Thanks for the Melodies

The L.A.M.Blog_A_Thon kicks off this month with the theme "Who are you thankful for?", the idea being to show some appreciation for film professionals other than actors and directors. I've decided to focus on the people behind the music in movies.

It seems impossible to talk about movie music without mentioning John Williams. He's well-known, well-respected, and has written some very beautiful film scores. The musical themes Williams creates are memorable and always seem to strike the right emotional chord. Can you think of an Indiana Jones movie without having the music come to mind? I know I can't. Superman and Jurassic Park also have instantly recognizable themes. And can you imagine the Star Wars universe without the John Williams score? Funky 70s music could have easily sent the first film into camp instead of classic, but the music John Williams composed elevates the whole thing. Williams can also do a lot with only a few notes, as proved by Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I also love the music from Catch Me if You Can. Sample it in the wonderfully stylized opening title sequence.

Another film composer I like is Henry Mancini. He's probably best known for The Pink Panther's jazzy theme and Breakfast at Tiffany's "Moon River". For the latter he had the lyrical help of Johnny Mercer, who also penned the words to Mancini's "Charade" and "Days of Wine and Roses".

Johnny Mercer is probably my favorite lyricist ever. His songs show he really loved language, playing with words for some very clever lines. In addition to the songs mentioned above that he did with Mancini, he also wrote the words for many other great songs used in movies. Credit him for the lyrics to: "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening", "Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive", "Blues in the Night", "Hooray for Hollywood", "Too Marvelous for Words", "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", "Come Rain or Come Shine", "Jeepers Creepers", "One For My Baby (and One More For the Road)", "Laura", and all the songs in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He wrote both words and music for "Something's Gotta Give", "Dream (When You're Feeling Blue)", and "I'm an Old Cowhand". Although many of these songs were written for old movies, a quick look at Mercer's imdb page shows that his work has withstood the test of time, as his songs are still showing up in movies today. Way to go, Johnny.

While great movies need great writers, actors and directors, great music can really become an essential part of a film and enhance the movie-watching experience. So I'm grateful for movie music and the talented people that make it happen.


David Bishop said...

I'm a film music lover. I took a course at my university in film music. The textbook was titled The Soul of Cinema. I think that pretty much sums up my view of film music.

Others I love include, Hans Zimmer, Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and of course Ennio Morricone.

Wendymoon said...

Ow, wow, David, sounds like you would be a lot more qualified to talk about this topic than I am. I didn't recognize the names you mentioned, but looking them up I can appreciate their work. And I remembered two more movie composers whose talents I enjoy: Max Steiner and James Horner.

David Bishop said...

Even before I knew I was a movie lover, I knew I was a movie music lover. Even at 11 years old, I remember wanting to listen to movie soundtracks. In fact, I was so obsessed with movie music, that I ignored most mainstream music until maybe halfway through high school.

I like Steiner and Horner as well. Have you heard the James Horner criticism? That he seems to reuse his music in most every movie he does?

Have you heard any Clint Mansell? He does some of the most impressive film music I've ever heard, but nobody I talk to knows who he is.

Fletch said...

On the topic of composers, I'm gonna give it up for David Holmes. He doesn't typically work on "serious" films, but his soundtracks helped make Out of Sight and the Ocean's Series the great fun (and great movies) that they are. As a bonus, I just saw that he did Code 46 as well, an underrated favorite of mine.

Wendymoon said...

Guess I'm another one of those people who isn't familiar with Clint Mansell, sorry. I do like the David Holmes Ocean music, though.

I have to mention one more (non-movie) composer I love: Bear McCreary. He does the music for Battlestar Galactica. My husband was into that show way before I was, and I swear it was hearing the music in the background that finally sucked me in. Really great stuff.

David Bishop said...

Just thought I'd make another comment.

There's a part of the Bernard Herrmann score for the film Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) which is almost exactly the same as Danny Elfman's Batman opening. Knowing Elfman was largely inspired by Herrmann doesn't surprise me at all.


Elfman also ripped parts of Nino Rota's score for 8 1/2 for PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

Both of which I love!

Thanks Movie Viewing girl for your contribution to the blogathon!

We want to see you again next month!

ps. Clint Mansell is the man. And so is Bernard Herrmann. And so is Ennio and Williams. And James Newton Howard and Zimmer.

I love film music!


Oh. And where's the John Barry love!?

Wendymoon said...

Joseph, you'll have to talk to David about that one, he's the one doing Bond music. http://hopingforsomethingtohopefor.blogspot.com/2008/11/my-top-5-bond-songs.html

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