Clifton Parker (1905 -1989)


Clifton Parker was regarded by film makers and music fans as "the composer who never disappoints." He certainly didn’t disappoint when he composed the wonderful film score for Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood in 1951. Parker received very little recognition for his film scores in his own lifetime, but during his distinguished career, he composed for 50 feature films, as well as numerous documentary shorts, radio and television scores and over 100 songs and music for ballet and theatre. Sadly today, many of his compositions are lost.

Edward John Clifton Parker was born in Forest Hill in London on the 5th February 1905, the third and youngest son of bank officer Theophilis Parker. He was encouraged by his father to go into the commercial profession like his two brothers - which he did, but he also studied music privately. In 1926 he obtained a diploma for music teaching from the Royal College of Music and eventually he left commerce and became employed as a music copyist, whist also writing works for the BBC. His first mature piece, ‘Romance for Violin and Piano’, was good enough to secure publication when he was only sixteen years old.

At the age of 31 he was appointed organist and arranger with the Folkestone Municipal Orchestra, during which time he had begun composing light popular items. A year later he became pianist and composer at the Jooss-Leeder School of Dance. It was there that he met Yoma Sasburgh, the dancer who would become his second wife. It was for her that he wrote the overture- The Glass Slipper.

As more of his ‘part-time’ classical compositions became published, it attracted the attention of British film pioneer and film conductor Muir Mathieson. Soon, although initially uncredited, he began composing for films like Battle Is Our Business, Unpublished Story, and In Which We Serve (1942).

In 1944 his name appeared as the composer for the government-sponsored colour documentary Western Approaches, which later included a 4 minute orchestral piece ‘Seascape,’ recorded by Muir Mathieson on Decca 12’’ 78 rpm. This became very popular in concert halls and today it is regarded by many as one of the finest scores ever written for the cinema. Parker was paid £100 for his composition. Because of his swirling and surging orchestrations, he became first choice composer for any British producer that was making a movie involving the sea.

After his work on the successful post-war film 'The Blue Lagoon' (1949) and the huge sales of the film’s soundtrack on 78rpm records, he caught the attention of Walt Disney. Parker was invited to score for the legendary cartoon producer’s live-action British productions Treasure Island (1950), The Story of Robin Hood (1952) and The Sword and the Rose (1953), for which he also supplied on-scene music for the court dance in the style of the Tudor period.

Parker’s lively symphonic style went on to become greatly admired, leading to him composing scores for 50 feature films over a 21 year period including: This Happy Breed (1944), The Wooden Horse (1950), The Gift Horse (1950), A Day To Remember (1953), Night of the Demon (1957) Campbell’s Kingdom (1957), The 39 Steps (1959) Sink The Bismark (1960) and HMS Defiant (1962).

In 1963 Parker controversially quit scoring for film production and joined a protest along with three other movie composers against the exorbitant percentage of royalties being claimed by the music publishers. He limited his work to the theatre, including RADA and many Shakespearean productions, but gradually his health began to decline. In the last 13 years of his life, Parker was immobile due to ulcers and emphysema and sadly passed away in Marlow, Buckinghamshire in 1989 aged 85.

7 comments:

Clement of the Glen said...

Clifton Parker (1905 -1989)
Muir Mathieson
Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952)

Herns son said...

From the very first time i saw The story of Robin Hood the music impressed me, the french horn opening is simple but just perfect , you hear the same strain again when Robin runs off into Sherwood after shooting Red Gill , it would be wonderful if there had been a soundtrack record released .

Clement of the Glen said...

There was a sountrack released Herns son-take a look here under the memorabilia section:

http://disneysrobin.blogspot.com/search?q=disneyland+fidelity

Unfortunately there are only snipits from the film soundtrack with the story being narrated. But during my research I did find a Clifton Parker CD with downloadable tracks tracks from Treasure Island and his other films here:
http://www.passionato.com/release/chan10279/the-film-music-of-clifton-parker/

Herns son said...

thanks clement, yes i do have the LP but the score in its entirety on its own would have been great, .

Neil said...

Interesting that he composed the music for 1949 The Blue Lagoon - another of my favourite films of the era. Much of the filming for that was done in the South Pacific islands where a few years later Joan Rice would visit to film His Majesty O'Keefe. Herns Son is right about the french horn opening which is so perfect and instantly recogniseable.

Herns son said...

Yes Neil,i remember the Blue Lagoon, always a favorite of mine. James Hayter was in that as well, i would like to see it again and to listen more to the score, I'll have to check and see if its on DVD anywhere.

Clement of the Glen said...

I can't help thinking that Parker's score to Disney's Robin Hood influenced TV's Adventures of Robin Hood theme with Richard Greene.