a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


The score for the horse's head scene


Crisis with music to The Godfather
Walter Murch Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

There was another crisis that was simultaneously with that, which was that Bob Evans hated the music for The Godfather. This is the music that we all know, and many of us love, the Nino Rota score for The Godfather. He felt that it was going to drag the film down, that the film was long, it was almost three hours long, it was dark, thanks to Gordy Willis's great prince-of-darkness photography. There was a lot of talk in the film, action, but not that much action, and the music was European and of a certain... It was not what you would call hard-hitting American music. It was on the romantic side of the score.

Anyway, Evans did not like the music, and there was a crisis, because six weeks before the film was to come out, Evans wanted to replace the music with music yet to be written by Henry Mancini, who was a friend of his. And Henry Mancini had written lots of hard-hitting music, notably for Touch of Evil, Orson Welles's film. And so a meeting was called at Evans's house, at which Francis was there, and Jack Ballard and Paul Haggar, and Howard Beals and me, and a number of lower-level executives who would make things happen if Evans said this or that. And the issue was the music, what to do. And Francis turned on the spigots of a... on an assault of charm and philosophy and passion that he is famous for and capable of under these extreme circumstances, that simply suck all the oxygen out of the room. Nobody can get a word in edgewise, everything he's saying is fascinating and passionate and full of belief, and he says it at a torrent, and his heart and soul are in it. And you just kind of stand there listening to this outpouring. And he threatened to resign from the film and create a... and take his name off the film. This music was the perfect music for this film, which it is, and this is a crazy idea, and duh duh duh duh duh. And at the end of his talk, there was some sort of, well, how can anyone go against that?

So all eyes turned to Bob Evans, what's he going to say? And he says, 'Okay, we'll go with Francis's idea. But here's what we're going to do. We're going to... You are going to recut the music to make it better, because it can be better. And then I'm going to recut your recut, and then we'll preview the film and the film will get a score. Then I will recut the music, and then you will recut my recut of the music, and we'll preview the film, and that will get a score. And whichever version gets the highest score, that's what we're going to go with.' The executives behind me, their eyes were going in different directions at the same time, because this was clearly impossible. There was no way, in the time we had left, to do something as complicated as this. The film was going to be in the theatres in six weeks. We had just dodged a bullet of the Henry Mancini score, which would have been very difficult to pull off. Not impossible, but very difficult. So the question was... it was clear that this was not going to work, and whoever got... whoever did it first would... That would be the version, because we'd simply run out of time. So the question was, who's going to go first? Was it going to be us, or was it going to be Bob Evans? And just at that moment, Ali MacGraw, who was married to Bob Evans at the time, came out with a plate of hot dogs, because that's what we were being fed. And she had heard the last part of that speech, and she said, 'Bob, don't forget, we're going to Acapulco on a holiday.' And he said, 'You're right, okay. Francis, you go first.'

And I looked at Francis, and Francis looked at me, and it was like, we... whatever's going to happen, it'll be okay. We have our... We get to get our hands on the film first, not Bob Evans.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: The Godfather, Touch of Evil, Robert Evans, Nino Rota, Gordon Willis, Henry Mancini, Ali MacGraw

Duration: 5 minutes, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017