The Continuity of Melos

Beginnings to the Present Day


  • Anne Dhu McLucas University of Oregon



pantomime, melodrama, silent film, sound film


The “hurry” is one type of melo found in music for pantomime of the eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century in melodrama, after which it was adopted for silent film accompaniment, and then in scoring sound films. The use of “hurries” shows the persistence of this type of melo for action scenes, or to convey a hurried state of mind, in four different theatrical genres, and can still be found in contemporary film scores, if no longer identified by that name. An examination of Thomas Holcroft’s A Tale of Mystery (1802, music by Thomas Busby), an 1880s’ theatrical adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s Le comte de Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo), and excerpts from J.S. Zamecnik’s Sam Fox Moving Picture Music (1913) illustrate the continuity of hurry use across two centuries of theatrical melos practice.


Shapiro [McLucas], Anne Dhu. 1984. Action music in American pantomime and melodrama. American Music 2: 49-72.

———. 1991. Nineteenth century melodrama: from A Tale of Mystery to Monte Cristo. Ed. Lowell Lindgren in Harvard Library Bulletin: Bits and Pieces, Music for Theatre, new Series 2, no. 2 (Winter): 57-73.

———, ed. 1994. Nineteenth-century American musical theatre, vol. 4: Later melodrama in America: Monte Cristo (c. 1883). New York.

Waeber, Jacqueline. 2011. The voice-over as “melodramatic voice.” In Melodramatic voices: Understanding music drama, ed. Sarah Hibberd, 218 (Farnham: Ashgate).



How to Cite

McLucas, A. D. (2013). The Continuity of Melos: Beginnings to the Present Day. Journal of Film Music, 5(1-2), 15–28.




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