The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

August 8, 2012

Hamlisch left his signature on decades of films

LOS ANGELES — The word “prolific” gets tossed around a lot, but it couldn’t be more appropriate in discussing the work of the late, great Marvin Hamlisch. This is especially true in considering his many contributions to film over the past five-plus decades.

Yes, he’s been duly decorated in other artistic realms — the longtime Broadway favorite “A Chorus Line,” which eventually ended up on the big screen, earned him a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 — but he also crafted some of the best-loved and most enduring songs and scores in movie history.

Hamlisch died Monday after a brief illness, his family said. The former child prodigy, who was accepted to Juilliard School of Music at age 7, was 68.

Regardless of the genre or year, Hamlisch’s music had a unifying factor — something intangible, an old-fashioned sense of showmanship, a feeling of substance and a respect for craft. He tapped into our emotions in a way that felt intimate and personal, yet he expressed yearnings that are universally relatable,

One great example of this is “The Way We Were,” a soaring, unabashedly sentimental, achingly melancholy ballad from the 1973 Sydney Pollack romantic drama of the same name starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. Nearly 40 years later, it still holds up beautifully, and it gave Streisand one of her signature tunes.

It also earned Hamlisch the Academy Award for best original song, which he shared with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman. (The couple said in a statement Tuesday: “He was more than our collaborator. He was our beloved friend. He was family.”)

1974 was a huge year for Hamlisch at the Oscars: He also won for his original score for “The Way We Were” and for his instantly recognizable adaptation of Scott Joplin’s music for “The Sting,” the seven-time Oscar winner that reunited Butch and Sundance, Paul Newman and Redford, as Chicago con men along with director George Roy Hill. The theme song “The Entertainer” is so insanely catchy, it’ll probably be stuck in your head the rest of the week now. You’re welcome.

In a reflection of his versatility, Hamlisch also composed the greatest James Bond theme song yet in the 22-film history of the franchise (in my opinion at least — you can have “Goldfinger” or “Live and Let Die”) with “Nobody Does It Better” from 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

It’s romantic and wistful but with an increasing power, and like “The Way We Were” is for Streisand, it’s become a signature hit for Carly Simon. It’s so enduring, though, even Radiohead has performed a cover of it, putting their own spin on the song while remaining true to its essence.

If you were a little girl in the 1970s, you probably watched “Ice Castles” — a lot. And so you heard Hamlisch’s “Through the Eyes of Love” a lot. The 1978 drama follows the rise and fall of a figure skater who struggles to resurrect her career after a freak accident leaves her blind.

Hamlisch wrote the score and was nominated for an Oscar, alongside legendary lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, for Melissa Manchester’s ballad. This song is very “him” — starting out quietly and intimately with just a few notes on the piano, then building to a crescendo.

It sounds very of its time in retrospect but still finds a way to tug at you all these years later. And just try not to get choked up when Lynn-Holly Johnson trips over those roses on the ice and Robby Benson has to come out and rescue her.

There was, of course, a film version of “A Chorus Line” in 1985, directed by Richard Attenborough (of all people) and nominated for three Academy Awards, including one for yet another Hamlisch original song. But songs from the revered Broadway show, like “One” and “What I Did for Love,” have turned up in countless other films as disparate as “My Giant,” ‘’Shrek” and “American Dreamz.”

Naturally gifted and incredibly versatile, Hamlisch ranged from jazzy scores for the early Woody Allen comedies “Take the Money and Run” (1969) and “Bananas” (1971) to more somber work in heavy-duty dramas including “Ordinary People” (1980) and “Sophie’s Choice” (1982).

In between there were romances including the wistful theme for “Same Time, Next Year,” with Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda, and the disco-flavored title music for “Seems Like Old Times” (1980), with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase.

Hamlisch’s first movie credit was “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” a perky, optimistic pop tune that Lesley Gore sang in the 1965 comedy “Ski Party,” which featured Frankie Avalon in drag. The song lives on in places like the family film “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and was even used ironically during a police chase in the 1993 “Simpsons” episode “Marge on the Lam.”

The last film he scored was 2009’s “The Informant!” Steven Soderbergh’s ‘70s-tinged romp about a bungling, delusional whistleblower. Once the strains of Hamlisch’s jaunty score begin — an ideal accompaniment to the faded cinematography and Matt Damon’s helmet of hair and corny sportswear — you know you’re in some vividly retro, comic parallel universe. That’s how effectively Hamlisch could create a mood.


Text Only
AP story section
  • State to reopen Juvenile Home DES MOINES -- A district court judge on Wednesday ordered the state to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home, telling Gov. Terry Branstad he cannot unilaterally change a law approved by the state Legislature. Judge Scott Rosenberg said the home in Toledo was

    February 6, 2014

  • Panel OKs ban on remote abortion pill distribution DES MOINES -- A legislative panel approved a measure Wednesday that would ban the remote distribution of abortion pills, a proposal the bill's sponsor said is intended to delay the procedure and give women more time to change their minds. The subcomm

    February 6, 2014

  • Sioux City gambling group halts local grants SIOUX CITY -- The nonprofit that holds the gambling license for the Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino has voted to temporarily stop sending grants to local charities and government agencies. A legal dispute with the operator of the casino, Penn Nati

    January 15, 2014

  • Davenport pays, apologizes to hearing impaired man DAVENPORT (AP) -- The city of Davenport has issued an unusual apology to a former alderman after a police employee was caught on tape saying that he intentionally knocked softly on the hearing-impaired man's door when responding to a service call. Th

    January 15, 2014

  • Budget Branstad presents budget for next fiscal year DES MOINES -- Gov. Terry Branstad offered a budget proposal Tuesday that includes a tax break for veterans, a tuition freeze for college students and incentives to encourage Internet expansion in rural Iowa, a more modest list of priorities one year

    January 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gov. restores more felons' voting rights IOWA CITY (AP) -- Gov. Terry Branstad restored voting rights to more felons in 2013 than the prior two years combined, but thousands of others remain disenfranchised under a 2011 policy change. Data released by the governor's office to The Associated

    January 15, 2014

  • Man fatally shot at Fla. theater over texting WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) -- A 71-year-old retired police officer accused of shooting a man dead in a Florida movie theater told authorities that "he was in fear of being attacked" during Monday's confrontation. Curtis Reeves is charged with second-de

    January 15, 2014

  • Iowa Senator: Congress must confirm election board DES MOINES -- An Iowa senator asked a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday to confirm appointees to a federal election commission so a decision can be made about whether Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is properly using money for voter-fraud investig

    January 9, 2014

  • School Discipline Gov't: End overly zealous discipline in schools WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Obama administration is urging schools to abandon overly zealous discipline policies that civil rights advocates have long said lead to a school-to-prison pipeline that discriminates against minority students. The wide-ranging

    January 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Governor, lawmakers set modest goals for 2014 DES MOINES -- After reaching bipartisan agreements on several major policy initiatives last year, Gov. Terry Branstad said Wednesday that he is setting more modest expectations for the 2014 legislative session. Speaking at The Associated Press' annua

    January 9, 2014

AP Video
National News