FEBRUARY 29, 2020
Song of the Day: At the Circus ("Lydia the Tatooed Lady"), music by Harold Arlen, with clever lyrics by Yip Harburg (the team that gave us the Oscar-winning song "Over the Rainbow" from the 1939 film, "The Wizard of Oz"), made its debut in this other 1939 film, a Marx Brothers comedy. New York-born Groucho, the greatest Marxist of them all, introduced this song in this hilarious romp [YouTube film clip]. Groucho was in a class by himself, indeed [YouTube link]. But Kermit the Frog also delivered this song on "The Muppet Show" as did Virginia Weidler in "The Philadelphia Story" (1940) [YouTube links] (hat tip to Roderick Long). And so, we end our sixteenth annual Film Music February on a leaping comedic note [YouTube link to a Dick Cavett interview in which Groucho sings this signature song], and look forward to revisiting the magic of film music again next year!
FEBRUARY 28, 2020
Song of the Day: Until They Sail ("Main Title"), music by David Raksin, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is sung over the opening credits by Eydie Gorme. This 1957 Robert Wise-directed film includes an all-star cast of Jean Simmons, Paul Newman, Joan Fontaine, Piper Laurie, and Sandra Dee. Check out the Eydie Gorme single (which goes through 2 minutes and 42 seconds at that YouTube link). This is the second time in two consecutive years in which Paul Newman starred in a film directed by Robert Wise, with a main title featuring lyrics by Sammy Cahn!
FEBRUARY 27, 2020
Song of the Day: Somebody Up There Likes Me ("Title Track"), music by Bronsilau Kaper, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, opens this 1956 film about the life of Brooklyn-born middleweight boxer, Rocky Graziano, played by Paul Newman. This is the first of two back-to-back years that Paul Newman starred in films directed by Robert Wise, with a title song whose lyrics were written by Sammy Cahn! (We'll check out the second of these collaborations tomorrow!) Perry Como sings this song over the opening and closing credits to the film [YouTube links].
FEBRUARY 26, 2020
Song of the Day: Point Break ("Take Me Down"), words and music by Michael Hodges, Kayla Morrison, and Gerald Trottman, is sung by Genevieve over a pulsating dance groove, featured on the soundtrack to this 2015 action thriller. The film didn't receive a great reception, earning an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, nowhere near the original Kathryn Bigelow-directed 1991 original, but the films share rockin' soundtracks. Check out this propulsive track here [YouTube link].
FEBRUARY 25, 2020
I'm posting this in the hopes that graduates of John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, New York will see it! I attended the school from September 1975 through June 1978 (the month in which I graduated before going onto NYU through three degrees). John Dewey offered an extraordinary educational experience, with remarkable teachers and an innovative approach to learning. They were among the happiest years of my life, and till this day, I honor the many teachers whose lessons so profoundly affected the way I looked at the world.
JDHS will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary on the school's campus (at 50 Avenue X) on May 16, 2020. Information can be found at the Facebook page of the group: John Dewey HS 50th Anniversary Celebration Station. If the fates be with me, I hope to attend!
Song of the Day: Sabrina ("Opening Title") [YouTube link], composed by Friedrich Hollaender, opens this 1954 Billy Wilder rom-com, starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden. In 1995, the film was remade by director Sydney Pollack. The Wilder version received six Oscar nominations, winning only in the category of Best Costume Design, for Edith Head, who, in her lifetime, was nominated 35 times, winning 8 Oscars along the way. It is rumored, however, that Hepburn personally chose outfits created for her by Hubert de Givenchy.
FEBRUARY 24, 2020
Song of the Day: Lady Sings the Blues ("Love Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Michel Legrand, who was born on this date in 1932. This is one of the few original compositions on the soundtrack to this 1972 biopic of Billie Holiday, portrayed by the Oscar-nominated Diana Ross with heartbreaking realism. The soundtrack includes, of course, some of the grandest gems from the Great American Songbook.
FEBRUARY 23, 2020
Song of the Day: Lady Be Good ("Fascinating Rhythm"), music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, originated in the 1924 Broadway production "Lady, Be Good!," and was introduced on the stage by Clint Edwards, Fred Astaire, and Adele Astaire (Fred's older sister). It has been recorded by so many artists through the years, becoming a bona fide entry in the Great American Songbook [pdf link]. Listen to Astaire's original Broadway version [YouTube link] and then check out the epic tap sequence [YouTube link] by Eleanor Powell, which comes immediately after a sequence with the Berry Brothers [YouTube link], both featured in the 1941 remake of the 1928 silent film version. And for a little extra fun, check out Fred Astaire's appearance at the 1970 Oscars.
FEBRUARY 22, 2020
Song of the Day: Murder, Inc. ("The Awakening") [YouTube link], words and music by George Weiss, is introduced by Sarah Vaughan in her first screen credit, in this gritty 1960 docudrama, which earned Peter Falk, in the role of Brooklyn-born gangster Abe Reles, a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination (the first of two consecutive nominations he received in 1960 and 1961). Facing the electric chair for a series of murders in which he was implicated, Reles, who was a member of the organized crime group known as "Murder, Inc." turned government informant, sending other gangsters to the hot seat. He eventually met his death by, uh, suicide, trying to "escape" from Room 623 of the Half Moon Hotel located on the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island on the very day he was due to testify against Mafia hood Albert Anastasia---forever dubbing him "the Canary Who Could Sing, But Couldn't Fly." Funny how these things happen, eh? [Daily Motion, part 2, clip at 49:00] Check out the song as delivered in the film by Sassy in a lounge scene [Daily Motion, part 1, clip at 42:19].
FEBRUARY 21, 2020
Song of the Day: Wait Until Dark (vocal rendition), music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, is sung by Sue Raney (performed by the artist live and from the soundtrack [YouTube links]) over the end credits to this 1967 thriller (based on the 1966 play by Frederic Knott), starring Audrey Hepburn, who earned an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Actress. A lovely song that builds on the eerie themes of the main title [FSM mp3 link], in a much less sinister way than one would have anticipated.
FEBRUARY 20, 2020
Song of the Day: Anastasia ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, opens this 1956 film, which stars Ingrid Bergman, who resembles the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, rumored to be the only surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas II, who was executed by the Bolsheviks as a member of the Romanov family in 1918. Bergman was awarded the Oscar for Best Actress and Alfred Newman received an Oscar nomination for "Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture," but lost out to Victor Young, who won the award posthumously for his score to "Around the World in 80 Days." But Newman and Ken Darby did walk away with a statuette for their scoring of a musical picture ("The King and I"). Bergman's co-star in this film, Yul Brynner, had a banner year; in addition to this film, he also starred as Ramesses II in Cecil B. DeMille's blockbuster "The Ten Commandments" and received the Best Actor Oscar for his role as King Mongkut of Siam in the film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "The King and I." I highlight this film today for a very special reason: Today is the 101st anniversary of my mother's birth. Known as Ann or Anna to her friends and relatives, her full Greek name was Anastasia, and for those who loved her and were loved by her, she was royalty incarnate.
FEBRUARY 19, 2020
Oh this one had me chuckling. And people laugh at me because I still have a flip phone, which I can throw off the platform of an elevated train station onto the streets of Brooklyn---and it still works! If my brain has shrunk watching the news every day, at least I know it's not because of Smartphone use!
From Sciencedaily.com: "Researchers have found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the internet."
Read on ...
Song of the Day: King Cobra ("Luuvbazaar"), words and music by Cody Baker Critcheloe and J. Ashley Miller, closes the credits to this 2016 film based on the book Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice, by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway. The unsettling film stars Christian Slater as Bryan Kocis, James Franco as Joseph Kerekes, and Garrett Clayton as Brent Corrigan. On the soundtrack, the song is performed by SSION (and check out their music video too) [YouTube link].
FEBRUARY 18, 2020
Song of the Day: King of Jazz ("Wild Cat") [YouTube link], a duet between jazz violinist Joe Venuti and jazz guitarist Eddie Lang (both of whom are credited as composers of the tune) backed by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, is a brief snippet in the 1930 "talkie" film with early two-color Technicolor, providing only a glimpse of Venuti's virtuosity. This is the first of two consecutive cues from films referring to a "King" ... tomorrow, something entirely different, to say the least!
FEBRUARY 17, 2020
Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Balthazar's World") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, incorporates several motifs from the film score, including the Prelude, the Christ theme, and the theme for the "Adoration of the Magi"---all speaking to the character of Balthazar, one of the three wise men who has returned to Judea to find the child he first encountered in a manger in Bethlehem, following the star that proclaimed his birth. William Wyler once joked that it took a Jew to make a good film about Christ (indeed, in music, as in film, such Jewish Americans as Irving Berlin, who wrote "White Christmas" and Mel Torme and Robert Wells, who wrote "The Christmas Song," have contributed some of the finest "chestnuts" to the soundtrack of the Christmas holiday season). Be that as it may, this film's soundtrack, written by one of the greatest composers of his generation---or any generation, has always provided me with a special kind of spiritual nutrition, even during some of my most difficult days. The 1959 all-time Oscar champ (tied only by "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King"---each with 11 Oscars) recently celebrated its 60th anniversary; it was released on 18 November 1959. And now, yes, today, I too am 60. It has become a tradition of sorts to feature a cue from this epic---my all-time favorite film---on my birthday. How fitting to celebrate a 60-year old film and soundtrack, when a 1960 baby celebrates his Beddian Birthday (or should that be "his Ben-hurdian Birthday"?).
Postscript on Facebook: It is an overwhelming experience to have a few hundred people sending you Happy Birthday wishes. I 'hearted' every person who posted to my 60th Birthday Timeline... because words can't express how much I appreciate such an outpouring of love and kindness. But 60 or not... this was one of the T-shirts I got for my birthday... and youthful spirit that I am, this one just about says it all!
FEBRUARY 16, 2020
Song of the Day: Touch of Evil ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Henry Mancini for this 1958 film noir classic, directed by and starring Orson Welles. Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Marlene Dietrich round out the cast of this film, which critics regard as among the finest of its genre. Welles was aghast at how the studio edited his film---but this is Mancini at his classic, gritty best. A year later, Heston would win his Best Actor Oscar for "Ben-Hur" and two years later, Janet Leigh would meet a different fate in Hitchcock's "Psycho" [iSpot.tv link]. But in this film, with its unforgettable, iconic uninterrupted opening tracking shot [YouTube link], Welles delivers one of the last and best of this genre's genuine classics.
FEBRUARY 15, 2020
Song of the Day: Khartoum ("Main Theme and End Titles") [YouTube link], composed by Frank Cordell, opens and closes this 1966 historical drama, which centers on the siege of Khartoum in the late 19th century. Charlton Heston portrays General Charles Gordon, Laurence Olivier portrays Muhammad Ahmed (the Mahdi), and Ralph Richardson portrays British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. Historical inaccuracies aside, politically correct concerns aside, the film boasts an intelligent script and a wonderful score. This is actually the first of three films in our Film Music February salute, starring Charlton Heston.
FEBRUARY 14, 2020
Song of the Day: The Godfather, Part III ("To Each His Own"), music by Jay Livingston, lyrics by Ray Evans, was a popular hit for several recording artists in 1946: Eddy Howard, Freddy Martin and His Orchestra, Tony Martin, The Modernaires with Paula Kelly, and the Ink Spots [YouTube links]. Though this song was released in the same year as the 1946 film of the same name, starring Oscar-winning Best Actress Olivia de Havilland---who is still kickin' at the age of 103---it is only tangentially related to that film! But it is a standout track to the third installment of "The Godfather" trilogy, performed in the 1990 film by Al Martino [YouTube link---with the Sicilian turn-of-phrase "Salsiccia's Own"). On this Valentine's Day, celebrate love ... "to each his own."
FEBRUARY 13, 2020
Song of the Day: Home Room ("Main Theme") [site link], was composed by my friend Michael Gordon Shapiro, for a 2002 film, a cue from whose soundtrack I highlighted last year. This film, starring Erika Christensen, Busy Philipps, and Victor Garber, portrays the traumatic after-effects in the wake of a high school shooting massacre. On the eve of the two-year anniversary of the tragic mass shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, this cue has special poignance. I truly love and value so much of Michael's music over the years and encourage listeners to explore his ever-growing body of work.
FEBRUARY 12, 2020
My friend, Irfan Khawaja has an interesting thread on his "Policy of Truth" blog: "In Defense of Democratic War Socialism." I've posted a comment there, after some discussion about the meaning of "capitalism" versus "socialism" and the historic sins committed in the name of each, and how this debate frames the discussion of "Medicare for All." Here is what I had to say:
I'd like to make just a few points about terminology and finally, about the context that has led us to the proposition that "Medicare for All" is somehow a panacea for our current healthcare woes.
1. Friedrich Hayek once pointed out that the very word "capitalism" was introduced by socialist historians; it's not a term I like to use for a variety of reasons that I explain here.
The U.S. had a relatively freer economy in the nineteenth century, but markets have never been truly free, and the U.S. has progressively moved in the direction of a neo-fascist, corporatist state. As Hayek once said, when political power comes to dominate social and economic life, political power becomes the only power worth having. And those who are most adept at using political power usually end up leveraging the most influence in matters of political economy. That's why, as Hayek put it, the worst get on top. I see no difference between that process in a society that ostensibly began with 'freer markets' (like the United States) and 'socialist'-leaning societies in which the state is at the center of decision-making. In both cases, the dynamic is such that the worst almost inexorably get on top.
2. One thing clear from U.S. history is that war has typically been an enemy of free trade; and yet, it has been key U.S. wars that have vastly expanded not only the role of government, but also the advance of the corporate state. The Civil War was the first nightmarish advance in this regard; the North, dominated by a Republican party committed to income taxes, excise taxes, tariffs, land grants, and subsidies to transcontinental railroads, also embraced significant forays into the centralization of banking, which wasn't fully realized until the years prior to U.S. entrance into World War I. (One could argue that Trump is a truer Republican than those who paid at least lip service to free trade during the Reagan era; he harks back to the nationalist, tariff-driven, protectionist roots of the Republican Party.)
The expansion of the regulatory state, as documented by New Left historians such as Gabriel Kolko, James Weinstein, and others, was the result of larger businesses using government to destroy rivalrous competition in the relatively freer markets of the nineteenth century, which were generating rising wages and falling prices. The thwarting of freer markets was fully institutionalized in the twentieth century by the establishment of the Federal Reserve System (and the 'boom-bust' cycle that it could engineer), and the U.S.-corporatist experiences during the "war collectivism" of World War I, the New Deal, and World War II (in which businesses closely aligned with government provided the industrial czars who consolidated the gains from the emergence of the regulatory state).
3. Since war is a state-guided policy, differing only in terms of its profiteers from country to country, it's not hard to understand why state-guided policies are, essentially, built on the principles of militarization (see especially Don Lavoie's book, National Economic Planning: What is Left?). Whether those principles are aimed outward, manifesting themselves in "perpetual wars for perpetual peace" (which enrich those industries closely aligned with the production of munitions, the 'military-industrial complex' warned against by none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower), or inward, manifesting themselves in state-guided economic 'plans' (which enrich all those interests that benefit from the regulatory state that they themselves helped to design), the bottom line is the same. If you believe in human liberty, it is the principle of militarization that must be combated in all its forms, whether "capitalist" or "socialist."
4. Since we should not kid ourselves about the history of "capitalism" and its war against free markets, let's not kid ourselves either with regard to the history of "socialism", which has little to do with what Marx envisioned, and which only illustrates further how economic militarization eradicates markets and destroys the price system upon which entrepreneurial creativity rests, leading to calculational chaos and economic devastation, while showing its most "efficient" side in the building of weapons of mass destruction and vast gulags to control its dissidents.
5. And so we finally get to health care. The same pattern of militarization within the health care industry, which has led to escalating costs and nightmarish choices for consumers, began during the Progressive Era during which medical suppliers acted on the same anti-market principles as their industrial counterparts: first, through the usage of medical licensing laws to limit the supply of doctors (and thus raise the price of medical care), gaining control over accreditation of medical schools, and crowding out schools dedicated to homeopathic and preventive treatments; the state-sanctioned rise of Big Pharma, which used patents to destroy competitors, and the rise of quasi-monopolistic health insurance companies (nearly all of whom were silent in the lead up to Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare, since each program helped to further socialize their risks).
The movement away from free markets led to the crisis in healthcare, just as it has led to economic crises across all sectors of "capitalist" economic systems. Since it is not on the political agenda to remove all the regulations that have led to the crisis of healthcare (and to crises across U.S. political economy), we are simply advancing one more step toward total calculational chaos and poorer delivery of healthcare services by embracing "Medicare for All".
In any event, given the current political dynamics in this country, don't expect "Medicare for All" to be instituted until or unless those on top figure out a way to make it work for them rather than the vast majority of people who need quality healthcare.
On these issues, check out these two short pieces here and here.
Ed: I should add that for those who have trouble getting healthcare insurance, none of what is said above is a moral indictment of doing whatever you can to get yourself insured. We all live in a particular time and place and we don't control the effects of the system in which we live. Milk the inner contradictions of the system for all they're worth when the choice is between health or illness, life or death. The problems are systemic; the human lives affected are precious and it is no sacrifice of principle to seek out whatever you can to get the healthcare you require.
Song of the Day: Blue Gardenia ("Title Song"), words and music by Lester Lee and Bob Russell, is sung by Nat King Cole (playing himself) in the Blue Gardenia restaurant and nightclub in this 1953 film noir, directed by the great Fritz Lang. Check out the studio version and the film version [YouTube links]. It would also become a signature song for the great Dinah Washington [YouTube link].
FEBRUARY 11, 2020
Song of the Day: The Mark of Zorro ("Soundtrack Suite") [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, includes all of the key themes to this swashbuckling 1940 adventure film, starring Tyrone Power as Zorro. The score was among the seventeen scores nominated in 1940 for "Best Original Score" (losing out to "Pinocchio"). It illustrates just why Newman is considered one of the great composers of the Golden Age of Classical Hollywood Cinema. With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring training for both the New York Mets and the New York Yankees, it would be nice to see a little swashbuckling magic in the upcoming 2020 MLB season!
FEBRUARY 10, 2020
Song of the Day: L.A. Confidential ("Soundtrack Suite") [YouTube link] was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who was born on this date in 1929. The suite, derived from the terrific 1997 film, provides just a glimpse of that Goldsmith magic, which has made an indelible mark on American cinema, running the gamut from "Patton" (1970), "The Sand Pebbles" (1966) and "Chinatown" (1974) to "Planet of the Apes" (1968), "Alien" (1979) and "The Omen" (for which he won his only Best Original Score Oscar in 1976 out of a lifetime eighteen Academy Award nominations).
FEBRUARY 09, 2020
I'm just reminding folks that one week from today, the Dialectics of Liberty Facebook symposium commences, centering on an in-depth discussion of The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, co-edited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra (me!), and Edward W. Younkins.
The schedule is available on the DOL Home page here.
The cyberseminar begins next Sunday, February 16, 2020 and runs through June 20, 2020 (and beyond, I'm sure). This will be your only opportunity as a reader to study the book in a structured setting with the participation of 18 of the 19 contributors to the book. Our contributors will reply to comments and questions on their chapters, greatly enhancing your reading experience. Included in this discussion are the three co-editors, each of whom has written a chapter (and will open the forum with an examination of the Introduction to the book), followed by a week or so devoted to each of the following contributor's chapters:
Introduction: Roger Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Ed Younkins (February 16-22);
Chris Matthew Sciabarra (Chapter 1: February 23-29);
Ed Younkins (Chapter 2: March 1-7);
Stephan Kinsella (Chapter 5: March 8-14);
Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen (Chapter 4: March 15-21, during which we also be discussing Chapter 3 by John Welsh);
Robert L. Campbell (Chapter 6: March 22-28);
Troy Camplin (Chapter 18: March 29-April 4);
Deirdre McCloskey (Chapter 8: April 5-11);
Robert Higgs (Chapter 9: April 12-18);
Dave Prychitko (Chapter 10: April 19-25);
Steve Horwitz (Chapter 11: April 26-May 2);
Roger Bissell (Chapter 12: May 3-9);
Roderick Tracy Long (Chapter 13: May 10-16);
Gary Chartier (Chapter 14: May 17-23);
Nathan Goodman (Chapter 9: May 24-30);
Billy Christmas (Chapter 15: May 31-June 6);
Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl return to chat about their chapter (see Chapter 4 above): June 7-8
And finally, an exchange on the strategies for change, from June 9-20:
Kevin Carson (Chapter 16: June 9-14)
Jason Lee Byas (Chapter 17: June 15-20)
Through the wonders of technology, we are bringing together a remarkable group of scholars into a single forum to discuss their contributions to what we consider to be a truly trailblazing anthology in libertarian social theory.
We can't compel folks to purchase the book as a prerequisite to membership in this extraordinary study group, but we emphasize that this is a study group. So we ask members to secure a copy of the book through their local or institutional libraries, through Lexington Books, amazon.com, or at a deep discount from the DOL Discount Page.
The discount page will be available until our supply is exhausted and we will be accepting members even after the symposium begins. But if you want to truly take advantage of this opportunity, we strongly suggest that you be pro-active and start at the beginning! You won't regret it!
Song of the Day: Since You Went Away ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Max Steiner, opens the 1944 film, which centers on the American home front during World War II, with a stellar cast that includes Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, and Shirley Temple. The "Golden Age" composer would go on to win the Oscar at the 17th Annual Academy Awards for "Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture" in a field of twenty nominees! Tonight, another composer will win an Oscar for Best Original Score at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards. Tune in and find out who gets the Oscar statuette.
FEBRUARY 08, 2020
Song of the Day: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ("Duel of the Fates") was composed by New York-born John Williams, who turns 88 today---the number of people in the choir accompanying the London Symphony Orchestra in this recording. This composition is one of the most brilliant, rousing symphonic pieces in the Williams repertoire. With Sanskrit lyrics based on "Cad Goddeu," an archaic Welsh poem, the track actually charted on MTV's "Total Request Live" for eleven days after its release as a single! The composer just won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Symphonic Suite" [YouTube link], a piece inspired by the Disney Themed Land dedicated to the "Star Wars" film franchise, which opened in the summer of 2019. Williams, who has won twenty-four Grammy Awards and five Oscar Awards (out of 52 nominations, second only to Walt Disney), has also created the music for the entire nine episodes of the central "Star Wars" franchise, including its 2019 finale, the J. J. Abrams-directed "Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker," for which he has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score this year. This is the fourth "Star Wars" soundtrack that has earned Williams an Oscar nomination---the others being the original 1977 Oscar-winning soundtrack for "Star Wars: Episode III - A New Hope" (for which he also won both Golden Globe and Saturn Awards); the 2015 soundtrack to "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" (for which he also won a Saturn Award); and the 2017 soundtrack to "Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi". Identified as one of the greatest symphonic composers for the cinema, Williams remains a global treasure. Happy birthday, John! Check out the soundtrack album version, the official music video and the action-packed scene (spoiler alert!) [YouTube link] in the 1999 film in which this triumphant theme is heard.
FEBRUARY 07, 2020
Song of the Day: An American In Paris ("I Got Rhythm"), music by George Gershwin (who wrote the original 1928 jazz-influenced orchestral composition that inspired this film adaptation) and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, was first heard in the 1930 Broadway musical "Girl Crazy." But it was among the highlights of this 1951 musical, starring Gene Kelly. Check out the scene from the 1951 film that features this wonderful jazz standard [YouTube link], which embodies Kelly's vocal and choreographical charm.
FEBRUARY 06, 2020
Song of the Day: Sing ("Faith"), words and music by Francis Farewell Starlite, Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder, and Ariana Grande and Stevie Wonder, who duet on this original rockin' jam from the soundtrack to the 2016 animated motion picture, "Sing". Check out the studio version, the music video, and a live performance of this sizzling, gospel-influenced song [YouTube links].
FEBRUARY 05, 2020
We are in the middle of Film Music February, and I've just learned that the legendary actor, Kirk Douglas, passed away today at the age of 103.
A three-time Oscar nominee, Douglas was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 1996 Oscar ceremonies [YouTube link]. We have honored Douglas through song choices in Film Music February entries in the past, including his portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in "Lust for Life", his heart-wrenching portrait of a tragic jazz trumpeter, inspired by the life of Bix Beiderbecke, in "Young Man with a Horn" (in which he co-starred with the late Doris Day), and, of course, his immortal performance of the title role in the 1960 epic, "Spartacus" (cues from which I've noted here and here).
Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("The Bird"), words and music by Prince, Morris Day, and Jesse Johnson, was first released by The Time as part of their 1983 album, "Ice Cream Castle." Except for guitarist Johnson, Prince played all the instruments on the original studio version of this single, but it was later released in a live rendition [YouTube link]. The group performs the song in the 1984 film, "Purple Rain." Check out a clip from the film and as part of a twentieth anniversary tribute concert [YouTube links].
FEBRUARY 04, 2020
Song of the Day: Demetrius and the Gladiators ("Soundtrack Suite") [YouTube link], composed by Franz Waxman, incorporates some of the themes made famous by the glorious soundtrack to "The Robe", composed by Alfred Newman. But Waxman still retains his own musical voice throughout the score. This particular suite gives the full flavor of many of the cues heard throughout the 1954 film, the CinemaScope sequel to "The Robe," featuring Victor Mature as Demetrius, Susan Hayward as Messalina, and Jay Robinson as the utterly insane Emperor Caligula (check out these two interviews of Robinson on YouTube). The script has some of my favorite lines; Hayward delivers one of the best: "When the truth is ugly, only a lie can be beautiful."
FEBRUARY 03, 2020
Song of the Day: Godzilla ("Godzilla!") [YouTube link], composed by Alexandre Desplat, opens the 2014 reboot of the classic 1954 monster movie whose main theme we featured yesterday. Desplat has been nominated for ten Academy Awards for Best Original Score in his career, having won two (for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Shape of Water"). Having had a long-time love affair with "Monster Movies" since childhood, I am all the more impressed by Desplat's fresh approach to a film franchise with a long history, which is both an homage to the original "Godzilla" themes, while never losing its unique voice in the process. Oh, and btw, the little monsters, both Punxsutawny Phil and Staten Island Chuck, predicted an early spring!
FEBRUARY 02, 2020
Song of the Day: Godzilla ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Akira Ifkube, opens the classic 1954 Japanese film, "Gojira," that launched one of the biggest monster movie franchises in cinema history. It was released in 1956 to American audiences as "Godzilla: King of the Monsters!" and re-edited to include Raymond Burr as journalist Steve Martin. Today, of course, we're looking not to a beast as Super Bowl large as Godzilla but to the relatively smaller, though not necessarily less vicious Groundhog [YouTube link to ex-NYC Mayor Bloomberg getting his finger bit by Staten Island Chuck!], who will let us know how many more weeks of winter we'll have to endure in the Northern Hemisphere! Tomorrow, we'll check out the main theme of the 2014 reboot!
FEBRUARY 01, 2020
Song of the Day: Of Human Bondage ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the "father of film music," Max Steiner, is heard over the opening credits to the 1934 film version of the W. Somerset Maugham novel. In previews, RKO executives were not too fond of Steiner's initial score, and he literally had to write a new one, with motifs for each of the characters. The opening credits feature, however, a lovely waltz, which doesn't begin to convey the venomous power of one of Davis's most memorable performances, with one of the most memorably delivered lines in cinema history: "And after you kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth. Wipe my mouth!!!" [YouTube link]. Alas, our sixteenth annual Film Music February begins today, February 1st and runs through February 29th. Today also begins TCM's Annual 31 Days of Oscar celebration.This leap year, the Oscars air a bit earlier than usual: on February 9th. But we will be celebrating film music every day in February, running the gamut from score cues, suites, and main titles to songs that originated in film and those used in film, even if they originated elsewhere. This year, we'll be focusing more attention on scores from the Golden Age of American Cinema (broadly interpreted). So fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy month [YouTube link]!