Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Play it again: the movie music of Woody Allen
I've always looked upon Woody Allen as my celluloid rabbi. In addition to imparting Jewish wisdom (and a heritage of laughter) Woody's interest in American jazz and popular songs offered up a refresher course in swing music.
Long before Woody's soundtracks set my toes a-tapping, there was Carl Stalling, whose bouncy scores for Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were in part fueled by the Warner Bros. song catalog. (Composer Raymond Scott deserves a tip of the hat as well for his thundering jazz instrumental, Powerhouse.) These rubbery scores were the perfect counterpart to the squash-and-stretch antics taking place on the screen.
Had the shorts contained a complete list of songs at the end -- the closing credits would lasted almost as long as the cartoon -- my love of jazz music would have started at a much earlier age.
The Lovin' Spoonful (What's Up, Tiger Lily?) and Marvin Hamlisch (Take the Money and Run, Bananas) provided the music for Woody's first three directorial efforts. If I'm not mistaken, Woody's first use of a vintage jazz tune as a director -- Play it Again, Sam doesn't count -- was Irving Aaronson & his Commanders 1928 recording of Cole Porter's Let's Misbehave, played under the field of bunnies that opened Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.
Woody wrote the score to Sleeper and performed it along with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Prokofiev pretty much ownsLove and Death, while Interiors is briefly lit by Tommy Dorsey's Keepin' Out of Mischief Now. TD's Sleepy Lagoon can be heard in Annie Hall, as well as Ms. Keaton's lovely rendition of Seems Like Old Times. Manhattan is Gershwin, making Stardust Memories Woody's first film to use pre-recorded jazz for his score.
What follows isn't entirely jazz. I've been able to track down 183 songs (so far) on YouTube from various Woody Allen pictures. There are a few classical additions, but since composers vary -- and I was trying my best to stick with music used in the film -- they're limited.
I did include a Spoonful of Tiger Lily and, of course, Tom Jones' rousing rendition of What's New, Pussycat? And God bless the person kind enough to make available the entire soundtrack to Bananas.
You can't buy this video in any store, and if you could, you'd pay thousands. Here is a gift for Big Screen readers to help brighter your workday. Hit the shuffle button and have fun!
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