The Dave Grusin Archive
Music for the Screen
The Front

Stars:  Woody Allen, Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, Andrea Marcovicci

Director:  Martin Ritt
Producer:    Martin Ritt
Released:  Columbia 1976

Story:  A cashier poses as a writer for blacklisted talents to submit their work through, but the injustice around him pushes him to take a stand.

It is somewhat ironic that, when standard biographies cite a dozen or fewer films to represent the 62 theatrical motion pictures of Dave Grusin, “The Front” is often included among this handful.

Ironic because “The Front” is almost entirely devoid of scoring, and what little exists, consists primarily of limited and brief bits of incidental source music.

Opening titles run in silence, and Frank Sinatra's “Young At Heart” then plays over a montage of newsreel footage from the era in question (later used once again during closing credits).

Original compositions include a jiving big band sound - just a few minutes of this spread over three cues - indicating a transition from Howard Prince, cashier, to a man of success, as his lifestyle is changed when he begins fronting for blacklisted writers.

There is also a definitely Grusinish piano motif - simple, but pensive and meaningful - employed in relation to two incidents between Howard and Hecky Brown.

Its first use follows an altercation between them, while Hecky goes through Howard's papers as the latter sleeps.

This motif is reprised when they part after Hecky's apology, tracing the comedian getting a hotel room and having a drink.  The gentle but insistent piano grows hollow and distant in sound, then is answered by bass string notes which declare the jeopardy in the situation.

After a few moments of silence, strings dramatically proclaim that Hecky has killed himself, and they play on sadly through funeral images- with the pensive, questioning motif continuing through the cue into the next scene between Florence and Howard, the initial moments of which is also underscored by a long low string note signifying that Howard has had a change of heart.

There was also an embryo of a love theme played once, but too little of this to pick up any specific melody.

And that was it.  Less than 20 cues, including the Sinatra - only a few minutes of original music.  If for no other reason, a film to ponder for its limited underscoring.  “The Front” came in a clump of films following the artistic triumph that was the score for “Three Days of the Condor.”

Dave Grusin made no bones about the fact that, in doing scores for such films as “The Goodbye Girl” (on which he basically orchestrated the David Gates theme), he felt that his job was more of an 'arranger for hire.'  It is little wonder that the restrictive environment exemplified by movies like this one and “Murder By Death” released the same year, nearly caused him to leave the craft entirely.

Music Editor:    Else Blangsted

Dave Grusin
Feature Films