Like Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart, Nick Clooney carries the grace and elegance that defined the golden age of Hollywood.
Who better, then, to be on hand for an evening of music from their films but Clooney?
Though he only worked in local broadcasting for a short time, Buffalo welcomed him like a native son as he hosted the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's own version of Saturday night at the movies. The combination of Clooney and this classic movie music turned out to be as comforting as a cup of warm cocoa on a cold Buffalo night.
The "Golden Age of Cinema" was an evening devoted to music by some of the greatest composers Hollywood has known, including Max Steiner, Miklos Rozsa and Bernard Herrmann. As illustrated in this nicely balanced program conducted by Robert Franz, these composers created multifaceted symphonic works that worked in tandem with the images on the screen, but could also evoke emotions when heard on their own.
Once the concert opened with the mood-inspiring "Hooray for Hollywood," Franz introduced Clooney to the audience. Barely a minute later, Clooney had the crowd laughing as he poked fun at himself. "We all know I have only one distinction," he said. "I'm the only one in the house who knows what his obit will read: Nick Clooney, brother of fantastic singing icon Rosemary Clooney, father of Oscar-winning writer-director-actor-producer George Clooney, died today. Period."
The crowd loved it.
Throughout the evening, Clooney performed the same duties he did when he was a host on American Movie Classics: He introduced the work, gave some background and interesting tidbits or historical facts, and provided plenty of laughter along the way. At times, he spoke directly to Franz or asked the audience questions that would pertain to the next movie being featured.
"What's your favorite line from 'Casablanca?' " he asked.
"Who were the 'Magnificent Seven?' I could only come up with six," Clooney said later. (He had been stumped by Brad Dexter.)
The audience was always eager with answers.
The early part of the program included two overtures written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold -- "Captain Blood" and "The Sea Hawk." Both selections opened with brass fanfare suitable for the Errol Flynn adventure classics. The short first half concluded with a powerful performance of Leonard Bernstein's "On the Waterfront." Bernstein's forlorn opening theme brilliantly carried the sound of the city with it. Swelling percussion and slashing, often stinging strings, compounded the harshness of the music's emotions.
The second half began with the sweeping main theme of Maurice Jarre's "Lawrence of Arabia." A romantic suite from Max Steiner's "Casablanca" (heavy, of course, on "As Time Goes By") and the pageantry of the "Parade of the Charioteers" from "Ben Hur" by Miklos Rozsa followed.
The orchestra's fine string section was showcased for the haunting "Scene D'amour" from Bernard Herrmann's "Vertigo" score. Music from two Westerns finished the night: Dmitri Tiomkin's theme from "High Noon" and a suite from Elmer Bernstein's "The Magnificent Seven."
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
"The Golden Age of Film" with Nick Clooney on Saturday night in Kleinhans Music Hall.