Friday, December 18, 2020

What's the Score? The Alamo (1960) by Dimitri Tiomkin

As far as John Wayne movies go, The Alamo (1960) ranks pretty far down the list—somewhere near The Cowboys, the other Wayne film where we see our hero meet his maker.

Still, I can’t deny The Alamo is a classic Western film, and it’s not because Wayne directed it. While the cast of Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Richard Boone, Joan O’Brien, and Chill Wills put in some stellar performances —for me it’s Dimitri Tiomkin who steals the show with the score.

I mentioned Tiomkin briefly before for his 1953 Academy Award won with Ned Washington for the original song from High Noon, “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling” sung by Tex Ritter.

For the Alamo, he again received an Oscar nomination (with Paul Francis Webster) for a song, “The Green Leaves of Summer,” sung by the Brothers Four. While it didn’t win the award, the score as a whole won a Golden Glob Award.

The “Ballad of the Alamo” performed by Marty Robbins is another well known song from the soundtrack, and it’s been voted one fo the Top 100 songs of all time by members of the Western Writers of American.

There’s more to like than just these popular tracks however. Tiomkin does a remarkable job capturing the brooding flavor of the Alamo’s story, introducing Mexican / old west flourishes at various intervals, and rising to rousing heights when the narrative demands it.

I like The Alamo soundtrack as much as any of the scores I’ve written about, and would easily put it in my top five. Give the embedded video and listen and see if you don’t think so too.


  1. Tiomkin re-purposed his version of the Deguello from RIO BRAVO to serve as the mournful opening theme for THE ALAMO, leading into the equally melancholy refrain from "The Green Leaves of Summer" as the credits role. Ennio Morricone's score for FISTFUL OF DOLLARS includes a tune that sounds much like Tiomkin's Deguello, apparently composed at Sergio Leone's request.

  2. The Hollywood elites viewed John Wayne with disdain, "Why he's just an overgrown cowboy."
    The "Duke" never got credit for the great movie roles he played, or for directing this movie.

  3. Rich, this is one of my favorite scores too. I love Dmitri Tiomkin's music. My dad used to always ask me to play that on the piano. I still have that sheet music, tattered, worn and ragged. I can't think of that song without thinking of him asking me to play it.

    Here's a funny story. I used to take my kids to school every day and pick them up in the afternoon, and we'd listen to a lot of Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton. When my son Casey was in 3rd grade or so, the teacher asked if anyone knew what the Alamo was. Casey raised his hand. When she called on him, he began: "Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis: Get some volunteers and go fortify the Alamo." She was amazed. LOL Lot of history learned in those songs!

    Great post, as always!

  4. I loved The Brother Four song they did for it "The Green Leaves of Summer"

  5. Nice appreciation, Richard. It's difficult to think of a film with a better soundtrack than THE ALAMO. I particularly like 'The March of Santa Anna' and the tremendous score in the final battle.

  6. Laurence Harvey was such a fine actor. I always felt Wayne was miscast but Widmark and Harvey make it worth a repeat viewing. And that music is beautifully rendered.

    1. David, I agree. I could not see Wayne as Davy Crockett no matter how I tried. Loved Richard Widmark in that movie, though!