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In Drango (1957), a Union officer is made keeper of the peace in a Georgia town during the Reconstruction era. The title song, "Drango", accompanies Major Clint Drango (Jeff Chandler) on his ride into town. The march-like beat of the drums sets both an ominous and valiant tone for the film's reluctant hero. Elmer Bernstein wrote the score for Drango including the music for the title song; lyrics were added by Alan Alch, and the song is performed by singing cowboy Rex Allen.
Bernstein's score follows Major Drango through the story, underscoring every plot development from a military tune to a haunting funeral melody to a triumphant finale. But Bernstein was not the only musical talent associated with Drango. Interestingly, star Jeff Chandler was also quite the music man.
Despite his success as an actor, Chandler's second love was music. He played the violin, wrote music and owned a publishing company called Chandler Music. He even took his singing career on the road to Las Vegas. When Chandler's good friend Sammy Davis, Jr. was injured and unable to perform the opening night of his show, Chandler went on stage at the Riviera Hotel in Davis' place.
Chandler, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, began performing in radio dramas and comedies following his WWII service. He made his film debut in 1947 in a small role in the noir Johnny O'Clock. Early on, Chandler would be cast as the heavy in crime dramas, though he did give comedy a run in Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949). But it wasn't until the 1950s that Chandler found his stride in Westerns and action movies. He played Cochise on screen three times and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Indian leader in Broken Arrow (1950). Drango was the first movie produced by Chandler's production company, Earlmar Productions.
Unfortunately, Chandler's career ended abruptly following routine surgery on a slipped disc in June of 1961. He quickly developed complications and died from blood poisoning (he was only 42 years old). His death was considered a case of malpractice and his daughters filed a lawsuit that was settled for $200,000. Another singer friend, Tony Curtis, was one of the pallbearers at Chandler's funeral.
Producer: Hall Bartlett, Jules Bricken, Jeff Chandler
Director: Hall Bartlett
Screenplay: Hall Bartlett
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Film Editing: Leon Selditz
Original Music: Elmer Bernstein
Principal Cast: Jeff Chandler (Major Clint Drango), John Lupton (Marc), Joanne Dru (Kate Calder), Morris Ankrum (Henry Calder), Ronald Howard (Clay Allen).
By Stephanie Thames