Dramatic Vocalise Database

Snell, David (1897–1967)

Lady in the Lake (1947)

One new element that film music brings to the overall application of dramatic vocalization is the sensation of suspense. In film, only one example comes to mind, which is in the score to the film noir classic Lady in the Lake (1947) composed by David Snell (1897–1967). Three scenes in Lady in the Lake include dramatic vocalization as accompaniment, each time being used to heighten the sense of suspense. In all three scenes the camera perspective is first person, showing us what the protagonist, Phillip Marlowe (Robert Montgomery), sees.

At the end of the first of these scenes, Marlowe winds his way through a house, eventually finding a dead body in a shower. As he searches, the vocalization gradually builds to a climax, coinciding with Marlowe’s discovery. The second scene involves a car chase, leading to a crash, all seen from Marlowe’s perspective. Again, vocalization builds to a climax coinciding with the crash. In the last of the three scenes, Marlowe is delirious, on his hands and knees. The moaning quality of the accompanying voices adds to the sense of disorientation as he fights to reach a phone. The music fades away as he begins to dial.

(Nauman 2009, 257–58)

Film noir at its finest. This film was innovative in its experimental use of first-person perspective camera angles. According to the tag line, “M*G*M presents a Revolutionary motion picture; the most amazing since Talkies began! YOU and ROBERT MONTGOMERY solve a murder mystery together!”

The camera shows character Phillip Marlowe’s view from the first-person in this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s book. The detective is hired to find a publisher’s wife, who is supposed to have run off to Mexico. But the case soon becomes much more complicated as people are murdered.



Finding A Dead Victim

Car Chase/Crash

Delirious on Hands and Knees