French composer Michel Legrand — the genius behind such unforgettable movie songs as “I Will Wait for You,” “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” and others — died Jan. 26 in Paris. I adored his scores as much as his songs, ranging from classics like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Summer of ’42 to less well-known but no less stunning scores for films like Peau d’Ane, Wuthering Heights, The Go-Between and The Three Musketeers. Few composers could boast as many familiar movie themes as Legrand. I was lucky enough to interview him, I think, three times over the years, and to see him in concert (whether with a full orchestra or just a small jazz combo) was never less than a complete joy. My obituary in Variety was followed by a collection of memorable moments from his career visible on YouTube.
This week, Variety published its first “Contenders” section designed to inform award voters (and watchers) about worthy work in 2018 releases. It may be a record for the earliest one yet (it’s still only October!); there’ll be another at the end of November. We started with three really interesting stories: Michel Legrand scoring Orson Welles’ final film, The Other Side of the Wind; British classical composer Thomas Ades doing his first film, Colette; and perennial favorite Alexandre Desplat, who has three scores in contention (most likely to gain attention: Isle of Dogs). Also in this issue: a preview of my composer panel at the inaugural Variety Music for Screens Summit, which was Tuesday, Oct. 30 in Hollywood.
Monday was an especially fun day, as I got to break a story I’ve been working on for weeks — that the Oscar-winning French composer Michel Legrand was scoring his second Orson Welles film, The Other Side of the Wind — some 44 years after their collaboration on F for Fake, the legendary filmmaker’s final completed film. Welles shot this between 1970 and 1976 and had hoped for another Legrand score when it was finished — which, like so many Welles projects, never was. The producers who are completing Wind reached out to the composer last year and received an enthusiastic “yes.” I was lucky enough to get quotes from both producer Frank Marshall and Legrand for the story, which Variety published to a surprising and immediate global response.
One of my favorite year-end tasks is compiling a list of what I think were the best albums of classic film and TV music to be released during the previous 12 months. First-time-ever releases (like Leonard Bernstein’s original On the Waterfront tracks), re-recordings (John Barry’s The Betsy), reissues on CD (Jerry Goldsmith’s Our Man Flint and In Like Flint LPs), expanded classics (Michel Legrand’s The Thomas Crown Affair) and box sets of great film and TV music (Elmer Bernstein’s Ava LPs, Star Trek: Enterprise) are all included. I chose 20, and had to drop five or six more that I really liked because of limited space. Thanks to all the producers and label execs who work so hard to keep us film-music buffs happy.