This is the next entry in a series from early 2012 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.”
With the return of the nuclear angst those of us who recall it, time for 2017 to get out whatever’s left in the series. Starting with an enduring composition acknowledged by music, stage, as well as movie enthusiasts. Composer and songwriter Cole Porter among the finest America ever produced. As Allmusic‘s Ron Wynn noted, “The list of Porter shows and films is immense; his lyrics were literate, sophisticated, yet could be charming, suggestive, even naughty.” Which brings us to “Anything Goes.”1
The main title number to Porter’s 1934 madcap musical that covered the antics of a stowaway in love with heiress onboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. The song among the tunesmith’s “most well-known and cleverly crafted songs”2, which featured references to Depression-era high society scandals and gossip. As the stage musical been revived several times here and abroad, as well as filmed twice, the song’s reuse as a movie prompt shouldn’t surprise.
The Boys in the Band (1970), Sleuth, (1972), Terms of Endearment, (1983), De-Lovely (2004) and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008) needle dropped the song into their scores. Most modern versions omit the song’s dated lyrics and replace them instead with generic examples of social upheaval. Here, though, two very different but notable American filmmakers avoided the need for this workaround by comparably clever means, a dozen years apart in comedy and adventure, respectively.
What’s Up Doc (1972)
The work of Peter Bogdanovich recently showcased at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival across his most well known serious and light fare. Specifically, in this instance his wonderful ’70s revival of the screwball comedy with, What’s Up Doc? His story, adapted by Buck Henry, Robert Benton, and David Newman, a wild tale of skullduggery and romance set in San Francisco. Bogdanovich amusingly inserted a Muzak version the Cole Porter standard, by way of the scene’s hotel lobby’s background music, as a cue to character motivation. Here utilizing his second song from the ’34 musical (he famously used “You’re the Top” for the opening titles sequence) to apply to both the starving Judy Maxwell’s scheme to find food3 and the hotel’s nefarious staff to steal a patron’s jewelry.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Speaking of opening titles sequences…one of the most melodious and spectacular greeted moviegoers with the initial sequel4 to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) three years later. The wunderkind Steven Spielberg, already headlong into a filmmaking career known for killer sharks and aliens visiting from other worlds, introduced Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom through music and dance, care of “Anything Goes.” Set in China, executive producer and co-writer George Lucas’s idea of a Busby Berkley dance number started the adventure off. Sensationally so, as the American nightclub singer5 performs for her Shanghai patrons as Porter’s pesky original lyrics were ported into Mandarin for a rousing opening that was breathtaking6. Yet equally recognizable and mystifying.
The entire series can be found here.
- Though basically a love song, “Anything Goes” also a mild philippic of societal mores. ↩
- Songfacts. ↩
- “The project eventually came into the hands of Peter Bogdanovich, who in conceiving a remake of Howard Hawks‘ Bringing Up Baby (1938) switched genders of the lead couple, making the wild, unpredictable Gould character a female, who would be played by, coincidentally, his ex-wife Barbra Streisand.” ~ IMDB ↩
- “Steven Spielberg‘s first sequel, though technically a prequel, as ‘Temple of Doom’ takes place in 1935, before Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) taking place in 1936, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) in 1938, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) in 1957.” ~ Wikipedia ↩
- The damsel-in-distress and future Mrs. Spielberg, Kate Capshaw as Wilhelmina “Willie” Scott learned Mandarin and took tap dance lessons for the sequence, though the tight dress prevented much of her disco. ↩
- The start of Temple of Doom was actually the last scene to be shot, though Capshaw’s beaded dress featured in some earlier location shots in Sri Lanka. ↩