Searching for Kenyon Hopkins

Film composer and jazz musician Kenyon Hopkins (1912-1983)

How is it that one of the most distinctive and influential film composers of his generation is practically unknown today and almost all of his records out of print and unavailable in any reissue format? Of the many scores listed in his filmography only a few have been re-released on CD in recent years such as The Hustler, Downhill Racer and Baby Doll, which is already out-of-print, but what of the rest? 12 Angry Men, Wild River, Lilith, The Strange One, Mister Buddwing, This Property is Condemned, The Yellow Canary, The Fugitive Kind…and I haven’t even mentioned the space age bachelor pad music he created with the Creed Taylor Orchestra – Nightmare, Shock Music in Hi-Fi, Panic: The Son of Shock and more.  

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Hot Nocturne

Most Hollywood films about musicians that were made during the studio era were usually biopics and focused on individual artists such as George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue, 1945) and Glenn Miller (The Glenn Miller Story, 1954). It was rare to see a feature film that detailed the ups and downs of an entire band and, in the case of 1941’s Blues in the Night, the featured jazz sextet was entirely fictitious. Originally titled Hot Nocturne, the name was changed just prior to its theatrical release to capitalize on the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer hit song that became its signature tune.

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