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The Sound of Movies

sat 18 feb 2023 12:00 hour
Composer: Michel Legrand

In the Jazz in the Film series, episode 341: Michel Legrand (18).


1. The Happy Ending (1969), part 2.
Samuel Goldwyn Studio Orchestra conducted by Michel Legrand.

2. Rita Reys sings: What are you doing the rest of your life?
Orchestra conducted by Rogier van Otterloo.

3. Jack Jones sings: What are you doing the rest of your life?
Orchestra conducted by Michel Legrand.

4. Sarah Vaughan sings: What are you doing the rest of your life?
Michel Legrand Orchestra conducted by Michel Legrand.


Michel Legrand (1932-2019) (episode 18)

In 1969, The Happy Ending was released in cinemas. The audience and critics were a bit confused; Richard Brooks’ film unabashedly addresses how the family expects the wife to play a natural, supportive role in the household. John Forsyth plays a tax consultant who has it all (including a mistress), Jean Simmons is his wife who suddenly realizes that her life cannot continue in this way. She leaves her family and goes to the Bahamas in search of a new life.

Michel Legrand composes a versatile score for this leap into the unknown. It is a long score, of which a double CD was released in 2009. In the previous episode of ‘Jazz in the Film’ featuring music by Michel Legrand, the first half of all his music was heard. Now follows the rest.

Legrand also creates a song, together with his favorite lyricists, the couple Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The song has become a standard in the crooner circuit. The title expresses exactly where the film is heading: ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’ The song receives an Oscar nomination, but it did not become so good overnight.

Regarding ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’, Alan Bergman later explained that when they worked with Michel Legrand, they wanted the melody first and then wrote the lyrics. Director Richard Brooks had given the couple the task of writing a text that could evoke double emotions. When the song plays at the beginning of the marriage, the lyrics should raise expectations. But when the unhappy housewife sits drinking in a bar at the end of her marriage, the song plays under this sequence, now with an entirely different interpretation. But, Brooks added to the task, the lyrics must be exactly the same as at the beginning.

Alan and Marilyn Bergman thought about it. And they waited for the music from Michel Legrand. Legrand came up with six or seven or eight melodies; all equally beautiful but not with the required melancholy. Until the Bergmans asked him, “What if you open the song with the question ‘What are you doing the rest of your life?’” Legrand replied with an “Oh, you mean that?” and he improvised the entire song at once on the piano.

In the film, ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’ is sung by Michael Dees. He opens this broadcast, but now sings much less carefree than under the Main Title sequence.

You will hear the second half of Michel Legrand’s score, followed by alternative recordings. Legrand conducts the studio orchestra at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios.

As proof that the song ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’ has become a standard on many jazz repertoire, we play three versions of artists with whom Michel Legrand himself has worked.

Rita Reys sings it on her album ‘Rita Reys Sings Michel Legrand’, in 1972. It is among other songs that Legrand has approved. He not only calls Rita Reys “one of the best European jazz singers I know” on the cover, but also states that he discovered that she is “a very good dramatic singer who not only sings the notes so well but also makes the words come out so beautifully.” Legrand also praises the orchestrations, the performance, and the recordings. All are under the direction of Rogier van Otterloo.

As the second performer, you will hear Jack Jones. We’ve already heard him sing the song version of the theme from the film La Piscine in Jazz in the Film 332, now titled ‘One at a Time’. In the same year, 1971, Jones recorded ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’, arranged and conducted by Michel Legrand himself for Jones’ album ‘Jack Jones Sings Michel Legrand’.

The third artist is Sarah Vaughan. She sings the song in 1972, in a recording made at the A&M Studio, with the Michel Legrand Orchestra conducted by the composer himself.


Kees Hogenbirk. 

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