If you like movie music from long ago, you probably know the score from The Robe reasonably well. Maybe even amazingly well. I've often stated that the love theme, for Diana (Jean Simmons) and Marcellus (Richard Burton), remains to this day one of the three or four greatest such themes of all time. The creation of a great love theme is - in my humble opinion - an art long lost in contemporary films. El Cid has one, Ben-Hur has one, Spartacus has one, The Wind And The Lion has one... something about period epics and love themes. But all those movies go way back. So maybe today composers have lost the touch, maybe directors hate them, I don't know. But pointing fingers is meaningless. The world of The Robe is just a thing of the past, both literally and figuratively.
Anyway, so I watched The Robe over the weekend. All of it. I hadn't done this in many years. My opinion fluctuates but I still find the movie too set-bound with too many processed shots to have the scope worthy of a debut CinemaScope feature... but the Roman Empire backdrop, the inspiring subject matter and the drama itself are still powerful. I had no trouble sitting through the entire picture. So back to that love theme... and the scenes it appears in. I noticed something I had never noticed before and it was actually cool to ponder over. When the theme first appears in the movie it's during the slave marketplace scene, where Diana and Marcellus see each other for the first time since childhood. It plays briefly then gives way to music for Caligula and the drama proceeds. Then it reappears in a magnificent reading as the two meet again, this time with Marcellus bidding farewell to Diana as he embarks on his assignment to Jerusalem. The theme does not appear again until Marcellus and Diana are again re-united much later. Then a lot more drama plays out before this gorgeous theme plays again, this time as Marcellus leaves yet again, now to deal with personal demons. A lot more drama plays out, some of it quite moving, before Diana and Marcellus are really able to again meet. But this time he is being held prisoner by the Emperor, and the meeting sees them separated by prison bars. And again, as this wonderful theme plays, they are parting as he is taken away to meet his fate. Okay, so I am condensing the comings and goings here a bit. But anyway, so somewhere along the way it suddenly dawns on me that this most magnificent of love themes, this most emotionally rich and moving tribute to the joining of hearts and souls is scoring just numerous sequences of meetings and partings... and nothing else! There is nary a real love scene per se anywhere in the movie! This is not a flaw, on the contrary it adds considerable emotional weight to their story. And it gives meaning to the ever-present feel of longing that the theme always displayed. I grew up passionate over this theme on the ancient Decca LP that I acquired sometime in the sixties, where the track was known as "Farewell To Diana". I never really thought about that title, however... until this weekend.