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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:

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