I am so sorry to have heard that John Barry died on Sunday.
John wrote the amazing score for Somewhere in Time (which I produced) that quite literally changed the film’s destiny.
When we showed the original cut of the film to the executives at Universal in late 1979, the response was, to say the least, underwhelming. It was only the first cut and it was definitely too long, but the response we received was pretty devastating. In fact, Ned Tanen, the head of production at Universal, told us that sitting through the film “felt like having to hike through the Mojave desert at high noon.” As Ned had quite literally saved my movie career after my former boss Ray Stark had tried to blackball me in the film industry, Ned’s verdict was doubly hard to experience. (The rest of that story is told in Chapter 9 of Bringing Back The Old Hollywood.)
Anyway, we were all devastated. To make matters worse, the film was immediately taken off the Universal release schedule and we entered a pretty awful limbo period of wondering how to get our film released.
Fortunately, our wonderful director Jeannot Szwarc and our incredibly talented editor Jeff Gourson set up camp in the editing room and completely reedited the film, eliminating about 45 minutes in the process.
And then Jane Seymour recommended that we show the film to her friend John Barry.
John was a hugely successful composer and we didn’t have the budget to hire him, but he came to see the film as a favor to Jane. When the film finished, John turned to Jeannot, Jeff, and I with a huge grin on his face and said simply “I’ll do it…and I’ve got it.”
A few days later, we were summoned to his rented home in Beverly Hills and he played that haunting theme for us on his piano. I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing that music for the first time and knowing what an impact it would have on Somewhere in Time.
The rest, as they say, is history.
We were all amazed and upset that John didn’t get an Academy Award nomination for his music for Somewhere in Time. Unfortunately, the film itself was not well-received by both critics and the industry itelf when it was first released and I think that hurt John’s chances.
A few years later, I was a bit dumbstruck when I heard the theme that John wrote for Out of Africa because it sure sounded an awful lot like Somewhere in Time. I tracked John down and he was laughing as he picked up the phone. “I thought I might hear from you guys!”, he said. Sure enough, he had done a massive amount of rearranging and of course added new themes and more, but the Somewhere in Time theme certainly resonated through much of the Out of Africa score. Listen to them together some time and hear for yourself. I always thought that it was wonderful for John to have done that. Hey, after all, it was his music!
John Barry was a delightful, charming man and a brilliant composer. He will be sorely missed.