This is the continuation of a series from early last year that looks at the use of “needle dropped” songs, many of them popular tunes, used in movies but not officially considered part of a film’s score. A score consists of those orchestral, choral, or instrumental pieces some consider background music. Both song 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. The 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. I think the use of music remains very much a part of the movie experience and related to its composition. I continue to watch out and listen for it in my movie viewing. 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.”
For the first entry of 2013, we’ll fall back to a popular standard of the 50s by composer Bart Howard. It was he who wrote of the famous jazz vocal “Fly Me To The Moon” in 1954, which has been performed by a number of celebrated singers through the decades ever since. Originally titled, “In Other Words”, it was later changed. We’ll stick with the version that just might be the most remembered. Frank Sinatra‘s considered by many to be the definitive version. The tune was utilized to engaging and variant effect by two very different directors and films. The song served to bookend the films — arriving at the beginning or the end, respectively.
Wall Street (1987)
This film was director Oliver Stone’s response to the excesses ushered in with the decade of the ’80s, in general, and Reagan capitalism, specifically. Wall Street took on what the filmmaker thought was the epicenter of both: the financial district of New York City. He and Stewart Copeland (who provided the film’s original score) used Howard’s song to a snappy result as it kicked off the film while it played during the opening titles. Centering on the young and naïve Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen, in better days) as he heads to work. As Mad Men‘s producers repeated in 2007 with Julie London’s cover for the end credits of the 11th episode of their first season, the song was utilized to denote the duplicitous love affair with riches and money. The key passage? “Fill my heart with song, Let me sing forever more, You are all I long for, All I worship and adore.” The irony? Wealth, along with its chase and trappings, was never going “to be true”, as our oblivious hero eventually learns.
Space Cowboys (2000)
Juxtaposed against Stone’s reading and use of the tune in his film, Clint Eastwood’s take for his Space Cowboys motion picture from the 00s went for a historic, mid-60s approach (scored by Lennie Niehaus). Unsurprisingly, the filmmakers come from polar ends of the political spectrum. “Frank Sinatra’s 1964 recording was played by the astronauts of Apollo 10 on their lunar-orbital mission and again on the moon itself by the astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 landing” [Wikipedia]. Plus, Fly Me To The Moon was obviously fitting, and literal, in this instance. The jubilant space drama took the goal of that era’s space program to its aged heart. The astronaut characters of a bygone time are the film’s focus. By story’s end, as Frank Corvin and his wife (Eastwood and Barbara Babcock) stare up at the Moon, it’s their colleague Hawk Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) filling them with wonder as the closing credits arrive. The film’s final image remains particularly haunting. “Fly me to the Moon, Let me swing among those stars, Let me see what Spring is like, On Jupiter and Mars”, indeed.
The entire series can be found here.