The Music of Woody Allen

by Paul Power

First off, in true Woody Allen style, a confession: I've been a long-term fan of Allen and his films ever since a school screening of Sleeper. While few other film-makers have so consistanty hit the comedic mark over the years, an equally enduring feature of his films has been their music. From his earliest offerings with Marvin Hamlisch ( who was then a lightweight version of Henry Mancini) through to his close association over the past 18 years with Dick Hyman, Allen's films have also featured scores by Prokofiev, Mendelssohn and Kurt Weill as well as jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe. But Allen's enduring musical love affair has been with those American songwriters of the 1920's, '30s and '40s - Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart - who defined stage, screen and popular music for the middle third of this century. Through his films Allen has certainly revealed his beating musical heart and, in Everyone Says I Love You, it's syncopatin' !

Everyone Says I Love You is Allen's paeon to the heyday of the great American songbook and location based musicals such as An American in Paris, Funny Face and Anchors Aweigh. In what is both an homage to and an affectionate wry nudge at the glorious innocence of screen musicals, Allen has employed a curious scoring method which works seamlessly, linking and punctuating the scenes and locations. Although the score has remained intact, some of the libretto has been altered to suit Allen's wicked sense of humour. (Changing lyrics is nothing new however, after Cole Porter had composed his classic 'Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)' none other then Noel Coward introduced the saucy lyrics that most of us now associate with the melody).

Several of the songs featured in Everyone Says I Love You have already featured in other Allen movies such as 'Makin' Whoppee' (Husbands and Wives), 'Chinatown, My Chinatown' (Radio Days) and 'Just You, Just Me' (Hannah and her Sisters). However, it's as appropriate to describe Everyone Says I Love You as a musical as it is to term a Marx Brothers film - even their early one's like The Cocoanuts - a musical. Fundamentally,' ESILY' is a comedy with (a lot of) musical numbers thrown in. As Allen himself has declared "I don't even think of it as a musical but as a comedy where the characters sing and dance". In fact what Allen's new film most resembles is a Marx Brothers movie. Edward Norton plats the hapless Holden (Zeppo), Allen as Joe gets to be Groucho, moustache and all, Tim Roth the sociopathic Charles Ferry, is closest in manner to Chico, and, because she's the only cast member who gets her singing lines dubbed, Drew Barrymore as Skylar is the film's Harpo. Even the Helen Miles singers serve the same ensemble singing purpose as the Crinolene Choir in A Day at the Races. Allen's affection for the Marx Brother's extends to his centrepiecing the final, Parisian scenes, around a Christmas Eve Groucho party where all attending are made up as one or other of the Brothers. The French version of 'Hooray for Captain Spaulding' (from Animal Crackers) and 'Everyone Says I Love You' (Horse Feathers) are Allen's most demonsrable hommage to the Brothers and their long-running songwriting team of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby....

The remainder of this article can be found in Film West 28.