Since Glenn reported William Friedkin's comments in THE AMBERSONS DVD thread about Friedkin's hoping to see a restored MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, I thought I'd post some of Friedkin's and Bernard Herrmann's very amusing comments about what happened when the two men met to discuss scoring of THE EXORCIST - as reported in an exchange in Elmer Bernstein's FILM MUSIC NOTEBOOK magazine from 1974, and reprinted in A HEART AT FIRE'S CENTER.
Bernard Herrmann flew in from England; I showed him the rough cut (of THE EXORCIST) and he loved the picture, and he wanted to do it, except he said he would not work in California. He didn't like California's musicians. He didn't want to work in Hollywood. He had been through all that and to hell with it. He had to record it in London and he had to get St. Giles Church which has the greatest sound in there. I thought that was a marvelous idea if I had six months to finish the movie and let him just mail me a score. But I was making changes in the picture throughout and I wanted to dub the picture in New York because I love the facilities here. I couldn’t be in London and here, so I had to not use Bernard Herrmann.
Bernard Herrmann's good friend and associate, Christopher Palmer, replied to the comments Friedkin made on Herrmann's behalf, who no doubt would have been far less diplomatic in his remarks about Mr. Friedkin's musical taste!
Bernard Herrmann (who himself hasn't much energy due to heart trouble and laryngitis) has asked me to write and tell you how flattered he feels at the attention paid to him in your first two FILM MUSIC NOTEBOOKS; he's especially delighted with the Fred Steiner treatise on PSYCHO. He was also vastly amused at your magnificent put-down of Friedkin, but wants to point out one or two things in connection with that proposed collaboration which the director saw fit not to mention.
In the first place, Bernard Herrmann hated the film and never really wanted to do it. Second, William Friedkin wanted credit as co-composer and musical director AND a share in the music royalties; the idea was that Bernard Herrmann should call upon William Friedkin with his previous day's work, play it over for him and then William Friedkin would do his thing - which in view of your remarks on William Friedkin's musical literacy would no doubt have led to some very intriguing results. Third, Bernard Herrmann never made any such disparaging remarks about Los Angeles musicians; he wanted to record in St. Giles Cripplegate, London, because of the peculiar acoustic there and because he wanted its pipe organ. William Friedkin objected to this on the grounds that he didn't want any "Catholic" music in his film. William Friedkin then told Bernard Herrmann that ideally he wanted a KANE score for his picture, to which Bernard Herrmann replied that he saw not the remotest connection between KANE and THE EXORCIST and couldn't oblige in this respect.
Director Larry Cohen, who Herrmann met and worked with on his picture IT'S ALIVE, right after Herrmann turned down THE EXORCIST, reported that Friedkin also said to Herrmann: "I want you to give me a better score than you wrote for CITIZEN KANE." Herrmann, probably felt Friedkin was nowhere near Welles level as a director and said to him: "Well, why didn't ya make a better picture than CITIZEN KANE!" That remark, no doubt quickly ended any possible collaboration between Herrmann and Friedkin! Which is really a great pity, because one can only imagine what a masterful score Herrmann could have contributed to THE EXORCIST, especially if he had planned on using St. Giles church organ, alongside a battery of mini-Moogs, as he had done in Brian DePalma's SISTERS.