The Dave Grusin Archive
Music for the Screen
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

Stars:  Alan Arkin, Sondra Locke, Laurinda Barrett, Stacy Keach, Percy Rodriguez, Cicely Tyson

Director:  Robert Ellis Miller
Producers:  Thomas C. Ryan & Marc Mason
Released:  Warner Bros. 1968

Story:  A deaf mute lends help and comfort to those around him in a southern town.

One of the most significant scores in the Dave Grusin filmography, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” was his first composition for a dramatic feature.  "It was an opportunity for me to do something orchestral that I hadn't had a chance to do before - the size of the orchestra and the kind of music it was,” he states.  "It's probably the first chance I had to do what I grew up thinking was serious film music."

Only in his second year in writing for the big screen,  the score reveals Dave Grusin's exceptional gift for the craft, his sensitivity for interpreting inner emotions through music and an ability to compose expressive melodies.  In so doing, he lived up to the trust placed in his limited experience by those who translated this  literary classic to film.

The poignant and stirring main title theme, used briefly in the body of the film as well as over the end credits, communicates the innate human goodness of Mr. Singer as much as the many sequences showing his concern for others and his actions to help them.  Use of a harpsichord sound lends additional pathos to the opening melody before blossoming into a rich orchestral treatment of the piece.

Dramatic underscoring in the 1968 motion picture  is limited.  The use of virtual silence in many extended scenes without dialogue - especially in the first ten minutes - subliminally pulls us into the world of the deaf.  Wanting to hear, but being left unfulfilled.

Perhaps this early project, where absence of music made as much of a statement as scoring, gave Dave Grusin a new perspective on his profession.  Having grown up with the wall-to-wall concept of the great film composers he so admired, working on pictures like this, he started to take on a more minimalist philosophy.

On the other hand, music plays a vital role in the storyline of “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter,” with characters listening to and playing source music in quite a few instances, including the vibrant moments where Mick describes the symphony to Mr. Singer in words and gestures.

In fact,  “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” contains a substantial amount (some 26 minutes) of source music - long cues even employing complex  mixtures of same, as in the carnival sequence.  There is even a piece which combines Mozart's Hefner Symphony with rhythm and blues, an item- called “Symphodelic” - on the soundtrack album, but which does not appear in the movie as released.

Whereas one might expect him to have used a geographical hook on which to develop the music for this film, its Georgia location being of prime importance in the story, instead Dave Grusin has chosen emotions as his musical basis.

The secondary music is composed of a light theme and a dark one.  The former, pastoral in nature,  evokes a pleasant summer day, and the carefree feelings that calls to mind.  The darker theme, used after the young couple has made love by the lake, is grave, troubled and with a strong undertone of uncertainty.

sheet music

Additional music includes a lively and vivacious piece used when Mick is dressing for her party (capturing something of her stage of life, between girlhood and womanhood) and a bluesy theme which relates to the world of Dr. Copeland.

"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" is the score which brought Sydney Pollack's attention to Dave Grusin as a film composer, and eventually led to them working on nine motion pictures together.

The promise shown in this film is one which was fulfilled each time Dave Grusin  worked on a vehicle of depth and weight.  While his fusion jazz leanings made him an ideal composer for light comedies and romances, his genuine strengths as a film scorer show up on such more dramatic works as "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter."

Running Time:   2 hours, 4 minutes
Music Time:  (approx) 44 minutes

Warner  Bros. WS 1759  

(released on CD in Japan only)


Main Title
Visiting Hours
Beyond the Reach of Love (Vocal)
Married People
Symphodelic (Mozart's “Haffner”
    and “Swampy Four”)
Drop Out
I Can't Afford to Let You Go
    (Vocal - Scott Davis)

Growing Pains
Dr. Copeland
Elizabeth (Vocal)
The Color of the Wind (Vocal - Scott Davis)
Pipes of Pan (Vocal)
The Last Walk - Why?
End Title

soundtrack album

Dave Grusin
Feature Films



(times approximate)

11.14 - 14.20   (3.06)

Main title “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” plays over scene of Mr. Singer arriving in Jefferson, Georgia to be near his hospitalized friend.  Harpsichord sound in opening notes lends a touching quality which stresses the virtue of the main character. Music opens up into a full orchestral version of the theme. Credits roll over scenes of him looking around the town,  Ends back on harpsichord note as he rings bell at Kelly home for lodgings.

18.15 - 18.46   (.31)

Pastoral, innocent theme evoking summer plays over outdoor scene of Mick and her brothers, going for a walk.  A few notes of harpsichord main theme  over next scene of Mr. Singer alone in his room.

18.46 - 19.26   (.40)

Beginning from the remaining resonance of main theme, source music of Delores practicing the piano while Mick listens outside.  Bubba's shouting over music emphasizes the contrast between Mick's dream world and reality.

20.29 - 20.43   (.14)

Classical music playing under conversation between Mick and Bubba as they return home.

20.45 - 21.05   (.20)

Delicate theme as Mick tells Bubba of her hopes, ending just before she asks him if he loves her - with music giving emphasis to the question.

24.06 - 25.32   (1.26)

Troubled theme plays after Mick's father slaps her.  She runs away and sobs.  Mr. Singer is compassionate when he sees her, but she rejects him violently.  Music fades into main theme played by flute as Mr. Singer dejectedly goes back to his room.  It is then played by harpsichord as he sits alone in his room, fading into next cue.

25.32 - 26.45   (.13)

Fade in from main theme to source music of juke box playing “I Can't Afford to Let You Go” in café bar.

27.23 - 29.03   (1.40)

Source music of juke box playing “Color of the Wind”  as Blount gets into argument with the crowd.  Music is also heard in the street as he comes out.

29.03 - 29.13   (.10)

Source music “Beyond The Reach of Love” from somewhere in the street

29.14 - 29.38   (.24)

Return to source music “Color of the Wind”  inside the bar when scene returns indoors.

29.39 - 31.19   (1.40)

Source music of both “Beyond The Reach of Love” from the street and  “Color of the Wind”  from the bar play simultaneously as Blount knocks himself out.  Music from bar then fades out as scene settles in the street, leaving the rock music playing as  Mr. Singer accosts Dr. Copeland for help.  Plays through end of scene and fade to black where next cue fades up from it.

31.20 - 32.41   (1.21)

Source music of harmonica played soulfully by Willie as Portia argues with Dr. Copeland over her path in life.  Stops as she says “I wasn't better!” - almost as if her husband had heard her.

32.55 - 33.20   (.25)

Source music of harmonica starts up again emphasizing Portia saying “you wouldn't let me be black.” Ends when Dr. Copeland calls Willie in.

34.26 - 35.01   (.35)

Wavy introduction leads into main theme expressing Mr. Singer's  kindness as he covers up Blount who falls asleep in his room.  Ends delicately in the next scene, a view of the front of the house in the morning.

37.37 - 38.55   (1.18)

Harpsichord opening to main theme moves into guitar solo version, then played by flute  and strings gently expresses Mr. Singer's character and mood.  Blends into “Dr. Copeland” theme as scene moves to waiting room.  A hint of humor in the bluesy theme.  Ends when scene moves to doctor's private office.

42.10 - 42.28   (.18)

As camera pans from marquee of concert hall down to street level, source music of orchestra tuning up is heard while Mick picks up a discarded program.

42.44 - 46.11   (3.27)

Source music of Mozart symphony as Mr. Singer goes into alley to observe Mick perched on fire escape to catch concert.  He returns to street to note the program.  Music continues playing through into next scene, but now is coming from a phonograph in Mr. Singer's Mick approaches her home in the daytime.  She follows sound of music to his room where he is at the chess board.  Eventually he sees her.

47.00 - 48.02   (1.02)

Source music of Mozart again when Mick turns over the record.  She listens as he watches her.  Ends with change of scene

58.44 - 1.00.23   (1.39)

Source music as Mick plays the Mozart again, and explains what the symphony evokes for her.

1.03.00 - 1.03.17   (.17)

Source music R&B playing briefly in the street near the home of Dr. Copeland's deaf patient as doctor and Mr. Singer depart.

1.03.48 -1.08.01   (4.13)     

Long musical sequence at carnival employing various musical combinations.

1.03.48 - 1.03.58

Source music “Swampy Four” - rhythm and blues - begins with screams at carnival over scenes of  Willie and Portia.

1.03.59 - 1.04.38

Source music - calliope over scenes of Mr. Singer and Mick on the merry-go-round.

1.04.39 - 1.04.46

Source music “Swampy Four” when scene cuts back to Willie and Portia on the Ferris wheel.

1.04.46 - 1.05.17

Fade in of calliope music over “Swampy Four” with both playing together through the cue.

1.05.17 - 1.05.34

Fade out of rhythm and blues to leave only calliope amongst lots of shouting and screaming.

1.05.34 - 1.05.41

Fade in of calliope music over “Swampi Four” with both playing together through the cue as Mick and Mr. Singer get on whirligig.

1.05.42 - 1.05.48

Calliope on its own again, suddenly stopping completely.

1.05.50 - 1.07.01

“Swampy Four” on its own  as arguments start among the patrons.  Overlaid briefly by tenor singing, and ending with only tenor singing.

1.07.02 - 1.07.04

Tenor singing over calliope  and rhythm and blues.  All three together set up a more jarring atmosphere.

1.07.05 - 1.07.25

Rhythm and blues only played over fight scene.

1.07.26 - 1.08.01

Tenor singing added to rhythm and blues.  Music becomes louder and more dissonant and almost in an echo chamber to amplify the violence.  Becomes nightmarish as carnival scene ends.

1.11.42 - 1.12.45    (1.03)

Montage of scenes of Mick getting ready for her party accompanied by bouncy music which leads into the romantic theme (with troubled sense of growing pains)

1.17.17 - 1.17.36    (.19)

Lively source music at party.

1.17.50 - 1.19.14   (1.24)

Source music at party.

1.19.18 - 1.21.11   (1.53)

Source music “Elizabeth” playing at party over Mick chatting with Mr. Singer, little boys plotting with fireworks and general party scenes.

1.21.12 - 1.22.10   (.58)

Romantic source music plays at party over little boys setting up trouble.  Ends as fireworks start going off.

1.24.30 - 1.25.45   (1.15)

Light pastoral theme over scenes of the garden the morning after the party with a sad Mick sitting on the porch and Mr. Singer trying to amuse her.  Ends with a slightly jaunty version of main theme using plucked strings as Mr. Singer draws a picture of Mick.

1.25.00 - 1.27.50   (2.50)

Faint source music “Elizabeth” plays at the carnival as Mick, her brother and Mr. Singer stroll there the next afternoon.

1.29.13 - 1.30.47   (1.34)

Dramatic low strings play as Portia asks Dr. Copeland if he is any good at sewing a leg back on.  Harmonica symbolizing Willie punctuates her taunts.  Ends on harmonica note as she finishes her story and Dr. Copeland moans “Oh God!”

1.31.04 - 1.31.29   (.25)

Harmonica plays as Portia sobs and takes up her story.  Low strings amplify the drama, music ending in a intense rumbling sound as she speaks of the amputation

1.37.48 - 1.38.10   (.22)

Source music in shop where Mick is working creates bustle.

 1.48.32 - 1.50.07   (1.35)

Romantic, but troubled theme starts up as Mick tells Harry of her hopes and being grown up.  Plays on through love scene.  Swirling sound used within music to add a dissonant chord of unrest and disturbance.

1.51.43 - 1.52.29   (.46)

Low horn sound begins as camera focuses on x-ray screen which fades into scene at lake, beginning from the tops of trees and panning down to the ground.   Music with a strong outdoors feeling has a troubled, uncertain quality.  Swirling motif adds a further sense of worry.  

1.54.39 - 1.55.56   (1.17)

Sad string music as Dr. Copeland leaves the courthouse.  His daughter approaches, and music swells meaningfully as they embrace as Mr. Singer looks on.  Ends with  harpsichord notes symbolizing his bringing them together.

1.56.23 - 1.57.59   (1.36)

String version of main theme begins delicately as Mr. Singer leaves record outside Mick's door after she has rejected him.  He talks to himself with his hands as he leaves the house to visit Antonapoulos at  hospital where nurse says she will get a doctor to tell him the news.  Without anything but a close up on Mr. Singer, music becomes panicky and very upset.  Alone through the use of several  instruments - vibrato strings, percussion, shrieking strings, etc. ending on a jarring, nightmarish note, we realize Antonapoulos is dead - and also how much this means to Mr. Singer's sanity.   Sounds of cue reverberate into graveyard scene

2.00.39 - 2.02.15   (1.36)

At the cemetary, sentimental, innocent theme plays as Mick asks why Mr. Singer shot himself. Dr. Copeland reflects on what a good man he was.  As Dr. Copeland leaves and Mick goes to arrange flowers and she says “I just wanted to tell you …” cue ends before she says “I loved you.”

2.02.26 - 2.03.36   (1.10)

After Mick says “I loved you,” main theme begins with harpsichord, and opens up into full orchestra almost immediately as scene pulls away to a long shot of the cemetery and credits roll.  Ends after fade to black.

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