Sunday, March 06, 2016
cinema obscura: James L. Brooks' "I'll Do Anything" (1994) - The Unseen Musical Version
James L. Brooks' notorious musical-turned-romantic comedy is a DVD candidate in its original form, something that has evaded the work.
For more than 20 years now.
You remember. The film started life as a full-fledged original musical, featuring nine songs written by Prince, Sinead O'Connor and Carole King, with choreography by Broadway's Twyla Tharp, but when test audiences complained that some of the musical numbers interfered with the movie, Brooks methodically started to remove them. One by one by one...
By the time he got through, all of the songs were gone, except for a snippet of one King song sung by little Whittni Wright, who plays the daughter of Nick Nolte's struggling actor in the movie.
The weird thing is, "I'll Do Anything" is all about Hollywood and its test screenings, and about how principles are sacrificed for the bottom line - namely to please audiences. In short, the film ironically turned into exactly what it was critiquing.
Brooks apparently has closely guarded the deleted songs, making sure no one sees or even hears them, although the old laser disc version of the movie included a "making of" documentary which provides glimpses of co-stars Albert Brooks and Julie Kavner performing in musical numbers. Also, for a while, bootleg copies of the soundtrack songs were floating around.
Back on February, 20th, 1994, the reliable, resourceful Chris Willman wrote an article for The Los Angeles Times, titled "Princely Bootleg: Some People'll Do Anything to Hear These Songs," about those bootleg CDs. Willman wrote:
"Albert Brooks croons two songs: 'I'll Do Anything' (lyric: 'What good is a captain if he ain't got a crew / What good is a me if I AIN'T . . . GOT . . . A YOU!') and 'There Is Lonely.' Brooks' singing voice has been described charitably as gravitating toward the Jimmy Durante or Tom Waits end of the gravelly scale, and less charitably as an Oscar the Grouch affectation.
"There are two more torturous tunes that draw the greatest winces from illicit listeners. One is Julie Kavner's 'My Little Pill,' a sort of update of 'Mother's Little Helper,' related to the truncated drug subplot, and recited in a maddeningly childlike sing-song voice. The other is Whittni Wright's rendition of Sinead O'Connor's mopey 'This Lonely Life' that won't have anyone comparing her to the other singing Whitney."
Apparently, Prince wrote something called "WoW!," for which Willman printed the lyric in its entirety. Not good. Still, I'd give anything to see and hear Nolte's singing debut on a song called "Be My Mirror."
Maybe one day...
Note in Passing: One of the outstanding non-musical moments in the film involves a meeting during which a few studio honchos and underlings discuss actors who have auditioned for a role, including Nolte. They are ruthless in their assessment of him. One of the underlings, played by Jolie Richardson, who had been dating Nolte and likes him, is asked if she finds him sexy and if she would sleep with him. (No one in the room is aware of her relationship with Nolte.) Too weak to challenge the popular opinion, she says "No" without missing a beat. An utterly memorable moment.
Posted by joe baltake at 10:49 AM