Thursday, October 23, 2008

Anecdote of the Week: "How do you score an orgasm?"

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.

[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."
Tiomkin did try, for weeks, and finally presented the score to Selznick.

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."


Thombeau said...


Chris Na Taraja said...

By the scene from Harry met Sally, of course. If it makes you wanna have the apple pie with the vanilla ice cream, but if you can't warm the pie you wont have the ice cream...etc, then it's good, right?

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

No one tells a Hollywood anecdote like the Siren.

Almost makes me wanna check out the film.


the things we would never think of if we didn't read of them!

but shouldn't the orgasm theme be composed based on the actors involved rather than the producer?

Like whimpering flutes for some actors
blown trumpets for others

handsaws for the remainder :) ???

Anonymous said...

As usual, a great punchline.

J.J. said...

This is great. Where'd you get this anecdote? Source please.

The Siren said...

OH JJ, I am a dolt! I am going to edit this, thanks for pointing out the source mishap. It is from one of my favorite movie books ever, Otto Friedrich's City of Nets.

off to fix!

Vanwall said...

I bet Selznick's was shorter than required and full of tuba huffs & grunts. Tiomkin was prolly working on a refined Sixty-Minute Man.

The Siren said...

I totally agree with Vanwall, the beauty of this story is that it tells you everything you need to know (more than you want, probably) about what kind of lay Selznick was.

MichaelMcl said...

Some of the nicer musical orgasms in recent years:

- It happened both in GOOD GERMAN and BLACK DAHLIA, where the musical climaxes as lovers embrace, and the music is the closest thing the film gets to a passionate sweaty sex scene, as the climax of the music in both sequences precedes a dissolve to 'later, post coitum' (BD) or 'much much later, maybe there was no coitum' (GG).

- Desplat did the second and third sex scenes of LUST CAUTION to perfection. The second is all about holding off the orgasm as long as possible, and Desplat's suspensions are well applied here - the moment when Tony can't hold it off any longer, the melody associated with their flirtation ('Dinner Waltz', normally for piano) appears in the harp, gently gliding down from that place of suspension. The third sex scene is done as a suspense scene - also very masterful in its choices.

- Cyril Morin's music for SAMSARA... there the orgasm is the this love theme based on a Mongolian violin against a string section and ethnic flutes. It's gorgeously lyrical, and locates the embrace of Tashi and Pema within a conventional 'lovemaking-as-love-declaration' reading.

The Opinionated australian

Noel Vera said...

Stewart and Novak kissing by the seashore. Those waves breaking over the rocks--I mean, I felt like a cigarette afterwards.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Thanks, Noel Vera, I hoped someone would mention "Vertigo." Bernard Herrmann drew on Wagner's "Tristan," a four-hour delayed climax. Any longer and operaphiles would die.

Anonymous said...

The word is 'Shtup' not 'shtump.'

The Siren said...

Anonymous, don't tell me, tell Selznick. His word was "shtump."