Once in a great while, a film will deliver a closing-credits theme song that is so off-the-mark that it almost destroys the emotional mood of the film that preceded it.
I’m talking about a film that has carefully and strenuously tried to make the audience feel a particular, hard-won thing, and then a stupid end-credits song comes along and pretty much betrays that effort.
I’m talking about bouncy, upbeat melodies that producers have inserted in order to persuade prospective audiences that the film is some kind of rousing, feel-good experience.
Delbert Mann and Paddy Chayefsky‘s Marty ends happily, of course, but mostly this mid ’50s Brooklyn drama is a serving of downmarket, anti-glam realism. It’s mainly a study of people struggling with ennui, boredom and watching their lives slowly turn to salt. IMHO the “Hey, Marty!” song at the very end is an abomination.
Daryl F. Zanuck‘s The Longest Day, a 178-minute epic about the D-Day invasion of 6.6.44, is a battle-and-adventure flick. The idea was to deliver thrilling feats of daring, valor and aggression on the part of Allied invaders without pelting the audience with too much blood or gore. Saving Private Ryan, it wasn’t. 4,414 Allied soldiers were killed that day; 2,000 died on Omaha Beach alone. Yes, the film ignores the body count while emphasizing the “we can do it!” spirit, but I wouldn’t say it plays like an Allied forces pep rally. Until, that is, the awful Paul Anka song that closes the film (the banal lyrics were sung by the Mitch Miller singers) is heard. I’ve no doubt that veterans of the actual invasion were appalled by it.
I’ve never forgotten how perfectly handled the ending of Titanic was, and how Celine Dion‘s “My Heart Will Go On” (music and lyrics by James Horner and Will Jennings) completely ruined the after-vibe. The closing-credits song should have been an Irish tune of some kind, something that alluded to the thousands of men who built the ship at the Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast. Instead audiences were yanked out of 1912 and thrown into a saccharine pop-music girly realm. Yes, the song was hugely popular and that millions still associate it with Titanic‘s emotional current. But the last 20 minutes of James Cameron‘s film were so much richer and deeper than anything summoned by Dion’s singing…it just makes me sick to think of it.
Other ending-credit songs that damaged or diluted the films they were composed for?