Shilkret, Nathaniel (Nat)


Shilkret, Nathaniel (Nat)
(1889–1982)
   A famous bandleader, accompanist, composer, and musical director from the 1920s through the 1940s, Nathaniel Shilkret composed the musical score for STANLEY KUBRICK’s second documentary, FLYING PADRE (1951). Shilkret was best known for his recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Co. in the 1920s, and for RCA Victor in the 1930s, many of them credited to “Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra. ” The music for Flying Padre is fairly unremarkable, somewhat typical fare for a short documentary of the time. Shilkret’s orchestral arrangements underscore the film’s action appropriately, shifting moods as the film moves, from reverent, to whimsical, to urgent, and finally to celebratory. There is one instance in which the music makes a pointed narrative joke of sorts, in a scene involving a little girl who enlists Father Stadmueller’s help against a bully who has been teasing her. As the priest scolds the boy, we see a medium shot of the girl, looking rather smug; at that moment, the music shifts to a brief cue suggesting a child’s taunt: “nah nah, nya nah nah,” as if the girl is thinking,“now I’ve got you. ”The result is a funny moment of ambiguity, playfully suggesting that perhaps not all the mischief has been instigated by the little boy.
   Classically trained from the start, Shilkret began to learn music as a very young boy, when his father taught him to play the clarinet. He studied piano at an early age as well, under Charles Hambitzer, who also taught the young George Gershwin. At age 7, Shilkret played in a boys’ orchestra, touted as a child prodigy. By age 13 he was playing professionally in such orchestras as the Russian Symphony and Walter Damrosch’s Metropolitan Orchestra. He later performed in several concert bands, including the one led by John Philip Sousa. (Later on, from 1923 to 1925, Shilkret would step up to lead Sousa’s band. ) Shilkret’s work in motion pictures began when his popular song of the 1920s, “Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time,” became the theme song for the Colleen Moore movie, Lilac Time (1928). He composed the remainder of that score as well, and in 1935 he moved to Hollywood. Shilkret was general musical director for RKO Radio Pictures in the late 1930s, and during that time he also continued to work for RKO’s sister company, RCA Victor. In Hollywood, Shilkret served as musical director and/or composer on dozens of films, including the Astair-Rogers vehicle Swing Time (1936), John Ford’s Mary of Scotland (1936), starring Katharine Hepburn, and Shall We Dance (1937). Shilkret also appeared in some short musical films of the period, including Paramount’s Radio Salutes (1931) and Columbia’s Yankee Doodle Home (1939). Nat Shilkret’s brother, Jack, was also a well-known pianist and recording artist of the 1920s and ’30s. His grand-niece, Julie Warner, is a successful film and television actress working in Hollywood today.
   References
   ■ Gracyk,Tim, with Frank Hoffman, Popular American Recording Pioneers: 1895–1925 (New York: Haworth Press, 2000), pp. 293–304;
   ■ “Nathaniel Shilkret,” Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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