The Baton: A John Williams Musical Journey
Episode 27 - The Cowboys

Episode 27 - The Cowboys

June 12, 2019

John Williams returned to the Old West -- and returned to working with director Mark Rydell -- for the 1972 film "The Cowboys." Once again leaning on Aaron Copland's template for Americana-tinged music, Williams employed a fun theme for the 11 boys hired to help John Wayne herd cattle across the plains. He also used a bass harmonica for the film's villain, played viciously by Bruce Dern. The score is counted as a favorite for many John Williams fans, and after learning more about the music with host Jeff Commings, you might be adding it to your top 10 list of best John Williams scores.

Episode 26 - Fiddler on the Roof

Episode 26 - Fiddler on the Roof

June 5, 2019

The 1971 film version of "Fiddler on the Roof" was a massive undertaking for John Williams as music supervisor, taking on a beloved Broadway musical that needed to be expanded for the big screen. In addition to putting some fresh touches on the songs, he also was able to compose some original music that further illustrated his talents to the world. The film marked the first time Williams worked on a big moneymaker, and he also reaped a few rewards of his own. Host Jeff Commings details some of the best musical moments in the film and analyzes how Williams kept the tone of the original music but was able to give it a bolder sound.

Episode 25 - Jane Eyre

Episode 25 - Jane Eyre

May 29, 2019

John Williams' final television project in the 1970s teamed him with director Delbert Mann again, this time for "Jane Eyre." Williams composed this score while on a break from working on "Fiddler on the Roof," and the love Williams had (and continues to have) for all things English is on full display in the score. Peter Lloyd, the principal flute player for the London Symphony Orchestra, gets to shine as the score features plenty of flute melodies. Host Jeff Commings is joined by guest co-host Yavar Moradi, who counts "Jane Eyre" as his favorite John Williams score. Relax for a lengthy (one full hour!) conversation about the creation of the score and highlights of the music.

Episode 24 - Story of a Woman

Episode 24 - Story of a Woman

May 22, 2019

The US-Italy co-production "Story of a Woman" is perceived as the Holy Grail of John Williams movies. Very few people have seen it, and many will do almost anything for a glimpse at this romantic drama made in 1968 but put into American theaters in 1970. Host Jeff Commings welcomes his first guest co-host, Gianmaria Caschetto, and the two talk about the poor quality of the filmmaking while praising John Williams for writing a score that provides some interesting musical moments. Join us for an analysis of this hard-to-find score, which was composed in Williams' downtime during Goodbye Mr. Chips.

Episode 23 - The Reivers

Episode 23 - The Reivers

May 15, 2019

If not for some divine intervention, John Williams might not have written one note of music for "The Reivers," and he might not have become the celebrated composer he is today. Host Jeff Commings talks about the rejected score that caused director Mark Rydell to hire Williams, and how Williams was able to quickly turn out a score that perfectly encapsulates the feel of 1900s Mississippi.

Episode 22 - Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Episode 22 - Goodbye, Mr. Chips

May 8, 2019

Before John Williams came onboard to work on the music for "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," the film had gone through so many years of turbulence. But Williams' involvement was one of the reasons why the film turned out as well as it did, as the Maestro worked diligently to turn the serviceable Leslie Bricusse songs into lush melodies. The finished film featured very little original music written by Williams, but his work shines mostly in the orchestrations, which are superb and show the evolving genius music writer that will break through in just a few more years. Join host Jeff Commings as he details the film's backstory and the music that highlights why Williams deserved his second Academy Award nomination.

Episode 21 - Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting

Episode 21 - Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting

May 1, 2019

The 1969 film "Daddy's Gone A-Hunting" should have been released as a B-movie, but with "Valley of the Dolls" director Mark Robson helming the film, it was viewed as a surefire hit. It turned out to be anything but that, though Robson tried to boost the quality of film by asking John Williams to write the score while on break from working on "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" in the summer of 1968. Williams experiments with some new instrumentation here, and host Jeff Commings walks you through these moments in a very sparse score.

Episode 20 - Heidi

Episode 20 - Heidi

April 24, 2019

A few years after he decided to leave a lucrative career writing music for television, John Williams returned to the small screen in 1968 with "Heidi." Though the film is infamous now for its interruption of a major professional football game, it has many great moments for Williams in terms of writing lush melodies to depict the young girl's maturation during her time in the Swiss Alps. From a smart comedic theme to a main theme so lyrical there was a song created from it, Williams' work deservedly did not go unnoticed at the time. Host Jeff Commings brings you some of the best moments from the score, including a love theme that got only one moment to shine.

Episode 19 - Valley of the Dolls

Episode 19 - Valley of the Dolls

April 17, 2019

The 1967 film "Valley of the Dolls" was, on the surface, like any other assignment John Williams had in his early film scoring career. His task was to adapt music from five original songs by Andre and Dory Previn, and put in some original music of his own. The gig turned out to be a major step forward for the Maestro, marking his first screen credit as "John Williams" since his debut as a film composer. Plenty more significance come from his work on  this film, and host Jeff Commings discusses them and takes a listen to highlights from the score in this episode.

Episode 18 - Fitzwilly

Episode 18 - Fitzwilly

April 10, 2019

During a break in recording the score for Valley of the Dolls (the subject of the next episode), John Williams decided to take on a comedy film starring Dick Van Dyke fresh off his eponymous TV show. "Fitzwilly" featured a stately comic main theme for the main character, a butler who moonlights as a thief to fund his employer's bank account. Williams also composed a decent love theme, made into a song by the soon-to-be-famous team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman. This film also marked the final time Williams would be credited as "Johnny Williams" onscreen, and his final comedy for 12 years. Host Jeff Commings analyzes the top moments in the score as we say goodbye to Williams' very impressive comedy film era.