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February 29, 2012

Song of the Day #1044

Song of the Day: As Time Goes By was written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931 for the Broadway musical, "Everybody's Welcome." But it is eternally enshrined in the minds of cinema fans worldwide for its appearance in the 1942 film, "Casablanca," starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Dooley Wilson, "Sam" in the movie, plays it, and plays it again (even if "Play it Again, Sam" is never actually uttered by Bogie). Speaking of "time," this is officially Leap Year Day, when, every four years, we add a day to our calendar. And it's also the end of Film Music February, our month-long tribute to film music. Take a look at two Dooley Wilson YouTube moments here and here. And check out instrumental versions by jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and classical guitarist John Williams. Here's lookin' at you, kid.

February 28, 2012

Song of the Day #1043

Song of the Day: Planet of the Apes ("Main Title" / Various) [excellent YouTube soundtrack montage at that link] features the futuristic sounds of Jerry Goldsmith, who provides the perfect musical complement to one of the most remarkable sci-fi films, with one of the most chilling, twisted endings, in cinema history.  I loved this movie when I first saw it in 1968, and it has been a favorite ever since. And when I was 13, I remember going to the Sommer Highway Theater in Gravesend, Brooklyn, and seeing all five "ape" movies in a 1973 marathon upon the release of the fifth and final film in the original series: Planet of the..., Beneath the Planet of the..., Escape from the Planet of the..., Conquest of the Planet of the..., and Battle for the Planet of the... Apes). On that day, the Planet of the Apes franchise gave us 5 films for the price of 1. "Young man, in my day, we saw those films in a theater that was not a multiplex." God, do I sound old. One more thing about Jerry Goldsmith: he studied with Miklos Rozsa at USC. In his teens, Goldsmith recollects that it was "Spellbound" in 1945 that put him upon his life's path. That film featured two things with which he fell in love: Rozsa's Oscar-winning score and the great actress Ingrid Bergman. From that point on, he sought a career in film score composition and sought to marry Ingrid. As he put it in later years: 'One out of two wasn't bad.'

February 27, 2012

Song of the Day #1042

Song of the Day: I Fall in Love Too Easily, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is from the 1945 film, "Anchors Away," where it was introduced by Frank Sinatra [YouTube link]. The musical director Georgie Stoll received an Oscar for the Scoring of a Musical Picture, and this song received an Oscar nomination for "Best Original Song" (losing out to Rodgers and Hammerstein's gem, "It Might As Well Be Spring"). Check out versions by Keith Jarrett and Anita O'Day. One of my favorite versions of this standard can be found on "Cloud 7" [YouTube clip at that link], an early Tony Bennett album, featuring the trailblazing jazz guitarist Chuck Wayne, who was born on this date in 1923, and served as Bennett's musical director and accompanist from 1954-1957. The trumpet solo here is by Charles Panely. (And three cheers to host Billy Crystal for some truly hilarious moments at the 84th Annual Academy Awards last night; to Meryl Streep for finally getting Oscar #3, after nearly 30 magnificent acting years since Oscar #2; and to Zach Galifianakis for the Best Zinger of the Night in presenting the Oscar for "Best Original Song," today's highlighted category.)

February 26, 2012

Song of the Day #1041

Song of the Day: Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare (with CinemaScope Extension) [YouTube clip at that link] is one of the most recognizable, robust, and regal fanfares in all of cinema and it was written by the immortal Alfred Newman. There's no better way to provide a drum roll for tonight's 84th Academy Awards, hosted by the guy who has been my favorite host throughout the years: Billy Crystal. (Our Movie Music Month continues until Leap Year Day.)

February 25, 2012

Song of the Day #1040

Song of the Day: The War of the Worlds ("Main Title" / Various) [excellent YouTube soundtrack montage at that link] features a dramatic score by Leith Stevens. The movie is without a doubt my all-time favorite aliens-invading-earth film from the 1950s. This George Pal production, which was released in February 1953, was directed by Byron Haskin, and starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, who provided cameos as Tom Cruise's in-laws in the Steven Spielberg version of the H. G. Wells story. Dramatizations of this classic story started with the phenomenal 1938 "Mercury Theatre on the Air" radio broadcast of Orson Welles and have continued up till the present day. Nominated for three Academy Awards, the sci-fi classic won a well-deserved Oscar for special visual effects.

February 24, 2012

Song of the Day #1039

Song of the Day: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms ("Monster Does Manhattan") [sample clip at that link], composed by David Buttolph for the 1953 film, is one of the defining and most influential film soundtracks for the whole sub-genre of "Monster Movies," which feature giant monsters stomping on contemporary cities (everything from King-sized giant apes and Atomic Age-reawakened dinosaurs to mutant ants and tarantulas). This particular film's plot has a fabulous London counterpart, released in 1959: "The Giant Behemoth," with special effects by Willis O'Brien, who was a mentor to Ray Harryhausen, the special effects wizard for Beast. After the Beast wreaks havoc in Manhattan, it decides to visit Brooklyn. Fuhgeddaboudit! It comes to a violent end at the Cyclone roller coaster, in Coney Island Amusement Park. Still, a little too close for comfort, if you ask this Brooklynite.

February 23, 2012

Song of the Day #1038

Song of the Day: The Wolf Man ("Main Title" / Various) [YouTube clip at that link] features an uncredited soundtrack, which included contributions from Frank Skinner, Hans J. Salter, and Charles Previn (great-uncle of Andre). Skinner has written some of my favorite scores in this genre, which will make their way to this list before too long. The 1941 film stars Lon Chaney, Jr. as Larry Talbot, who becomes the Wolf Man, having been bitten by the werewolf, Bela. The actor playing that role was actually named Bela: Bela Lugosi! Benicio del Toro took on the Talbot role in the 2010 remake. For an extra thrill, check out Moscow Symphony Orchestra versions of the 1941 Main Title [YouTube] and The Kill [mp3].

February 22, 2012

Song of the Day #1037

Song of the Day: The Bride of Frankenstein ("Main Title") is featured in the definitive score composed by Franz Waxman. This 1935 movie is the first and the best of the sequels to "Frankenstein." Directed by James Whale, it is one of the finest films in the Universal Monster Movie catalogue. Listen to the classic opening theme here [mp3 link].

February 21, 2012

Song of the Day #1036

Song of the Day: Frankenstein ("Main Title" / Various) [YouTube clip at that link], music by Giuseppe Becce and Bernhard Kaun, is from the soundtrack to the James Whale-directed 1931 classic Universal monster movie, starring Boris Karloff as the Monster. Today, I begin a mini-tribute within a tribute: a brief foray into my favorite "Monster Movie" soundtracks. I grew up on "Famous Monsters of Filmland" and was a regular Saturday night fan of "Chiller Theatre" and Zacherley on WPIX-TV in New York. So it's only natural to start off with one of the grand-daddies in the unnatural Universal catalogue!

February 20, 2012

Song of the Day #1035

Song of the Day: Hotel ("Main Title" / "Love Theme") features the music of John Keating and the lyrics of Richard Quine, who was the director of the 1967 film, "Hotel." The Keating soundtrack earned a Grammy Original Score nomination; on the album, the great jazz singer, Carmen McRae (YouTube clip at that link), who stars in the film, sings the love theme. The instrumental version can be heard in its entirety here; also, check out one of my all-time favorite renditions by Nancy Wilson (MySpace full-length clip at that link); it's from the 1968 album "Welcome to My Love," which was also one of my Mom's favorite albums; today, she would have been 93.

February 19, 2012

Song of the Day #1034

Song of the Day: The Children of Sanchez ("Overture"), words, music, film score written and performed by Chuck Mangione, comes from the Latin- and jazz-infused score that has a musical integrity quite apart from the fact that it's from a 1979 film, starring Anthony Quinn, that I've still yet to see! Mangione won a much-deserved Grammy Award for this album for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Listen to the 14+ minute overture on YouTube.

February 18, 2012

Song of the Day #1033

Song of the Day: Mommie Dearest ("Main Theme") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the perennially melodious Henry Mancini, is one of the great unheralded themes from his remarkable corpus of cinematic scores. It evokes gentility and pain, a feeling of promise, and of the ominous. And the 1981 film, entertaining as ever, features one of those eminently quotable lines in film history, uttered by Faye Dunaway, playing Joan Crawford, as she speaks before the Pepsi Cola Company Board of Trustees, which tries to dispense with her upon the death of her husband, Albert Steele, who had been Chairman of the Board: "Don't fuck with me fellahs. This ain't my first time at the rodeo." The Mancini soundtrack remains among this film's hidden gems.

February 17, 2012

Song of the Day #1032

Song of the Day: Ben Hur ("The Burning Desert") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the one and only Miklos Rozsa, is from my all-time favorite film, the 1959 epic known for its colossal naval battles and chariot races, but also for its intimacy and intelligence. It's been a tradition around these parts to feature a selection from this grandest of symphonic cinematic scores every February 17th. This past year, life has sometimes felt like a struggle across a burning desert; just knowing that the sounds of redemption echo on the next horizon, that the cup of human kindness awaits in the hands of my truly blessed family and loyal friends, is enough to inspire the continuing trek across the many burning deserts to come. Happy 52nd Birthday to Me (born on the day that made me "Wednesday's Child, Full of Woe") and Three Cheers to Rozsa!

February 16, 2012

Song of the Day #1031

Song of the Day: The Robe ("Caligula's Arrival") [YouTube clip at that link] is from the stupendous Alfred Newman score to the first CinemaScope film in movie history (the last was "In Like Flint"). I remember when I first wrote 20th Century Fox many years ago: having been used to the flat-screen version shown on TV, I finally had a chance to see the "letterbox" version that was released on DVD and I was appalled at the differences. Whoever answered me from the studio insisted that it was only a difference between a "pan-and-scan" edit shown on TV and the actual CinemaScope released to theaters. No way, I protested! This wasn't a mere difference in the angle of the lens; the acting, the inflections of the words, etc., were completely different! I was vindicated when I found out later that this sprawling Biblical epic, one of my all-time favorites, was actually filmed twice: in Widescreen and in Standard "Flat" Screen versions. As far as I'm concerned, however, the best acted version remains the standard flat-screen one, which has yet to be given a glorious Blu-Ray transfer (only a side-by-side comparison can be found as a "bonus" on the Blu-Ray). In any event, this particular track, "Caligula's Arrival," captures the might of ancient Rome, if not the seeds of insanity, in the not-yet-Emperor Caligula, played with memorable flamboyance and furiosity by Jay Robinson. When I was a kid of 9 or 10 years old, so impressed was I by Robinson's portrayal (the film was played regularly on The 4:30 Movie), that I'd don an emperor's robe (usually a larger-than-life blanket), and recite, word-for-word, the character Caligula's speech at the trial of Tribune Marcellus Gallio (played by an Oscar-nominated Richard Burton). If that wasn't a sure sign of my, uh, inner, uh, Caligula, I don't know what could have been more telling! "Senators, Romans, there exists today in our Empire, and even in Rome itself, a secret party of seditionists, who call themselves Christians..." Don't get me started... I still know that speech by heart. Which is why I knew there were differences between widescreen and flat-screen versions; Robinson's inflections differ considerably in the standard version I grew to love, a version that, unfortunately, can't be found anywhere online. (I have my own copy recorded from cable many years ago, when AMC didn't have commercial interruptions!) The actual theme ("Caligula's Arrival"), highlighted today, is stated again at 01:55:43, when the trial sequence gets under way.

February 15, 2012

Song of the Day #1030

Song of the Day: The Sand Pebbles ("Jake and Shirley"), composed by Jerry Goldsmith, is featured on the evocative soundtrack to this 1966 film, one of my favorite films. Check out the lovely theme with clips of Steve McQueen and Candice Bergen and pianist Mark Northam's version as well. Back in 1969, all of 9 years old, I went to see "Che!" but "The Sand Pebbles" was the first film on a double-feature bill; so deeply affected were we by the Robert Wise-directed epic that we never stayed for the main feature. This theme was later gifted with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse ("And We Were Lovers"); it has been recorded by countless artists, all indexed with full track presentations at this phenomenal page (of particular note on that page: a tender vocal version by Jack Jones and a lovely instrumental treatment by the late, great Bud Shank). And check out The Sand Pebbles Motion Picture Website in all its glory.

February 14, 2012

Song of the Day #1029

Song of the Day: On Green Dolphin Street, lyrics by Ned Washington, music by Bronislaw Kaper, can be heard on the soundtrack to the 1947 film, "Green Dolphin Street." The song has become a jazz standard; check out these classic versions by Miles Davis (in the rare "'58 Miles," with the "Kind of Blue" sextet, featuring pianist Bill Evans and saxophonists Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane), Bill Evans and a live Evans version with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell, the Gary Burton Quartet, with guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Chuck Israels, and drummer Larry Bunker, Anita O'Day, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Vince Guaraldi, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, and George Benson, live at the Newport Jazz Festival with the Count Basie Orchestra. Any song that celebrates "love" and the "heart" and "nights beyond forgetting," deserves to shine on this day: Happy Valentine's Day!

February 13, 2012

Song of the Day #1028

Song of the Day: In the Heat of the Night, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, music by the multitalented composer, conductor, arranger, and producer Quincy Jones, is featured in the 1967 film, starring Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier ("They call me Mister Tibbs!"). The Quincy Jones soundtrack received a Grammy nomination for "Best Original Score from a Motion Picture or Television Show." It's a great title song, sung by the great Ray Charles (YouTube clip at that link). Check out other notable versions as well: Bill Champlin (who sang it for the TV series) and the very jazzy Nancy Wilson (from her 1968 album, "Welcome to My Love"). The Bergmans, Jones, Champlin, Charles, Wilson, even Poitier! ... all Grammy winners in their lifetimes. Last night's memorable Grammy telecast (even Betty White won a Grammy!), with its moving memorials to Whitney Houston, Etta James, and others, reminds us to celebrate the healing power of music.

February 12, 2012

Song of the Day #1027

Song of the Day: I'm Every Woman, words and music by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, was a huge hit in 1978 for Chaka Khan. A #1 R&B track, the record peaked at #21 on the pop chart. It was reprised by Whitney Houston, who performed it in the 1992 film, "The Bodyguard," in which she co-starred with Kevin Costner. The song went to #4 on the pop chart and was a #1 Dance Club Hit. The soundtrack album won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, sporting Whitney's cover of "I Will Always Love You," which went on to win "Record of the Year," while Whitney herself captured the "Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female." Check out Chaka's original version here, a terrific remix from her 1989 album, "Life is a Dance," and, finally, Whitney Houston's remake, in which she gives a shout-out to Chaka as the song fades out. Tonight, tune in and see who the new winners are at the 54th Grammy Awards. And remember multiple-Grammy Award-winning singer, Whitney Houston, who passed away yesterday at the age of 48.

February 11, 2012

Song of the Day #1026

Song of the Day: Airport ("Love Theme") features the last soundtrack composed by Alfred Newman, who passed away less than a month before the film's release (and a month before his 70th St. Patrick's Day birthday in 1970). Nominated for 10 Oscars (only Helen Hayes walked away with a statuette, for "Best Supporting Actress"), the movie is credited as having initiated the 1970s "disaster film" genre, which reached its height, so-to-speak, in 1974, with "The Towering Inferno." The Oscar-nominated Newman score is highlighted by this lush love theme (YouTube link). (This particular take on the love theme is from "As You Remember Them," a Time-Life collection on vinyl that I've always treasured.)

February 10, 2012

Song of the Day #1025

Song of the Day: In Like Flint ("Where the Bad Guys Are Gals"), composed by Jerry Goldsmith, is featured in the whimsical 1967 sequel to "Our Man Flint" (1966). This was the last movie ever made in CinemaScope. This composition (which, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, became "Your Zowie Face"; listen to a sample here) has the kind of infectious melody heard throughout the film that once heard never seems to leave the psyche (and, yes, it has a similarity to another one of my favorites: "Call Me"). Check it out on YouTube here and here (along with a piece on "Spy Vogue") and in a Nelson Riddle arrangement too! And check out "The Musician's Magician" (YouTube link), a mini-"In Like Flint"-tribute to the great composer, who was born on this date in 1929.

February 09, 2012

Song of the Day #1024

Song of the Day: The Towering Inferno ("Something for Susan") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by John Williams, is an encore to our 80th birthday notice. It is a reminder that before he was John Williams, he was "Johnny Williams," a jazz pianist working in clubs around New York City. His early jazz sensibility is still evident in this intimate cue from the blockbuster 1974 Irwin Allen disaster flick. Check out YouTube to see the romantic scene between Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway, caressed by the sweet music of the Maestro.

February 08, 2012

Song of the Day #1023

Song of the Day: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ("Hedwig's Theme") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the prolific John Williams, derives from the 2001 Oscar-nominated and Grammy-nominated score for the first film in the Harry Potter franchise, one of my all-time favorite fantasy series. The theme became the central musical leitmotif of the entire series, as powerful a contribution to thematic cinema scoring as any that Williams has ever made in his remarkable career. Happy 80th Birthday to the Maestro! Bravo!

February 07, 2012

Song of the Day #1022

Song of the Day: Jurassic Park ("Journey to the Island"), composed by the living legend that is John Williams, contains some of the most majestic themes in the corpus of this great composer, who, tomorrow, turns 80 years old. The composer earned Oscar nominations for two of his scores this year; he now surpasses the mighty Alfred Newman for the all-time most music nominations (47 and counting...) in the history of the Academy Awards. This dino-mite 1993 film is one of my all-time favorite "monster movies" centering on the unintended consequences of human action. And it was another in a string of terrific collaborations between Williams and director Steven Spielberg. Check out this YouTube moment.

February 06, 2012

Song of the Day #1021

Song of the Day: The Verdict ("The Bottom") [sample clip at that link], composed by Johnny Mandel, captures perfectly the mind-set of Frank Galvin, a seemingly washed-up attorney, who has one last chance to take on a big case, one last chance for personal redemption. The character is played by the Oscar-nominated Paul Newman, in what was, arguably, his greatest performance as an actor. The acclaimed director Sidney Lumet, who passed away in April 2011, said this of Newman's work in the 1982 film: "The slightest gesture, the slightest look, deep riches pour out." Amen. (Oh, and This Verdict Is In and It's Not 'The Bottom' but the Very Top!: The New York Giants Win the Super Bowl!! Bravo!!!)

February 05, 2012

Song of the Day #1020

Song of the Day: Heaven Can Wait features the Oscar-nominated score of composer Dave Grusin. It's one of my favorite cinema comedies (actually an adaptation of Harry Segall's 1938 play of the same name, and a remake of the 1941 film, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan"). But it's also a movie whose final sequences take place at the Super Bowl. And that's where the New York Giants are today, facing off with their arch football rivals, the New England Patriots, whom Big Blue beat at the 2007 Super Bowl. (Okay, okay, I'll give handsome Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady 1/2 of 1 point, just for admitting to a "man-crush" on New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.) But I say: One Mo' Time! Go Eli Manning! Go Giants! And Go Grusin for capturing so many moods in his kaleidoscopic main theme from this 1978 film (YouTube clip at that link).

February 04, 2012

Song of the Day #1019

Song of the Day: Goldfinger ("Into Miami") [YouTube clip at that link] is the sexy, jazzy second track from the stupendous John Barry score to my absolutely all-time favorite 007 flick, starring the one and only Sean Connery as James Bond.

February 03, 2012

Song of the Day #1018

Song of the Day: It's Just Begun, words and music by Jimmy Castor, Johnny L. Pruitt, and Gerry Thomas, is one of the most famous tracks recorded by The Jimmy Castor Bunch. It is featured during a sizzling breakdance sequence (YouTube link) in the 1983 smash hit film "Flashdance." This entertaining movie sported a robust soundtrack of hit singles. And yet, this track never appeared on the soundtrack album! The track actually predates the movie; it first appeared in 1972 as the title track to the second album released by The Jimmy Castor Bunch. Castor passed away in January 2012. But his music lives on; this song, in particular, has been sampled countless times by hip hop artists. Check out the gloriously funky original on YouTube.

February 02, 2012

Song of the Day #1017

Song of the Day: Horror Hotel (in the U.K., known as "The City of the Dead") features the music of two composers: Douglas Gamley, who wrote the spooky themes, and Kenneth V. Jones, who composed the jazz music heard throughout. This 1960 film stars a superb Christopher Lee and a terrifically terrifying Patricia Jessel, who plays the witch, Elizabeth Selwyn, burned at the stake in Whitewood, Massachusetts on March 3, 1692 (coincident with the Salem Witch Hunts), but still living as Mrs. Newless (a play on Selwyn, spoken backwards), the owner of the Raven's Inn. It's one of my all-time favorite horror movies. Some have compared it to "Psycho," in terms of structure, but the films were released months apart (Hotel actually started shooting in 1959, a month before filming began on "Psycho"), and this Hotel is no derivative. The version released in the U.S. is slightly shorter than the U.K. original; the U.S. edit can be viewed here. The creepy Main Title by Gamley can be heard at 00:01-01:24; some of the best Jones jazz can be heard at 31:21-33:04 (my favorite at 32:49). The first human sacrifice in the movie takes place on Candlemas Eve: at the hour of "13" (the stroke of midnight, when February 1st becomes February 2nd), the bells in the churchyard ring 13 times. At which point, poor Nan Barlow (played by Venetia Stevenson) is ritually slaughtered. That makes today, uh, gulp, "Candlemas"; I say: Happy Groundhog Day (a big shout out to Staten Island Chuck and Punxsutawney Phil)!

February 01, 2012

Song of the Day #1016

Song of the Day: All About Eve ("Main Title") [sample at that link] opens composer Alfred Newman's Oscar-nominated score for the iconic 1950 film, which was nominated for a then-record 14 Academy Awards (tied in 1997 by "Titanic"). The film won a total of 6 Oscars, including Best Picture. It boasts an outstanding cast, led by the incomparable (and Oscar-nominated Best Actress) Bette Davis, who utters that famous line: "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night" (#9 on the list of the American Film Institute's all-time movie quotations). And a special nod to Oscar-nominated Supporting Actress Thelma Ritter, who, as Birdie, just can't believe the life story being spun by Eve (Oscar-nominated Supporting Actress Anne Baxter): "Everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end." (And check out the Live Lux Radio Theater version of the story!) Today begins my Annual Tribute to Cinema Songs, Scores and Other Compositions featured in film, a traditional Film Music February en route to the 84th Academy Awards.