one of the Siren's favorites, and she's posting it here for Nathaniel in hopes his faithful readers will appreciate it. It's from one of the best books ever written about Hollywood, Otto Friedrich's City of Nets.
Duel in the Sun, that 1946 milestone in the history of camp, was one of David O. Selznick's many attempts throughout his life to add something to his obituary besides "produced Gone with the Wind." Selznick attacked the project with the same pill-popping OCD energy that he did all his projects. When time came to compose the score, Selznick went through six composers before giving Russian émigré Dimitri Tiomkin a call.
Tiomkin did try, for weeks, and finally presented the score to Selznick.
[Selznick] wanted, he said, eleven main themes: a Spanish theme, a ranch theme, a love theme, an orgasm theme--
"Orgasm?" Tiomkin said. "How do you score an orgasm?"
"Try," said Selznick. "I want a really good shtump."
Selznick...asked Tiomkin to whistle the love theme for him. Tiomkin whistled.
"Fine, fine," said Selznick. "Now the orgasm theme."
Tiomkin whistled. Selznick shook his head somberly.
"That isn't it," Selznick said. "That's just not an orgasm."
Tiomkin went away and worked some more. He combined the sighing of cellos and a brassy stirring of trombones, all in the rhythm of what he later described as a handsaw cutting through wood. Once again, he was summoned to Selznick's studio, once again the orchestra assembled...Everything seemed to go splendidly until the orgasm theme, which Selznick wanted repeated, and then repeated again.
"You're going to hate me for this, but it won't do," he finally said to Tiomkin. "It's too beautiful."
"Mr. Selznick, what is troubling you?" Tiomkin protested. "What don't you like about it?"
"I like it, but it isn't orgasm music," Selznick said. "It's not shtump. It's not the way I fuck."
"Mr. Selznick, you fuck your way, I fuck my way," cried Tiomkin. "To me, that is fucking music."