John Barry’s 70th birthday tribute was hosted by Dalton in New York on May 25th at Carnegie Hall (original report). CBn forum members Jaelle Nicholas (Jaelle) and Tom Stroud (trs007) had the pleasure of attending. Tom was able to capture a priceless portrait of John Barry to share with us and Jaelle has graciously agreed to share her experiences from the night…
Written by Jaelle Nicholas
Seeing how this event involved the very great John Barry in person, whose presence was even more important than that of Timothy Dalton’s for any James Bond fan. For me, there are two men who are the most responsible for the powerful, indelible, enduring iconic mythos of the cinematic James Bond: Sean Connery and John Barry. I think John Barry is just as important as Sean Connery to the cinematic Bond. So while I certainly went to see Timothy Dalton, I would’ve gone to this event if it had been just John Barry up there. To see one of the best film composers EVER in person, the guy who composed so much wonderful James Bond music, to get to see him up close answering questions? Me miss that? I don’t think so!
Even apart from his 007 work, he’s responsible for some of my favorite film scores. The Lion In Winter is definitely one of them. I’ve had the vinyl LP soundtrack for years. I would love this film with or without Timothy as I love the cast, the subject matter, the screenplay, the film’ style, look and direction; and the music. God, that music! The experience of sitting there (and we had excellent seats) so close to the orchestra watching the film clips go by on the giant screen, with the music so powerfully present, so crystal clear… I had goose bumps! Carnegie Hall is famous for its incredible acoustics; every time I go to a concert there, I come out of it wishing I could bottle that sound up and release it into my apt. whenever I chose; of course my landlord would probably evict me…
The Evening’s Proceedings
- 7:00 pm: A moderated Q&A session with Timothy Dalton and John Barry; the audience for this was smaller than the audience for the concert at 8:00. You could choose your own seats for the Q&A.
8:00 pm:The Collegiate Chorale and an orchestra perform the score to The Lion In Winter accompanied by relevant clips from the film on a big screen overhead. (trivia: Barry did the score for three of Dalton’s films: The Lion In Winter –for which he won the Academy Award–, The Living Daylights, and Mary Queen of Scots.
The Q & A
We were sitting very close to the stage for the Q&A. It felt very intimate. John Barry came out and I was struck at how thin and frail he looks. It was his 70th birthday. Nonetheless, he spoke with energy, alertness and enthusiasm. Tim came out looking fantastic, he’s really taken care of himself in the last year. He was dressed in his usual black suit and looked very cool.
Before opening it up the audience, the moderator first had a discussion with both of them. Here are some of the more memorable items…
John Barry was asked if he’d ever acted in a film and he said no. To which Timothy Dalton reacted with an amused expression and interrupted, saying something like “I seem to remember you doing a great part as a conductor in a certain film…” To which John chuckled and made a hand gesture to dismiss that as an example of his “acting.”
Timothy Dalton was asked if he’d ever sang or danced in a film, to which he said no. He said how totally unmusical he is (though he loves music), that he’d once studied the recorder as a kid, that he’d never received any musical training at the Royal Academy. One audience member piped up and said she’d seen him sing in one of his films (she was thinking of Sextette) to which he said something like “I know what you’re referring to but that wasn’t me, that was dubbed.” (Later an audience member reminded Dalton that he had sung briefly in his film Chanel Solitaire, to which Dalton laughed and admitted that he had indeed sung a little in that. I was amazed at this young guy who’d stood up and mentioned that film – I’m used to guys knowing Dalton from Bond but I’m not used to too many guys, esp. young ones, knowing something as obscure in Dalton’s career as that biopic of Coco Chanel from the 80s).
Timothy Dalton also talked a bit about his play in London, explaining that unfortunately it couldn’t come over to the US because it required the use of the drum-revolve stage and the National Theater in London is the only one in the world that has one. As some of you already know, I saw Dalton in this production twice in London in February – it was easily one of the most amazing stage productions I’ve ever seen, with or without him; and his stage presence was very magnetic.
Timothy Dalton also repeated his frequently told story about how much he’d hated the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts as a young acting student and left it before graduating. He also described how when the call went out for young unknown actors for The Lion In Winter, how he was among literally hundreds of struggling young British actors to audition: “I think every young actor in England auditioned for it.”
Timothy Dalton also described how when he came to New York City for the world premiere of the film, The Lion In Winter, he hadn’t yet heard Barry’s score. He said most actors never hear the score until long after production. He only heard the score to The Lion In Winter when sitting in the theater at the premiere, and was amazed at how powerful, resonant Barry’s score was, how the score was absolutely critical to the film’s entire impact.
John Barry had a very interesting story to relate about Harry Saltzman. He said that Cubby Broccoli had an understanding of music but Saltzman did not in any way. Apparently, when Harry Saltzman first heard Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger (before the film was released) he thought it was the worst thing he’d ever heard. Harry Saltzman told John Barry that the only thing that kept him from eliminating the song from the film right then and there was that it was too close to the release date and he was committed. Prints of the film had already been sent out to the movie theaters.
John Barry then said that after the song became such a hit, he saw Harry Saltzman in a restaurant. Saltzman looked at John Barry rather subdued (“his hands in his pockets”) and mumbled something like “thank you John” for going with the song and with Shirley. John quite enjoyed telling this story.
At one point John Barry expressed his dislike of actors, saying how difficult they are to work with (being a Hitchcock freak, of course, I immediately thought of Hitchcock’s classic quote “I never said actors are cattle; I said they should be treated as cattle.”). This was quite funny and the audience laughed. Timothy Dalton chuckled. John Berry said we all think they’re so charming because we judge them by their public persona, and then nodded his head with a gesture that said “they’re not like that at all!” He then turned to Dalton and said “are you enjoying this?” And Dalton just shrugged and smiled, he seemed to find it funny too. John Barry told the story of how he had made Richard Gere upset while making The Cotton Club. Richard Gere plays the trumpet and kept demanding to play the trumpet on the soundtrack. John Barry absolutely refused this and told the director “have you heard him play, he’s awful!” Gere kept insisting and John wouldn’t back down. He said that after that Richard Gere never wanted to work with him again, and John said the feeling was mutual.
When questions were opened up for the audience, the first person chosen was a guy who directed his comments to Timothy Dalton. He wanted to tell Dalton how much he appreciated his portrayal of Bond. He said something like “when I saw that first sight of you in the pre-credits, it all became crystal clear, it was Ian Fleming…” He then said (paraphrasing) that “both you gentlemen” have been so important “to me.” Dalton graciously thanked him but immediately brought the attention back to John Barry by pointing to John and saying something like “he had such an important impact on the film and this is his evening.”
One guy got up and asked about John Barry’s score for Somewhere In Time. He said that it had one of the saddest pieces of music on any film score that he’d ever heard and wondered what was going on in John’s personal life at the time. John smiled, a little confused at the question and said (laughing) “mind your own business!” He then said he didn’t remember but it was obviously not good.
That’s all I can remember about the Q&A for the moment. It only went on for about a half hour. I liked how easy both Dalton and Barry interacted with each other, it was obvious they both get along and respect each other very much.
When the Q&A finished, John Barry and the moderator left first and Dalton was the last to walk off. As he walked off the stage, several audience members (many of whom were Bond fans and Timothy Dalton fans) went up to him to greet him, possibly ask for autographs and take photos. One girl did manage to get a photo of him. I think he signed one or two autographs, that’s all. One young woman from India with a great sense of humor said “Dude, you rock!” – which made him laugh.
Later on, when it came time for Timothy Dalton to introduce the concert, we were just bowled over by the graciousness of his presentation. His powerful booming voice came over the mike and folks around us who’d never seen him said stuff like “wow, what a voice!” It was great to hear Dalton’s UK accent back in full force too. Living in the US so many years had weakened it. In his introduction he said how it was 36 years ago that he first came to “this great city” for the premiere of The Lion In Winter and how young and uncertain he was about the whole experience. He eloquently described the power of Barry’s score for the film and told us all to “have a wonderful evening.”
It was a fantastic evening!