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Tuesday Top Ten: Marvin Hamlisch Movie Moments

Glenn here. I watched a lovely documentary last night called Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love. And oh, what did he did! The film screened this last weekend in New York (I admitted got my weekends wrong and thought it was this coming weekend), but screens on PBS at the end of the month. Hamlisch died last year at the age of 68 and, if you remember, Barbra Streisand performed a lovely memorial to him at this year's Oscar ceremony. I believe his last piece of original film work was the score for Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra. Since we're fans of lists and Marvin Hamlisch, let's take a look at his top ten movie moments.

Barbra and Liza (in gif form!), James Bond, Candice Bergen and more!

10. A Chorus Line
As long as you don't really tamper with the songs too much, it's really hard to ruin a film adaptation as much as A Chorus Line did. The film has its virtues, but Richard Attenborough's direction is not amongst them. No, but what remains of the original stage show is still poignant, moving stuff and Hamlisch's Tony-winning score is still excellent. Even Oscar-nominated addition "Surprise Surprise" is kind of fun even if somewhat out of place. 

9. "I Finally Found Someone" from The Mirror Has Two Faces
For all of this grandly, egotistically absurd film's faults - and, boy, does it have them! - I actually kind of like that Streisand went about making a romantic comedy for mature audiences. Topped off by this song that is so remarkably unhip in every way, I still can't help but enjoy it. My favourite line is, indeed, "My favourite line, was 'can I call you someone?'" I like that it speaks to the weariness of later-in-life love, which is a rare thing to see or hear about.

Considering Dori Berinstein managed to get Barbra Streisand for What He Did For Love, I'm surprised they didn't mention this one.

8. The Sting adapted score
There really are some scores that are so intrinsically linked to their films that it's impossible to think of one without the other. To prove how much times have changed, Hamlisch's slight reworking of ragtime classic "The Entertainer" went to no. 3 on the US Billboard chart. Of course, that was a time when film music, including instrumentals, were common place on music charts, but that's still wild, isn't it? 

7. This.

6. The Informant! original score
How this deliriously joyous score didn't land an Oscar nomination is beyond me. Surely one of the better cases of The Golden Globes sometimes knowing what's what (see also their nomination for Matt Damon in Soderbergh's delightful absurdist comedy). 

5. "Nobody Does it Better" from The Spy Who Loved Me
Still one of the best James Bond themes and very deserving of its Oscar nomination. And, really, it should have won, having lost out to "You Light Up My Life". Blegh. 

4. Sophie's Choice original score
We all know this film will forever have a place in film history due to Meryl Streep's performance, but can we get some love for Hamlisch's original score? Truly one of the most beautiful pieces of film music I can recall. "Love Theme"! "Train Ride to Brooklyn"! "Ample Makes This Bed"! So many pieces of composing that are every bit as powerful. Scores this classical don't seem to get much favour these days, but I could listen to this for hours.

3. "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" from Ski Party
Oh do not act like your toes don't dap and your head doesn't bop when you listen to Leslie Gore's infectiously addictive pop ditty plays. 

2. Oscar night, 1974
Hamlisch is one of only ten people to win three Oscars in a single night. "It's positively obscene!" What made these three wins - two for The Way We Were and one for The Sting - so great is that not only were they all deserved, but that Hamlisch is just so gosh darn entertaining. He was giving hilarious Oscar speeches long before Meryl Streep. I live for his acceptance speech for the song, "The Way We Were", and the priceless reactions of Liza and Barbra in the audience. If I had any ability at making gifs I would make that moment into one and watch it on a loop for all of time. The first video even includes Cher! What a gay ol' time these videos are.


Edit: The ever-talented Jason performed a technical miracle and made a gif. My life is over.

1. "The Way We Were" from The Way We Were
It's a cliche by now, but gosh Barbra Streisand cooing her way through this Oscar-winning song is just heaven. Is there anything more that even needs to be said? No, I don't think so. 

Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love screens on PBS on 12/27 and will be on DVD in January.

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Reader Comments (13)

His song The Way We Were unfailingly gives me goosebumps every single time it plays. A classic that at once conjures a singular moment in cinematic time while remaining inexorably and intoxicatingly timeless.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Glenn this was absolutely fantastic!

I love Marvin Hamlisch. I could listen to Chorus Line endlessly and the first thing I did after I saw Sophie's Choice for the first time was to buy the soundtrack. Still got it. In vinyl!

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Glenn, you are an old soul. As one myself, I appreciate your appreciation!

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

"The Way We Were" is an all-timer. I may have cried a little when Babs sang it at last year's Oscars.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterN8

That clip from Starting Over is gold! Is the whole movie that fun?

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Mike -Believe me, It's not!

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I've never actually seen it! I was looking up all his original movie songs on YouTube in research and came across that clip. Peggy has sadly dampened my expectations. It does have Jill Clayburgh and Candice though so upsides! The song was Golden Globe nominated, but then they also nominated his score for THE INFORMANT so maybe they just like him more than other composers.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

heh, the guy in the row behind has had just about enough of liza's coked out antics

i have seen 'starting over' and the scene above is the only thing i remember about it

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

So much great music. I remember struggling through Ski Party, a truly awful movie, and busting out laughing when Leslie Gore broke out with Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows. Not because of the song, which is highly enjoyable, but the movie was suddenly in stereophonic sound on this ratty old bus!!

That outfit that Ann-Margret is wearing is everything. Why oh why don't they wear anything so outlandish but cool anymore? Now everything is stylist controlled and usually very pretty and pretty boring.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

No mention yet of 'Bananas'? 'Quiero La Noche' must be the catchiest Woody Allen movie main theme...

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

Thanks for this article. A great composer, much missed. As well as those you mention, I'll second MrW's shout-out to Bananas - a great score. Also, his score for The Spy Who Loved Me - Bond goes disco-tastic! it works really, especially whenever Bond is skiing or driving. Thirdly, the theme song he co-wrote with Carole Bayer Sager for Ice Castles, "Through the Eyes of Love". A lovely song, and somehow both sweetly innocent and very grown-up.

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

In the gif, I want to know what the man two rows behind is looking at. Is he a time traveller? Because it looks like he's checking his tweets.

December 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterGlenn Dunks

It's a good week on TFE for EGOT winners! (Though, to be fair, when do they have bad weeks?) Martin Hamlisch, Rita Moreno... can we keep it rolling and get some Mel Brooks or Richard Rodgers love?

December 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

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