The competition is starting to heat up for the bottom half of the AFI's Top 100 Movie Songs list. As I go through the list, these songs all bring back great memories. Have you found your favorite yet?
Warner Bros. Studios
One of the most uplifting movie scores of the 1980's, "Fame" chronicled the lives of teenagers who were attending New York City High School for the Performing Arts in order to make their fantasy of a life in show business come true. The film was a box office smash that was made into a popular TV series, and the theme music was a pop hit. If you're as much of a sucker for feel-good movies as I am, you'll love "Fame!" A fine choice to start off the second half of the list.
from Porgy and Bess
A landmark film that has sadly never been brought to home video. Its signature song, "Summertime", is a Gershwin classic that cries with the plight of African Americans trapped by racism and poverty with so very little to cling to except a hope that their situation would improve someday.
He's the man. The man with the Midas touch! Yes, its the theme from the James Bond film "Goldfinger." Shirley Bassy's brassy, ballsy, rendition made this one of the few Bond scores to become a best-seller in its own right. Many consider this to be the acme of the Bond films, and I'd have to agree. And who could forget the album cover art of the bikini-clad beauty all painted gold! This song certainly made its mark on American culture, and the AFI deserves credit for finding a pick that wouldn't immediately come to mind when you think of great movie songs, just because its a Bond pic.
#54 Shall We Dance
from The King And I
If you haven't guessed yet, we just love classic movie musicals and there is no movie more deserving of that title than "The King and I" starring Yul Brenner and Deborah Kerr. It was the height of the 1950's epic movie musicals with production numbers choreographed to fill the entire Cinemascope screen with magical images, and "Shall We Dance" is the epitome of these great moments in movie history. Deborah Kerr's portrayal of the feisty, but charming Mrs. Anna, and Yul Brenner's imperious strutting with this hands on his hips was a marriage made in Hollywood Heaven. This film and this song certainly deserved better than #54 and the AFI shall be shamed for this outrageous insult, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!
#55 Flashdance...What a Feeling
One of the most widely-criticized movies of the 1980's, the modern fairy tale movie "Flashdance" featured newcomer Jennifer Beals as a construction worker who dreamed of being a dancer. The signature dance sequence was the object of scorn because they used a body-double for the dancing. Nevertheless, the movie was a hit with audiences and the song was a pop chart winner, too! I wouldn't have placed it this high on the list, but I wouldn't argue that it deserved to be in the top 100 somewhere.
#56 Thank Heaven for Little Girls
Warner Bros. Studios
Maurice Chevallier's "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" is just too much fun to keep it from the list. It didn't have any impact on American culture except insofar as the song became a classic, just because everyone loves to mimic Chevallier and his thick French accent. So, I say 'Why Not?' "Gigi" was a fun little musical starring the beautiful Leslie Caron and the equally beautiful Louis Jordan ;-)
#57 The Windmills of Your Mind
from The Thomas Crown Affair
Talk about your classics! "The Thomas Crown Affair" starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunnaway was a thrill ride for moviegoers. Quick cuts, a spectacular car chase, and the hottest chess game in history. The understated "The Windmills of Your Mind" by Noel Harrison (Rex's boy, whose only other claim to fame was co-starring in TV's 'The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.) was a perfect match for the convoluted plot of this thriller and was a hit single for a time. Loved the movie, but the song was a passing fancy. Not on my list. For the record, while I am a sucker for old movies, I thought the remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo was fabulous and deserved its popularity. If Rene Russo dancing in that see-through dress didn't make your heart race as much as Faye Dunnaway diddling with the bishop, you're batting for the other team.
#58 Gonna Fly Now
The Rocky theme has become a staple of sporting events, and it's a worthy entrant on that basis. A journeyman effort with the appropriate orchestration, it served as a fitting background to the movie's best-known scene of Stallone climbing the steps of the Philly city hall and raising his fists in triumph after a grueling run. Ignoring the merits of the movie, the song made its mark and could not be overlooked.
from West Side Story
Warner Bros. Studios
Here's a great song by any measure. Sondheim's crisp ballad of two lovers each anticipating seeing the other distills the love and longing of Tony and Maria. One of movie's best songs and one that should easily have ranked in the top 50 if only for the tightly woven and compelling lyrics backed by Leonard Bernstein's heart-pounding score.
#60 It Had to Be You
from When Harry Met Sally
The Harry Connick cover of the magical Frank Sinatra classic gave voice to the Nora Ephron story of "When Harry Met Sally." I think we all would have preferred Sinatra's original version of the song, but who cares. It fit the movie like a glove, and the movie is one of the best of the last 20 years.