'Battle of Britain' to get back its lost music

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The Independent Culture

The epic war filmBattle of Britain is to be finally reunited with its original score by Sir William Walton more than 30 years after the music was wiped from the movie just before its release in 1969.

The Oscar-nominated composer was commissioned to write the music for the movie but was then shocked to learn that his work had been replaced with a more gung-ho alternative by Ron Goodwin on the studio's last-minute orders.

Only a fragment of Walton's music, the Battle in the Air sequence, remained in the film - and that was reinstated only when its star, Sir Laurence Olivier, threatened to remove his name from the credits unless at least part was used.

Now a campaign by the film's assistant editor, Timothy Gee, 67, and the film fan and BBC producer Mark Burman has cleared the way for Battle of Britain to be seen as originally intended. Next month, Guy Hamilton, the film's director, will join Mr Gee at the studios where the music was originally recorded for a new edit. The intention is for the DVD to be released by MGM later this year, although Mr Gee hopes for a new cinematic release eventually.

Mr Burman, who tells the story on Radio 3's Night Waves tonight, said: "This is long overdue because there was no good reason to do it in the first place."

Walton, who had been nominated for Oscars for his scores for Hamlet and Henry V, produced 25 minutes of music for Battle of Britain. But it appears that United Artists belatedly decided on a full-length soundtrack and turned to Ron Goodwin, whose credits included 633 Squadron and Where Eagles Dare. Walton was devastated. He did not even get his score back for several years, until the intervention of Edward Heath, a music-lover and at the time the Prime Minister.

The recordings, too, conducted by Sir Malcolm Arnold, were believed lost. In the 1990s they were found to have been rescued from a skip by the original recording engineer, Eric Tomlinson, and kept in his garage.