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TCM Spotlight: Songs on Screen
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Songs on Screen - Fridays in December


From the time the movies learned to talk--and to sing--they have provided us with a treasure trove of great songs that have become inseparably linked with the films in which they were heard. This month, TCM spotlights some of the great songs that became a part of pop culture after being featured in movie soundtracks.

Join TCM host Dave Karger as he sits with singer/songwriter Chris Isaak to discuss the tunes chosen by Isaak for our tribute to Songs on Screen. Their conversation will cover the songwriters, the performers and the films themselves.

Isaak, celebrated for his 1950s rock'n'roll style and songs about lost love, is known for such hits as "Wicked Game," "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing" and "Somebody's Crying." He has enjoyed a close association with director David Lynch, who has used Isaak's music in several films, as well as casting him in the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992).

While some of Isaak's song choices are the obvious ones, others are not. For instance, from the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (1964) his selection is the Lennon/McCartney "She Loves You," which would become the group's best-selling single. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) has only one song--the Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini ballad "Moon River," sung so hauntingly by Audrey Hepburn--so that choice is preordained. So is the title tune from the Barbra Streisand/Robert Redford romance The Way We Were (1973); it was the only original song in that film and was composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman.

However, from the Elvis Presley vehicle Jailhouse Rock (1957), Isaak chooses "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care," a Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoll song that's less well-known than their title song for the film. Tune in to our Spotlight to catch the full listing of these choices along with Isaak's picks from the following films:

The Blackboard Jungle (1955), the story of beleaguered teachers in an inner-city school, starring Glenn Ford and featuring a breakout role for a young Sidney Poitier, was noted at the time for its groundbreaking use of rock'n'roll songs on the soundtrack.

High Society (1956), a musicalized version of The Philadelphia Story (1940) starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra, has the distinction of containing one of the last scores by the great Cole Porter before his retirement in 1958. Thunder Road (1958), a cult crime film with Robert Mitchum as a daring moonshiner, has songs composed or co-composed by the star (one of which is also performed by him).

The Graduate (1967), director Mike Nichols' definitive coming-of-age social comedy, is almost as famous for its Simon & Garfunkel score as for its storyline about a college graduate (Dustin Hoffman) involved with an older woman (Anne Bancroft). To Sir, with Love (1967), starring Sidney Poitier as an inspiring teacher in London's tough East End, had a Don Black/Mark London title tune performed by Lulu that became a No. 1 single, plus songs by other composers and lyricists.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), a heist movie starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, has music by Michel Legrand--including the famous "The Windmills of Your Mind," with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman--that became director Norman Jewison's favorite score from any of his films. Shaft (1971), the cool private-eye adventure starring Richard Roundtree, boasts a score written and performed by Isaac Hayes that includes the riveting theme song.

Tommy (1975), a film version of the rock opera album by The Who, stars Roger Daltrey and Ann-Margret and has a score by Pete Townshend with contributions by John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Thank God It's Friday (1978), a disco musical starring Jeff Goldblum and Debra Winger, features performances by The Commodores, Donna Summer and many other musical stars of the era.

by Roger Fristoe

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