The Dave Grusin Archive
Music for the Screen
The Little Drummer Girl

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Starring Ben Gazzara


Stars:  Diane Keaton, Yorgo Voyagis, Klaus Kinski

Director:  George Roy Hill
Producer:  Robert L. Crawford
Released:  1984

Story:  An American Actress with a penchant for lying is forcibly recruited by Mosad, the Israeli intelligence agency to trap a Palestinian bomber, by pretending to be the girlfriend of his dead brother.

This is genuinely one of the most superior of Dave Grusin's less recognized scores, containing an entirety of original music, and little of it re-used in the film, except in a subliminal way.

What is most extraordinary is that originally, George Roy Hill was working on a concept whereby there would be no traditional underscoring whatsoever, only source music.

Dave Grusin felt that, for a variety of reasons - the entertainment element of music, the added value it would bring dramatically as well as his instincts to enhance particular scenes - the picture called for underscoring.

He put together a program of speculation cues, and in the end, director Hill bought just about all of them.

Although no credits are given at the beginning of "The Little Drummer Girl," and consequently there is no opening music, a theme exists, relating to the emotions of the central character, which is played sparingly in a scene or two, and in full over the end titles as an epilogue to the picture.  Two more compositions hold prominence, a gentle and simple piece reminiscent of a classic French folk song and a spicy one of Middle Eastern flavor, which reproduces indigenous musical instruments to excellent effect.

The main theme exudes serenity, gravity and innocence, qualities which betray the inner character of the actress who, on screen may appear volatile and world-wise, never letting down her guard, except when her life is in jeopardy at the end.  The tender music personifies Charlie's striving for peace and justice in the world, something she manifests in an altogether different manner in her words and deeds.  Thus, an inner depth is revealed, adding dimension to her persona and to the film.

The melody is also used  as a love theme, but really to express Charlie's feelings rather than romance between herself and `Jos.'  More of it might have been most welcome, not only to focus on the inner Charlie, but also to develop the idea that she was working against the Palestinians (whose cause she championed) out of love for an Israeli.

The two-hour film is so complex at points, that all one's attention is required to follow the action, and the lingering doubt as to the reason why she is working for 'the other side' distracts one just enough to lose vital full concentration.  More music when Charlie and `Jos' are together might have clarified her feelings and thus, her behavior.

Among the places where it could have helped to reveal her emotions are: as she reads the note with orchids, when they first meet in Greece (or as soon as they meet there the second time),  when they part at the airport or at the end of the film, when she sees him in the theater (though no music in this last instance might be more understandable after her frightening experiences).

This absence of underscoring is really a matter of directorial philosophy, the leaning towards documentary rather than romance, and considering that there was originally to be none at all, one must be thankful for the reversal on this point, allowing in the rich assortment of compositions.

Dave Grusin has indicated that he used the main theme in its entirety over the closing credits - ending in a sweet, childlike manner - as "a sort of get-well card for Charlie."

Innocence and simplicity are also projected in the second major theme, with additional layers of comfort and well-being.  Safety and security seem to come from a familiar folk quality.  It is used after Charlie has made her decision to work for Mossad.  When she leaves the room, the men discuss how they will play her emotionally.  Their ruthless attitude is emphasized by the cue which concentrates on Charlie's incorruptibility, and signifies an end to her previous safe world.   it also plays towards the conclusion of the film, as Charlie recuperates from her experiences in reflective scenes.

The geographical theme  is, for a start, a most interesting and delicious piece of music.  Although only a small part of the film takes place in the Middle East, it is lightly interwoven into the fabric of other cues in "The Little Drummer Girl," always bringing the audience back to the central mental location of the picture, whether the scene takes place in Greece, Germany or Britain.  

With its complexity, and because it is more geographical than ethnic, this theme is usable to evoke the sense of both sides tugging at the main character.   Full of intrigue, danger, excitement and mystery, this sound is very beckoning and alluring.

Dave Grusin himself can be heard on this piece, playing a GS2 synthesizer to create the unique sound, what he calls a “Lebanese kind of thing,” which is achieved with a number of electronic instruments.

Additionally, there is a wealth of further incidental music, finely orchestrated to heighten tension and terror during dramatic sequences.  Each of these cues is original, with only the feeling or sound linking it to the rest of the score.  The worthwhile effort exerted has resulted in constant freshness - something much needed through this long motion picture.

In terms of placement of music, two opposite effects are used in "The Little Drummer Girl."  On the one hand, the action is almost always allowed to develop, whether it is romance or danger, before underscoring begins to intensify already established feelings. On the other, in many cases, a cue for a scene begins in a previous one, and may even end in the first moments of the next.  

While the amount of music - though rich in character - is on the sparing side for a film of this length, this lack of underscoring adds a realistic feel and a starkness to some scenes, particularly in the first ten minutes.  This striving for a documentary atmosphere has meant scenes at the training camp have ended up without cues; but more of that appealing Middle Eastern theme would have been welcome here.

With so much diversity, the score really merited a soundtrack album, and can be put at the top of the list of Dave Grusin film music which has not been released in this manner but should be.  Fortunately, on the CD version of “Cinemagic” (but not on the LP), both the main theme (under the title “Epilogue”) and the Middle Eastern Theme (“PLO Camp Entrance”) have been so honored.  They are worth the purchase of the album on their own.

c Editor:  Milton Lustig

Dave Grusin
Feature Films



(times approximate)

0.08 - 3.00   

Source music "Always in Love" plays on radio in the van intermittently, when camera is on van - juxtaposed against the girl delivering bomb - including explosion of bomb.  Rock music emphasizes indifference of bombers to the deed they perform.

9.40 - 10.00

Source music - ensemble plays in theater as play ends.  Focus on 'Michel' adds a poignant quality.

12.24 - 14.48

Source music "Eyes of Fire" plays on radio of Michel's car, and is heard on and off when his car is on screen.  It grows louder during kidnap, and fades out as car drives away with kidnappers.  

14.49 - 15.07

Segue from car radio music to a fanfare announcing Mykonos which plays through shooting commercial, ending with 'cut.'

16.56 - 19.35

Greek source music plays in background in restaurant - but does not appear to be source music - Music grows softer as Charlie goes over to speak to 'Michel,' and then louder again when she returns to her table, becoming very loud as everyone dances.

20.44 - 21.30

Charlie's Theme plays while couple walk along the sea wall as she shows interest in him.  Cue ends with his enigmatic "I'm by myself."

24.47 - 26.25

Beginning in (previous) scene of Michel in captivity, Charlie's Theme plays as she and 'Michel' approach Parthenon, music
soaring as she sees it.  It plays through their kiss, and ends as he says "we must go."

26.35 - 27.58

Middle Eastern Theme moves 'mental' location to Middle East though they are still in Greece, as reality also seems to
change, and driving through the night, Charlie feels she is kidnapped

42.06 - 43.21

Innocent Theme plays as, her decision made, Charlie leaves the room, and men discuss how she will be played emotionally.

46.24 - 49.58

Beginning in (previous) scene of Michel in captivity, traditional Greek music plays softly like  source music in the restaurant as 'Michel' tells Charlie the story of his village.  Music
ends as she leaves table, cut into by violent scene with the real Michel in cell.

53.53 - 54.02

Charlie sings "Downtown" as she drives away in car filled with explosives.

1.00.05 - 1.03.11

As people come to claim the car Charlie has left, music begins suspensefully.  Pounding beat with flute playing Middle Eastern Theme.  Violin plays against pulsating percussion.  Action around the square enhanced by continuing  dramatic music which plays  into next scene, where Charlie is telling of her adventures.

1.10.21 - 1.10.51

On the road, music almost imitates sounds of cars, as it emerges from road noises, taking on a solemn tone, indicating what is about to happen as rendezvous takes place.

1.12.42 - 1.13.20

Tense, percussive music builds up dramatically to explosion.

1.13.30 - 1.14.09

Following explosion, solemn music with tone of regret emphasizes disagreement between Marty and 'Jos' over the morality of what they have done killing the girl.

1.16.50 - 1.17.18

Mental move from her location in England to her future with PLO signified by Middle Eastern Theme played by a single
instrument and drums as she leaves theater with representative, ending as door of apartment closes.

1.22.29 - 1.23.30

Charlie accuses 'Jos' of betraying her, and asks what she means to him.  He embraces her, as romantic music plays.  Fade out and in to walls of her bedroom. Charlie's Theme begins while she is asking him about his wounds in bed.  Music ends as they begin talking about the mission.

1.25.09 - 1.25.24

Charlie and Jos  discuss whether she will go to  the Middle East, and she tells him  she must.  They kiss, and music begins.

1.25.28 - 1.26.51

Music evolves from sound of jet engine as plane is seen.  Middle East Theme emerges in full as title 'Beirut' is given, and Charlie is
driven from airport into the country.  Fades out on arrival at PLO camp.

1.29.44 - 1.30.05

As truck drives through countryside, we faintly hear Charlie leading other trainees in "Downtown."

1.35.16 - 1.35.55

Again, action precedes music accompanying it.  Dramatic and grave, it gives a sense of anticipation as the boy spy is shot and Charlie is given her mission.

1.37.03 - 1.37.32

Source music playing in van fades in and out, following the van up to its arrival

1.41.58 - 1.42.18

Loud source music in the van fades in and out during drive.

1.43.03 - 1.43.10

In Freiburg, source music from  Charlie's radio.

1.45.29 - 1.46.07

Khahl twists wire, thus identifying himself.  Music follows with a note of danger, counterbalancing his broad smile.

1.46.15 - 1.47.52

On drive into Freiburg with bomb, music full of anticipation.  It then opens into Charlie's Theme.  Very dramatic and heavily orchestrated, indicating great danger.  This moves into a pulsating theme - interwoven with Middle Eastern Theme.  Ends as Charlie arrives at door with briefcase.

1.49.57 - 1.50.32

As 'Jos' sends Charlie back to Khahl, music dramatically begins on stinger, and builds intensely to indicate sense of panic and
terror, ending in explosion.

1.50.33 - 1.51.00

Following explosion, terrifying music resumes.  As Charlie makes her getaway, music moves on with a sense of determination provided by full orchestra, ending  quietly on arrival back at the house.

1.55.30 - 1.56.04

Romantic music while Charlie and Khall embrace suddenly turns suspenseful, as scene moves outdoors to Israelis planning the assault on the house - interwoven with Middle Eastern sounds - and ending back in bedroom

1.58.05 - 1.58.19

Source music begins as Charlie turns on her radio

2.00.50 - 2.01.20

After Khahl's killing, music doesn't start until 'green' signal is given over the phone.  Dramatic action music accompanies
shooting of fellow terrorists - ending with phone ringing.

2.02.49 - 2.03.53

Innocent Theme repeated over scenes of Charlie convalescing, sitting by a window, and walking on a beach.

2.06.38 - 2.07.50 - 2.09.57

Charlie's Theme (Epilogue) begins as she walks away from Jos.  He  follows her as grave music indicates her delicate state.  But as she stops and waits for him, theme soars as they walk away together, adding a sense of hope.  Fade to black.

End titles over black continue to play Charlie's theme with sense of recuperation.

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