Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Bebe Barron (born Charlotte May Wind June 16 1925 – April 20 2008) along with her husband Louis Barron began experimenting with sound as soon as they got a tape recorder back in 1947. Combining sonics and cybernetics, they sampled noises, made elaborate mixes, changed speeds, used reverberation, made tape loops, and began using their weird sounds as background music. While it's become very common to hear narration with eerie effects (remember Boris Karloff's two-set "Tales of the Frightened") the Barrons pioneered the concept. Living in Greenwich Village when it was very bohemian, they mated their effects to the "out there" writers of the day including Anais Nin and Henry Miller. They also attracted the attention of such early experimentalists as John Cage. It ultimately led to their most famous work…the all-electronic soundtrack to "Forbidden Planet." The outsiders were not nominated for an Academy Award because they were not members of the musicians union, and the soundtrack was technically termed "electronic tonalities," and not "music." The Barrons departed Hollywood and remained obscure experimental musicians. Bebe Barron's last work was made in the year 2000: Mixed Emotions.

The hero and heroine in "Forbidden Planet" would ironically die within 6 weeks of each other. Leslie Nielsen passed away November 28th, and on January 2nd, Anne Francis became the first major death of the year. And while the posts of the 19th have played with the Bebe Bardot-Bebe Barron-Bebe Bardon name game, this one is really a salute and tribute to Anne.

Anne was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007. She seemed to be in remission for a while, and fans could still get autographs from her, but about eight months ago, she announced on her website that she was once again too ill to add to the blog on her site, or to answer her mail.

All I can tell you is that I wish I had been able to spend more time with Anne Francis. In my experience, she was as enigmatic and fascinating as the characters she played on the screen. Whether as "Altaira" the space girl, a doll come to life on "Twilight Zone" or even "Honey West," she was a very unusual mixture of the cool and the concrete, the ethereal and the down to earth. She could be aloof and disconnected, but she also had a very spiritual side, as you can read in "Voice from Home, An Inner Journey," the book she published through Celestial Arts.

Out of the blue, she sent a copy to me, personalized it and added, "Hope your path is joyous." (Above, a few of the pictures she autographed for me.) She called her book "my spiritual expose. It is about our essence of being, the inexplicable reality of mysticism, psychic phenomena, and the inner works of mind and spirit which contribute to the growth of the invisible and most important part of us; hidden from the glare of lights and the camera's eye." In other words, music for which the soundtrack of "Forbidden Planet" might be excellent background.

"Forbidden Planet" remains beloved on DVD, and fortunately, "Honey West" finally was released in that format while Anne was still around and in remission. Most agree that lung cancer can be beaten if you're lucky, but one must be wary of it turning up elsewhere. For Anne, it turned up in an area where it is almost always fatal. And so it was, that she passed away from pancreatic cancer. I suppose that kind of irony…fighting one fight only to be sucker-punched, mirrors some aspects of her career. She didn't get all the breaks in the world and there weren't that many roles that specifically made use of her strengths as someone erotic but distant, tough but spiritual, elusive and yet deeply passionate. Good news: she finally scored a defining role as "Honey West," on ABC, but…bad news: the show was canceled after one year because, Anne said, ABC was happy to cheaply import a newer and younger female crime-fighting heroine, "Emma Peel" of "The Avengers."

Enjoy the soundtrack to "Forbidden Planet," which is truly one of those musical pieces that can stand alone, without the visuals from the movie. The Barrons created something very special here. Back then, experimental electronic music, especially of the classic variety, was often very boring. Of course those composers didn't have to mate music to exciting and challenging visuals, or appeal to the general public, so they weren't pushing themselves as Bebe and Louis Barron did, to meld ominous footsteps to an electric atmosphere, to create melodious machine noises, or make delicate musical pirouettes for a love scene. Each track is labeled to let you know where it appeared in the film, from the heartbeat-stalking noise of "Invisible Monster Approaches" to "Love at the Swimming Hole" between Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen.


Update November 2011: Rapidshare deletes files if they aren't uploaded often enough to suit them. The Main Title Theme has have been re-upped individually via a better service:


1 comment:

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