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The 42 songs of American Graffiti


'Keep going, because the horse may talk'
Walter Murch Film-maker
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And I remember telling Francis a story about the... I was simultaneously watching a BBC multipart series about King Henry, Henry the VIII, starring Keith Michell, where a story was told about a prisoner who got to the king and said, 'Sire, if you let me out of prison, I will teach your horse to talk.' And the king said on a whim, 'Okay, let him out.' And the other prisoners in the cell said, 'Are you crazy? You can't do this.' And the prisoner, gathering all of his possessions said, 'Well, one of three things will happen. I may die, the king may die, or the horse may talk.'

And so that was my story, retelling it to Francis about this film The Godfather. Well, yes, at the moment, it seems like things are not so good. But if we keep going, the horse may talk. And this became, between Francis and me over the years, this was a shorthand for, in a desperate situation, you know, keep going, because the horse may talk. And when the film did come out and it was a big success, Francis would… He came up to me a said, 'The horse talked.'

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: Henry the VIII, King Henry, Francis Ford Coppola

Duration: 1 minute, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017