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Maltin on Music: Old Songs in New Movies

posted by Nell Minow

One of my very favorite writers on film is Leonard Maltin so I was delighted to see his new essay on the use of classic or obscure older songs in new movies.

Classic songs and selections from what’s now called the Great American Songbook still turn up in contemporary films, either suggested by music supervisors or thought of by savvy directors. Sometimes the usage is ironic or odd, as when Andrew Dominik chose to have Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards warbling “It’s Only a Paper Moon” while someone was being brutally murdered in Killing Them Softly.

More often, older music is used to evoke a particular mood or era. I anticipated hearing familiar tunes in Hyde Park on Hudson, which is set in 1939, but I was especially pleased to recognize two songs by The Ink Spots, “If I Didn’t Care” and “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” before a word was sung, as their guitar-and-piano introductions are so familiar.

I also listen for great songs and appreciate very much what they can do to enhance a movie’s mood and message.

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