Dramatic Vocalise Database

Mockridge, Cyril J. (1896–1979)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1942)

Cyril Mockridge (1896–1979), composer of the score for The Ox-Bow Incident, included wordless chorus, a mixture of “ooh” and humming, to accompany his name in the opening credits, much like in the earlier The Wizard of Oz. The same music, including dramatic vocalization, also accompanies Sparks the “preacher” (Leigh Whipper) during his first appearance and also appears at the climax of the movie when he represents the moral perspective within the overall dilemma.

(Nauman 2009, 243)

Two drifters are passing through a Western town, when news comes in that a local farmer has been murdered and his cattle stolen. The townspeople, joined by the drifters, form a posse to catch the perpetrators. They find three men in possession of the cattle, and are determined to see justice done on the spot. Unfortunately they are mistaken in their lawless judgment, resulting in the lynching of three innocent men.

Use of wordless chorus to signify the religious, numinous, and/or moral.



Opening Credits

[0:00:46–0:00:58] Many other films use wordless vocalization in their opening credits to foreshadow the “surprise” yet to come. See The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Robe (1953), The Abyss (1989), Twister (1996), and Mars Attacks! (1996).

Preacher's First Appearance

[0:16:07–0:17:07] Sparks the preacher appears for the first time as a posse is forming. The lawless vigilante mob is juxtaposed against the preacher, his morality accentuated by the chorus of wordless “heavenly angels.”

Majority Rules

[0:57:16–0:57:56] Vocalization accompanying Sparks as he steps out as the first objector to the soon-to-be lynching, again re-affirming his moral stature. Others such as Mr. Davies and the “drifters” join him.

[0:58:41–0:58:50] Brief vocalization followed by an instrumental extension of the melodic material. Vocalization occurs during a group shot of the seven objectors to the posse’s plan, the moral few.