Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Same Song, Different Movie: This Town by Lee Hazlewood

This is the next entry in a series from early last year that looks at the use of “needle dropped” songs, many of them popular tunes, in movies. Specifically, in more than one. Yet they are not officially considered part of a film’s score. A score consists of those orchestral, choral, or instrumental pieces some consider background music. Both music forms are equally utilized as cues by filmmakers for a specific purpose or to elicit certain reactions by the audience.

I’m fascinated by this in general, and movie soundtracks have long intrigued me. This convergence of the music and film arts I’ve spent much time toward. My wife can confirm this. Some (not all) movie soundtracks have incorporated those songs the director or music programmer showcased in their production along with the film’s score.

A few filmmakers have made it part of their work to incorporate well-known or popular song as a recurrent element. Why not? Music and movies make for a wonderful tandem, and I regularly watch out for them. As usual, I give credit to my blogging colleague over at Fog’s Movie Review for helping to ignite this series care of his excellent post, Tossin’ It Out There: What’s YOUR Favorite Song From a Movie?:

“… there’s a deep connection between the two arts, and sometimes that winds up creating an inseparable bond between the two in the viewer’s mind.”

Since I began the year with a tune identified with “The Chairman of the Board”, I’ll continue with another. This one written by the late pop/country singer, producer, and songwriter Lee Hazlewood. Though better known for his well-known 60s collaboration with the famed singer’s daughter (who also had an intriguing cover of the song), he wrote the noted and bluesy vocal, This Town, for the 1967 ‘Frank Sinatra and the World We Knew’ album.

The pounding brass and harmonica arrangement differs markedly from Nancy Sinatra’s more languid interpretation. Still, the lyrics made it unique. The tune was utilized in a pair of films from the 00s in comparable analog interpretations and like subject matter by two different directors (both previously chronicled in this series) and films.

Matchstick Men (2003)

Matchstick MenOne of director Ridley Scott’s more under appreciated works (see Morgan’s fine look at this from last week, if you doubt me), Matchstick Men used locale and music to diverting purposes in its tale of the wicked artistry practiced among the cons swimming in the city of Los Angeles. Composer Hans Zimmer’s needle dropped score slyly added to the mix via the popular songs selected. The Hazlewood tune is notable for its contradictory love-hate lyrics, and offered an at odds serenade to the story’s backdrop. “This town is a make-you town, Or a break-you town and bring-you-down town”, it’s used almost as a warning piece to the lead character, Nicholas Cage in a made-for role, if there ever was one. The throw-back number was given a nice treatment within the short sequence by Scott as it showcased the old turntable playing the tune in the background while phobic Roy Waller quirks were on display. That deception’s his métier, and his partners, was only augmented by the tune.

Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)

Ocean's ThirteenIn a similar vein, American producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and director Steven Soderbergh deployed This Town to meet a couple of ends in Ocean’s Thirteen. The final film in his crime caper trilogy. Since the initial segment was itself a remake of the Rat Pack’s most famous movie, Ocean’s 11 (1960), this song was indeed fitting since Frank Sinatra lead both that film and this song. That it would involve more con men was just a given. The tune staked out almost identical territory, this set in the glittering excesses of Las Vegas. Plus, Soderbergh (along with scorer David Holmes) used the song as a reversion piece from the first film for its culminating, congratulatory assembly of all involved. And it’s that which marked its primary difference with the above film. While duplicity was very much in play, ultimately that same guile and deceit got one of theirs back on his feet, instead of thrown. The tune in this case honored the camaraderie among these matchstick men.

The entire series can be found here.

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13 Responses to “Same Song, Different Movie: This Town by Lee Hazlewood”

  1. Fogs' Movie Reviews

    :D I may have to go out and buy Matchstick Men on blu now. Thanks Le0p. LOL.

    Great tune. Obviously its given a bigger spotlight in Ocean’s 13, so that’s where it probably shines the most out of the two. ;)

    • le0pard13

      Well, let’s hope Warners finally gets ‘Matchstick Men’ out in Blu-ray. It’s strange they haven’t released this one in high-def, as yet. I own the DVD/CD soundtrack combo myself. I’m with ‘ya, Fogs. Thanks.

  2. Morgan R. Lewis

    Thanks for the link-up, Michael.

    An interesting little tidbit about Matchstick Men I found when reading up on it after doing my review… Frank’s full name in the film is Frank Mercer, and Roy plays records by both Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mercer in the film. Nice subtle little shoutout to the musicians there.

    • le0pard13

      You’re welcome. Glad to do it. I had this one in my draft’s bin for a bit (hadn’t uploaded the clips to YouTube), but your fine review got me off the snide. Great tidbit, too. Many thanks.

  3. mummbles

    Thanks for sharing this, I have seen both movies but never picked up on that same song. I feel that it works better in Ocean’s Thirteen but I really enjoy that movie. Great article!

  4. ruth

    Great choice of tune, Michael. Boy I seem to have missed out on Matchstick Men, and being a Ridley Scott fan, I should check it out soon. I actually just put Nic in ‘movie jail’ on a recent relay race, but hope he’ll get a proper comeback :D

    • le0pard13

      Yeah, I saw that. I think given his performance in this underrated film you may have to give him parole (or at least some time off so good behavior/acting) ;-). Give this one a shot, Ruth. Solid cast, too. Thanks.

  5. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael and company:

    Adding Sinatra to any film’s soundtrack heightens what’s on the screen and makes the whole experience more memorable. “This Town” doesn’t get enough loving. Excellent choice in sounds and films!

    Another great Sinatra/Mercer collaboration is “The Summer Wind” that opens and sets the tone for Mickey Rourke and ‘The Pope of Greenwich Village’.

    • le0pard13

      Thanks so much, Kevin. And ‘Summer Wind’, like it also did in ‘The Pope of Greenwich Village’, makes an appearance here, too:

      Can’t have too much Sinatra in a film, I say.

  6. The Focused Filmographer

    I love both this song and both of these films. Interesting that they both are “heist” films! Hooray for Matchstick Men! Great observation. Good find! Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. The Why Never Answered | It Rains... You Get Wet

    […] Sepulveda Boulevard stretches over 42 miles across our well-known (read infamous) urban sprawl. From the north end of the San Fernando Valley, where Jake Gettes got stomped by cheated orange growers in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, all the way down to the outskirts of Hermosa Beach in the South Bay. Not far from the overlook Lt. Nick Frecia gazed from as he maneuvered Jo Ann Vallenari to her sandy rendezvous with best friend Dale ‘Mac’ McKussic in Tequila Sunrise. I tell ‘ya, This Town. […]


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