May 2014
Behind the photograph: Hairston and Tiomkin

Dimitri Tiomkin with Jester Hairston, 1947

New or overlooked sources and resources often shed light on distant history. This month we were able to properly identify the photograph above through a newspaper archive documenting a local Los Angeles paper. Dimitri Tiomkin is on the conductor’s stand with Jester Hairston in this posed publicity photograph.

The Los Angeles Sentinel ran the photo in March 1947 and the caption cites the recording session as Duel in the Sun. Tiomkin teamed with Hairston on numerous films, so positively identifying the film recording session depicted in the picture was difficult until we happened upon the published photo, below, in the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database.

Sentinel March 1947In 1947, the weekly African American-owned paper was in its second decade of publication reaching out with news of interest to the black community in South Los Angeles, in this case covering local musicians recording film music in neighboring Hollywood.

For Duel in the Sun, Tiomkin and Hairston assembled a choir consisting of 40 white and 20 African American singers.

The singers for this and similar films went uncredited; however, local publications such as the Sentinel provide documentation lacking in other resources.

For example, for Land of the Pharaohs (1955), two dozen musicians took part in the recording sessions, including Olive Wells Ball, Alfred Beeton, Alvin Brantley, Mansfield Collins Jr., George Comfort, Hugh Denton, Roy Glenn, Oliver Hartwell, John Herod, Louis Johnson, Tom Jones, Ella Lee, Arthur Macbeth, Albert McNeil, Bob Parrish, James Patton, Oscar Plant, Neil Rose, Sam Schultz, Edward Short, Buell Thomas, Alma Thornton, Notable Vines, Arthur Walker, James Warren, and Margo Westfield.

Singer Notable D. Vines may have been a typical—a local musician and music teacher born around 1913, he served in the armed forces during World War II.

The above list of names comes from a Sentinel column, “Mostly ‘Bout Musicians,” by Florence Cadrez. In the April 14, 1955 article Cadrez wrote that during a break in recording Hairston “amusingly commented that the picture was about the Egyptians, the music was sung in Arabic language by a chorus of white and Negro singers under the direction of a Negro the musical scored was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin—a Russian, and the recording technician piped up, ‘I’m an Italian’!!!…a wonderful example of integration of various racial groups!”

We previously wrote of Tiomkin’s association with Hairston and Cadrez. Florence Cadrez “Tiny” Brantley, a Los Angeles native, met Hairston in the mid-1930s when she served as rehearsal pianist during the filming of Green Pastures. Hairston introduced her to Tiomkin during Lost Horizon. Later she served as rehearsal pianist on Negro Soldier, Duel in the Sun, and Portrait of Jennie, and she frequently accompanied Jester Hairston’s choir in concerts.

READ MORE: “Fascinating Rhythms: Dimitri Tiomkin, African American Music, and Early Jazz

(Third in an occasional series featuring rare or unusual photographs.)

Behind the photograph: Tansman and Tiomkin

Behind the photograph: Dimitri Tiomkin with His Excellency the High Commissioner for Kenya, Mr. Ng-Ethe Njoroge and Mrs. Njoroge at the London premiere of Tchaikovsky

ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Sentinel (1934–2005)

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