Oct 10

Town Without Pity

Town Without Pity

On this day (October 10) 62 years ago, the film ‘Town Without Pity’ starring Kirk Douglas, was released in the United States. Don’t ask me how this song popped into my head the other day – I was only 8 years old at the time and I don’t believe I had ever seen the movie, but I certainly must have remembered Gene Pitney’s distinctive recording, which was nominated for an Academy Award (losing out to Henry Mancini’s ‘Moon River’!)

The Film
‘Town Without Pity’ was shot in black and white in Germany and Austria less than 15 years after WWII. For me, it harkens back to film noir and even Italian Neorealism films such as Roberto Rossellini’s ‘Rome, Open City’ and ‘Germany, Year Zero’. These films, as well as Federico Fellini’s masterpiece ‘La Strada’ (starring Anthony Quinn), portray everyday life and the struggles of ordinary people, often using non-professional actors and real locations.

The Music
The theme song for “Town Without Pity” is characterized by its haunting, melancholic melody. Dimitri Tiomkin wrote the song and also scored the movie with an avant-garde jazz score. (Tiomkin also worked with Frank Capra, who chose him to write and perform the scores for ‘Lost Horizon’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’) Tiomkin was the first film score composer to write both the title theme song and the score, in which the theme song was repeated as a common thread running through the entire film, as it does in ‘Town Without Pity.’

I was surprised to discover that lyricist Ned Washington also wrote the lyrics to ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ in Pinocchio, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1940! I can’t think of two songs with more disparate lyrics.

Interesting fact: The movie also featured Frank Sutton – who was later forever immortalized as Sarge from Gomer Pyle!

Anyway, enjoy.

Dr. Weiss

PS. BTW, you can watch the movie for free on youtube.

Related Post: When You Wish Upon a Star – lyrics also by Ned Washington