It’s no secret that my favorite movie music is from West Side Story. I’m also quite fond of Fiddler on the Roof. But it occurred to me: these are Broadway musicals adapted for the screen. What do I like the best that’s MOVIE music?
Difficult question. But, excluding the Beatles – I’ve recently seen again A Hard Day’s Night and Help! – here are some examples:
This is the famous Germans bomb Pearl Harbor speech by John Belushi from Animal House. But try to listen to it without the dramatic music of Elmer Bernstein, and I think it falls flat. In fact, throughout the film, Bernstein, who’s probably best known for the score for The Magnificent Seven (a/k/a the Marlboro theme), has all sorts of flourishes in this movie, giving the dopiest action a counterpoint.
Quality of Mercy by Michelle Shocked from Dead Man Walking. I THINK this was written for the film (though this performance is not), as opposed to what the compilers of the music of, say, Easy Rider, called “found music”, existing songs put on a soundtrack.
Forrest Gump, BTW, is the worst example of that trend; it’s not that the songs are bad, only that they’re obvious. California Dreamin’ by the Mamas & the Papas, Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel, For What It’s worth by Buffalo Springfield, and Get Together by the Youngbloods? I mean, I already own all of those songs; not everyone does, but some Time-Life collection might have been a better venue.
Ridin’ the Rails by k.d. lang and Take 6 from Dick Tracy, a movie I never saw. I’m a sucker for trains, and songs about trains.
The Funeral from Cry Freedom. This is a bit of a cheat. The bulk of the song is the anthem Nkosi Sikeleli Africa (God Bless Africa). But it is the most stirring version I know, taking place after South African activist Stephen Biko’s death. (It starts at 2:25 on the video.)
But the movie music I have the greatest, perhaps irrational attachment for, is from the film The Night They Raided Minsky’s, which I saw with my friend Carol and her friend Judy when I was 15 in 1968. I had a mad crush, unstated, for Judy. The film was rated M, a precursor for PG. Because I have the soundtrack, I can admit that though I haven’t seen the film in 40 years, I know this song, and others in the movie, by heart:
TAKE TEN TERRIFIC GIRLS (But Only Nine Costumes)
I have a secret recipe
Concocted with much skill
And once you’ve tried my special dish
You’ll never get your fill
Take ten terrific girls
But only nine costumes
And you’re cooking up something grand
Mix in some amber lights
And elegant scenery
Then stir in a fine jazz band
Then add some funny men
And pepper with laughter
It’s tart and tasty I know
Then serve it piping hot
And what have you got?
A burlesque show!
Music: Charles Strouse Lyrics: Lee Adams
What movie music moves YOU?