×

10 Great Movie Music Moments by Michel Legrand

From "Windmills of Your Mind" to "Summer of '42" to "Papa Can You Hear Me?," here are clips of key moments when the maestro made us swoon.

Michel Legrand, who died in Paris Saturday at the age of 86, was among the most renowned film composers and songwriters of our time. He won three Oscars and five Grammys, and many of his songs have entered the pantheon as among the greatest of the 20th century. Here are 10 great film music moments from the career of this French genius:

1. “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964). The close collaboration of Legrand and filmmaker Jacques Demy produced this stunning, all-sung romantic drama about a star-crossed couple (Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo). It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and ultimately earned five Oscar nominations (three of them for the score). “I Will Wait for You” was the biggest song hit that emerged and quickly became a standard:

2. “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967). Legrand and Demy reunited for this splashy, colorful musical that added Americans Gene Kelly and George Chakiris to the usual French cast. The tuneful score (another Oscar nominee) produced several great songs, the most covered of which was “You Must Believe in Spring.” Tony Bennett has sung it often, here with pianist Bill Evans:

3. “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968). Legrand collaborated with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman on the opening song, “The Windmills of Your Mind,” which earned them all Oscars. Noel Harrison sang it in the movie, but dozens of other artists also performed it (including, notably, Dusty Springfield, who had the bigger hit in ’69). The film’s clever opening titles showcased it nicely:

4. “The Happy Ending” (1969). For this story of a failed marriage, director Richard Brooks had one request of Legrand and the Bergmans: write a song that would work both as love song and as later painful reminder of what went wrong. The result was one of their most popular (and Oscar-nominated): “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”

5. “Summer of ’42” (1971). Legrand’s wistful theme for this wartime coming-of-age drama about a war widow (Jennifer O’Neill) and a vacationing teen-age boy (Gary Grimes) earned Legrand his second Academy Award and his first Grammy:

6. “The Go-Between” (1971). For the acclaimed Harold Pinter-Joseph Losey adaptation of the novel about a turn-of-the-century affair between a farmer (Alan Bates) and an upper-class woman (Julie Christie), Legrand composed a classically styled theme and variations for two pianos and orchestra. It remains among his greatest works:

7. “Brian’s Song” (1971). Legrand’s moving score for this high-rated television movie about cancer-stricken Chicago Bears player Brian Piccolo (James Caan) won him an Emmy nomination and his second Grammy. Fifty million viewers tuned in, and Legrand’s theme was on the charts for eight weeks in 1972:

8. “The Three Musketeers” (1973). The sheer exuberance and joy of Legrand’s period-flavored music for Richard Lester’s all-star retelling of the Alexandre Dumas tale (with Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and others) is audible in this clip wherein the penniless Frenchmen scheme to acquire a decent lunch:

9. “Best Friends” (1982). Legrand and the Bergmans reteamed for the song “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” for this romantic comedy (with Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn standing in for screenwriters Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin, on whose real-life love affair this was based). Patti Austin and James Ingram sang the song, which has become another standard:

10. “Yentl” (1983). Legrand’s original song score, written with the Bergmans, won a well-deserved Oscar. Barbra Streisand co-wrote, directed and starred as a Jewish girl in Poland who defies tradition to seek an education denied to her because of her sex. “Papa Can You Hear Me?” is rooted in Hebraic musical tradition, and it’s among the most powerful scenes in the film:

More Music

  • A-ha!

    'A-ha: The Movie' on 'Take on Me' Band to Receive Worldwide Release (EXCLUSIVE)

    A feature documentary on Norwegian “Take On Me” singers A-ha will receive a worldwide release this November. “A-ha: The Movie,” distributed internationally by Esther van Messel’s First Hand Films, will be broadcast in theaters around the world on Nov. 26, with Germany’s Salzgeber releasing the film locally and First Hand Films handling the release in [...]

  • Rihanna

    Rihanna Pleads for Equality at NAACP Image Awards: 'Tell Your Friends to Pull Up'

    Rihanna was the recipient of the NAACP President’s Award. The honor is bestowed on an entertainer whose commitment to philanthropy is unparalleled. Rihanna, whose chosen charities include the Clara Lionel Foundation, Raising Malawi and UNICEF and was honored as Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2017, was in attendance for the NAACP Image Awards show, [...]

  • Lizzo51st Annual NAACP Image Awards, Arrivals,

    NAACP Winners 2020: The Complete List

    Lizzo was named Entertainer of the Year at the 51st NAACP Image Awards on Saturday. The singer-rapper edged out Angela Bassett, Billy Porter, Regina King and Tyler Perry for the night’s top prize. Warner Bros.’ legal drama “Just Mercy,” meanwhile, nearly swept the top film awards, taking home best motion picture, ensemble, best actor (Michael [...]

  • Yung Gravy

    Rapper Yung Gravy Brings 'Minnesota Nice' to Twin Cities: Concert Review

    There has always been a place for humor in rap, with a lineage reaching back to the Beastie Boys’ debut album or 2 Live Crew’s raunchy records in the eighties. The caveat for “funny” rap being that if you go the humorous route, you need to have your bars land right, and to do so [...]

  • BTS

    BTS Opens Up About the Past, Creativity and Inspiration for 'Map of the Soul: 7' (Watch)

    With a reported four million copies in worldwide pre-orders and their stars shining brighter than ever thanks to chart-topping albums and playing the world’s biggest stages, BTS’ just-released “Map of the Soul: 7” was sure to be a success no matter what it sounded like. But instead of resting on starpower, the record-breaking group decided [...]

  • Naim McNair Named Def Jam Senior

    Naim McNair Named Def Jam Senior VP of A&R

    In what may be the first signal of the next era of Def Jam Recordings, Naim McNair has been named senior VP of A&R at the company. The move comes just hours after it was confirmed that Paul Rosenberg, chairman and CEO of the label since January of 2018, is leaving his post at the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content