FORBES: Composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch is the subject of a new documentary premiering on PBS on December 27 (9/8C)
A who’s who of celebrities from the entertainment and sports worlds, ranging from Barbra Streisand, Steven Soderbergh and Idina Menzel to Joe Torre, Woody Allen and John Lithgow, is featured in a new documentary about the late composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch, premiering on PBS December 27.
Watch: The Inspiring Music of Marvin Hamlisch:
“Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love”–which was made with the cooperation of his family, including his widow, Terre Blair Hamlisch, and draws upon his personal archives– is by Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Dori Berinstein.
She and Hamlisch were collaborating on a new Broadway musical before his death in 2012; she is now working to finish the musical, which will feature his final score.
The documentary candidly profiles Hamlisch’s life, covering everything from his acceptance by the Juilliard School at the age of six and winning multiple Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Golden Globe awards, as well as a Tony and Pulitzer Prize, to professional and personal lows, including falling into a self-described “period of suffocating despair.”
Berinstein said the “main conceit” of the documentary was that she
“wanted Marvin to be the storyteller,”
which meant we would have to dive in deeply with the archival material. The footage guided our choices. We used not just the kinds of conversations he had on ‘The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson,’ but also when he would talk about the creative process.” Thus, the documentary not only shows Hamlisch discussing the writing of the Oscar-winning song, “The Way We Were,” but also features an interview with its lyricists, Marilyn and Alan Bergman.
The documentary explores another of Hamlisch’s passions, the New York Yankees; as Terre Blair Hamlisch said in it, his priorities were “music, Yankees, me.”
Born in New York in 1944, Hamlisch was a fan of the team his entire life. When he and his wife married, her gift to him was a trip to Yankees fantasy camp, because, she said, “when he entered Juilliard, they wanted to protect his hands, so I thought he needed to live life. He was out in the field and he was going to catch the ball, and the team ran out of the dugout and screamed, ‘Marvin, no, spare your hands,’ but he caught it, and he was in heaven.”
Joe Torre, former Yankees manager and current executive vice president for baseball operations of Major League Baseball, called Hamlisch“my greatest fan, because any time we lost games, it was always somebody’s else’s fault, it was never my fault.”
Hamlisch threw a 60th birthday party for Torre, shown in the documentary, at which he played “Happy Birthday” as if it were being performed by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Torre said that Hamlisch “just pulled stuff out of the air. When he started playing Beethoven, all that stuff, that was pretty moving for me. It sort of stunned me.”
Torre also arranged for the Yankees to have a World Series ring made for Hamlisch; he said that when he gave him the ring, he was “like a kid in a candy store. I had given Terre a heads-up that I needed his ring size. His connection with the Yankees was just very special to me.”
“He had the ability to make you feel better, no matter what your mood,” Torre said, adding, “As brilliant as he was, he always made you feel special when you were with him.”
Asked about her husband’s legacy, Terre Blair Hamlisch mentioned his “incredible body of work. Even today when you hear it, you hear his heart in his notes. In a time when there is so much competitiveness and materialism that has gone a bit rampant, especially in this country, I see a lot of loneliness.” She also pointed to his “humility, humanity, generosity” and concern that the music of “great American composers” be kept alive, which he did by serving as the pops conductor of orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle, San Diego, Buffalo and Washington, and conducting concerts of their music.
“Marvin with me and with others was what you saw, not a lot of complicated stuff,” she said.
Source: Jane Levere, Forbes Contributor