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Nine Musical Secrets of "The Shawshank Redemption"


Morgan Freeman, as "Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding," in "The Shawshank Woodshop."


So much beautiful music is associated with your favorite movie. But... Do you know all of the musical secrets hidden inside the number-one movie of all time, according to IMDb.com? Do you know the names of all the songs? Who performed them? What year they were recorded? Do you know all the minutia, the factoids, the ad-libs? If you're into movie trivia -- and who isn't -- you'll love this short collection of little-known musical facts about, "The Shawshank Redemption." Study these secrets: you never know when a trivia contest just might just come up, and these facts could come in real handy...someday.... 1. Frank Darabont was finishing filming the scene in the warden's outer office. As Bob Gunton tossed his car keys into the air and headed out through the doorframe, he ad-libbed a tune, whistling a song you may have heard in church, on a Sunday. That song was, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

Ironic, that this song was heard on the very night that Mr Dufresne, if you please, was scheduled to depart from "a mighty fortress" of his own -- a place called Shawshank State Prison! 2. In the trailer for, "The Shawshank Redemption," you can see and hear things that are not included in any released version of the finished film. First, there's the overhead shot inside the corner of the court room. Footage from that camera angle only briefly appeared in the trailer, but not once in the finished film.

And, the music you hear all throughout the trailer is NOT any part of Thomas Newman's brilliant finished score. Instead, you hear the main theme from a different movie called, "Miller's Crossing." That film was released by 20th Century Fox in September of 1990, and the score was composed by Carter Burwell.


No relation to the "Russell and Burwell," whose names can be heard over the prison loudspeaker, when Red meets Andy. But the folks who built the trailer didn't have access to the Newman score. And so they did what they often do in Hollywood: the licensed the music from Burwell's score to serve as the music bed for the soon-to-be-released prison movie.


3. When William Sadler was filming the prison library scene, where his character, Heywood, is listening to headphones and singing along to a Hank Williams song, if you look closely, you can see he's using the same record player that Andy used earlier in the film.

And the name of the Hank Williams song he's crooning along to? "Lovesick Blues," released in 1952. 4. When Tim Robbins is first seen in the movie, his character Andy is "sobering up." Seated in the driver's seat of his car, waiting in the turnout outside Glenn Quentin's cabin. he's listening to the car radio, .

The song he's listening to, performed and recorded by the Ink Spots in 1939, is called, "If I Didn't Care." A perfect way to punctuate Andy's pain over his wife's infidelity, the singer pours his heart out to his lover. But the tune gets cut off: That's because Andy shuts off the radio and gets out of his car, just before the song is over.


Does Andy "care" enough to enter Glenn Quentin's cabin? You know the answer to that one! 5. When Gil Bellows, as Tommy Williams, is seen riding on the bus, heading up the drive into Shawshank, the song we hear playing in the background is, "Hand Jive," recorded by Johnny Otis, in 1959.

A good song to underscore Tommy's arrival, "Hand Jive" perfectly suits "Mr Rock and Roll."


6. Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins are seated in the prison movie theater, watching "Gilda," a movie released by Columbia Pictures in 1946.

If you watch that scene carefully, you can hear a song playing on a record player, in the background, in the movie-within-the-movie.


The song is being played by the Gilda character, portrayed by Rita Hayworth. The Johnny Farrell character is portrayed by Glenn Ford. When Farrell sees Gilda, she tosses hair back over her head, as a vampy song plays in the background.

Interestingly, Rita's character Gilda will sing that same sexy song later on in the film, in a tour-de-force performance by Hayworth that really set the screen on fire back in 1946.

And yes, she does that "thing" with her hair all throughout the performance of the song, much to the delight of the audience in the film..


However, the voice heard during this scene is not that of Hayworth, but that of singer Anita Kert Ellis.

And the name of that song, written specially for the film by Allan Roberts and Doris Fisher, is called, "Put the Blame on Mame."

If you've never seen, "Gilda," check it out. Who knows? You may end up watching it as often as Andy did... 7. Frank Darabont has said that during the 8-weeks he spent writing the screenplay for "The Shawshank Redemption," he sought and found inspiration listening to a recording of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro," namely, the duettino.

Recorded in 1968 by Gundala Janowitz and Edith Mathis, and released on Deutsche Grammophon records, this version is widely considered among aficionados of classical-music to be the very best ever recorded. In fact, that's the same version that Andy plays over the prison loudspeaker system in, "The Shawshank Redemption." However, the three-disc, boxed set we see Andy open and play on screen inside Warden Norton's outer office was a version recorded in 1937, in Italy, and released on the Cetra label. So while we all smile when Andy raises the volume in defiance of Warden Norton, we're seeing him spin the 1937 version, while we're actually hearing the Janowitz-Mathis version that was recorded in 1968. Interestingly, this scene comes near the halfway point of the movie, and was not mentioned or referred to in the original novella by Stephen King. This was just one of the many brilliant additions made to the story by writer/director Frank Darabont. Lastly, as of this writing, both Gundala Janowitz and Edith Mathis are still alive, living in Europe. In fact, Ms Janowitz recently was inducted into the Classical Music Hall of Fame. Congrats, Ms Janowitz! Thanks for your contribution to our favorite film! 8. Here's an easy one that we know you know: There's only one musical instrument that is seen and heard during the movie: the "parole rejection" present that Andy gives to Red on the occasion of his 30th year in the Shank.

That's the harmonica Red plays -- just a single note -- inside his cell. What you may not know is -- the box Red opens is for the Bandmaster Blues harmonica, a brand that was made in Germany -- but the harmonica we see Red take out of the box - and later blow into in his cell later that night -- is a Hohner Marine Band harmonica. Watch the film closely -- you can see the name "Marine Band" on the back of the instrument, right before Red hits that single note inside cell 237. Talk about an esoteric bit of trivia, huh? 9. Lastly, the only other time a song is referred to -- other than the gorgeous score composed by the very brilliant Thomas Newman -- is a nonspecific tune mentioned by none other than the hardest screw to ever walk a turn at Shawshank State Prison: Captain of the Guards, Byron Hadley himself.

On Andy's first night in the joint, Hadley, played by Clancy Brown. can be seen brutally berating the new fish, the one we know as, "Fat Ass." Played by Frank Medrano, the distraught inmate begs for his mama.

That incurs Hadley's wrath, who instructs the portly prisoner that he needs to shut up, or else Hadley will, "sing you a lullaby!" We all know what happened next. Hadley's tune was full of "percussion," and really put the crybaby to sleep. For good. So, did we miss any musical references? Let us know in the comments. And be sure to come visit us --and see the vehicles, the world's largest public collection of screen-used and screen-matched props.

You can use your phone, and play the aria -- then stand where Andy, Red, Tommy, and the rest of the convict crew from your favorite movie walked, talked, and, for the briefest of moments, felt free -- right here -- at The Shawshank Woodshop.

See you soon!




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