Category Archives: George Gershwin

Rocks In The Attic #592: George Gershwin – ‘Manhattan (O.S.T.)’ (1979)

RITA#592
I recently got to see Woody Allen’s Manhattan on the big screen – re-released and screened as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival’s Autumn Classics programme.

Of the two most famous films of his ‘70s output – 1977’s Annie Hall and 1979’s Manhattan (the Rubber Soul / Revolver of Allen’s filmography) – I’ve always preferred Manhattan. While Annie Hall is undoubtedly a fantastic film, overshadowing Star Wars at the 1978 Academy Awards by winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay (Allen & Marshall Brickman) and Best Actress (Diane Keaton), it’s accolades also bring a lot of weight with it.

Manhattan, on the other hand, didn’t win a sausage at the 1980 Academy Awards – despite nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Mariel Hemingway) and Best Original Screenplay (Allen & Brickman again). Where Annie Hall is the quintessential Woody Allen film, and the progenitor of the modern romantic-comedy, it also suffers from being the most obvious, the one chosen as a life template by dilettante faux-bohemian women due to the kooky allure of Diane Keaton’s character.

Manhattan is the Woody Allen fan’s Woody Allen film. It’s shot in 2.35:1 widescreen black-and-white, which avoids the risk of any low-brow audience seeing it, and it’s also a much more low-key affair. The nature of the relationship between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton’s characters might be the narrative focus of Annie Hall, but in Manhattan this is merely a peripheral matter. Instead, the later film deals more with the threat of being alone in a city full of people. As a result, while the one-liners in Annie Hall may be funnier, the jokes in Manhattan have more weight.

While Annie Hall may serve as the template formula for the rom-coms of today’s cinema, it’s the overbearing melancholia of Manhattan that inspired perhaps the greatest film in the modern-day genre, Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally (1989).

Hit: Rhapsody In Blue

Hidden Gem: Mine

Rocks In The Attic #514: Frank Chacksfield – ‘The Music Of George Gershwin’ (1956)

RITA#514Frank Chacksfield has been hiding from me. I’ve just spent the best part of the last hour searching for this record on my shelves. I’m a super nerd when it comes to organising, so my collection is sorted alphabetically, and chronologically within each artist. As a result, things don’t tend to get lost too often. Chacksfield had other ideas though.

After a fruitless search looking side-on at the spines, I started thinking that maybe it had been stolen. Perhaps a burglar had eased his way into the house at night, gliding in stocking feet past the sleeping Great Dane, to remove an obscure orchestral record from 1956 out of my collection.

It could fetch a pretty penny online. I may have discovered it in a charity shop for a dollar or two, but its age – sixty years old – means that a copy in good condition can secure $25 online. The loveliest thing is the disc itself, as heavy as a slab of lead, and with the original deep-red Decca label.

I resorted (or should that be ‘re-sorted’?) to pulling my records out of their indexed prison to flick through the covers one by one. I really need to store my records like this, in racks like you would find at a record store. You see much more that the couple of millimetres that a record spine allows. Starting back from M, I eventually found Chacksfield holidaying in the ‘H’ section. Which dyslexic former version of myself did this?

My suspicion now shifts from the unlikely burglar to the chaotic children of the house. My ‘A’ to ‘M’ section sits in shelves next to play-mat of theirs, waiting for the day when its spines will be sprayed by a mixture of vomit, milk and Weetabix (only they call it Weet-Bix in this heathen country; it still sets like concrete when it dries, so at least some things never change).

I only bought this Chacksfield record because I like Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue from the opening of Woody Allen’s Manhattan. I’ve since found that soundtrack, so I have the real thing. I still love this sixty year old record though.

Hit: Rhapsody In Blue

Hidden Gem: Fascinating Rhythm