Six Damn Fine Degrees #119: Eleven Iconic Heist Themes

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

While reading Matt’s musings about the heist movie genre and Steven Soderbergh’s knack for it, my head was inevitably raided by musical themes: jazzy and cool, funky and bold, sneaky and witty they were – and all wonderfully descriptive of the act of boldly scheming, meticulously planning and sneakily (or spectacularly) executing! Is it a coincidence that a large majority of the most popular heist movies are associated with scores that often remained the most memorable aspect about the films? Maybe the indelible combination of suspense, anticipation and audacity is among the most fruitful contexts for a composer to create dynamic and energetic themes.

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The Rear-View Mirror: The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

It’s easy to miss, but Edwin S. Porter’s short movie The Great Train Robbery from 1903 combines some original movie-making features as well as some first-time ideas for a rather young art form that are still in use today. It starts, innocently enough, with a title card, then a first stage set, where a station agent is bound and gagged by two robbers. There is a lot of overacting because there are no other title cards for the rest of the movie, so gestures and movement must express the characters’ inner lives. There isn’t even a cast list.

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