Out To Sea OST

 

            Charlie (Walter Matthau) is in deep to the bookies.  He convinces his brother-in-law Herb (Jack Lemmon) to join him on a free cruise where they can fleece the wealthy women.  He doesn’t tell Herb that the reason the cruise costs them nothing is Charlie signed them on as “dance hosts.”  While the deception annoys Herb, the situation presents a greater challenge for Charlie who can’t dance.  On board, their billet would make the stateroom in “A Night At The Opera” seem luxurious.

            This sets the scene for “Out To Sea,” a romantic comedy once again pairing Lemmon and Matthau, thirty years after their first teaming in Billy Wilder’s “The Fortune Cookie.”  Joined by such luminous actors as Donald O’Connor, Dyan Cannon, Gloria DeHaven, Brent Spiner, Elaine Stritch, Hal Linden and Rue McClanahan, this cast has 14 Oscar Nominations (and three statues between Lemmon  and Matthau), Five Emmy Awards and Three Tonys between them. More than the cast, though, the film attracted Jack Lemmon because it is “filled with great music and dancing.”

            “Honestly,” says composer David Newman, who wrote the film’s score, “it was treated like a musical. In an old style musical, before you would do any of the underscoring, all the pre-recorded music would be done, all the song and dance numbers and any incidentals.  If anyone is going to hum something for ten bars, that would have been done, so that they have something to lip-synch to in the film.”

            “This one was a little different,” agrees director Martha Coolidge.  “This movie is virtually a musical.  It doesn’t have much singing in it, but it has a lot of dancing that mixes with the scenes.  It also has dancing with dialogue.”

            It does have one singing role, though.  Brent Spiner, probably best known for his role as the android officer Data on TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation and the subsequent films, Star Trek: Generations  and Star Trek: First Contact, displays a talent few fans know he has: he sings, as he has in Broadway musicals including Big River and Sunday In The Park With George.  In the role of cruise director Gil Godwyn, he performs Irving Berlin’s classic “Cheek To Cheek” and the Latin standards “Sway” and “Oye Como Va.”  Coolidge can barely contain herself when she thinks of the latter. “Seriously,” she laughs, just thinking about it, “'Oye Como Va' has to be one of the funniest things that you've ever heard.”

            The comic version of the Tito Puente classic is just one of the tunes the ship’s big band “plays” during the course of the film.  These tunes were prerecorded before filming began, so the dancers could dance to them and the “band” could appear to play them.  Chris Boardman arranged the music for the big band. Coolidge had previously worked with him in a similar situation on her film version of  Lost In Yonkers. “Chris is a real specialist,” she says, “particularly in jazz band type stuff.  He's a composer, himself. He had a great sense of humor about it. I had to pick music that lent itself to comedy and had the right rhythm for Walter and Jack to dance to. We had to find the right rhythm.  That was also Chris' job, with Kim Blank, the choreographer.”

            It fell to David Newman to write a score that both added its own elements to the film and incorporated the prodigious amount of music already there. “In almost every reel there are two or three numbers that are synched,” he notes. “There are songs the characters are singing or they’re dancing to them or they’re humming.  There’s a scene where Walter Matthau hums the beginning of the overture to ‘The Barber of Seville,’ and then he flips into the end of Figaro’s aria and he’s in a different key.  It actually makes it fun.  The way you deal with a movie like this is you just don’t worry about moving from one style to another.

            “In this film, there are two relationships going on simultaneously,“ he adds. “I had a theme for each relationship.  I’m able to bring them together in the end, juxtapose them and develop material in was that are fun for a composer.  All of them work pretty well together”

            One of the bigger challenges of the soundtrack comes in the middle of the film, during a carnival-like port of call.  The scene incorporates native drumming, a lot of percussion instruments, bits of dialogue and elements of the score.  “We used a lot of native samples and did some live recording,” Newman recalls. “We laid quite a few percussion tracks.  A lot of these tracks had to be mixed on the dubbing stage, because they all had to be in a certain environment.  The dialogue and the scene, the music and the instruments passing by have to be captured.  There are a lot of instruments that you see, so we had to emulate these calabashes and tambourines and various kinds of hand drums.”

            “But it worked,” Coolidge sighs from the mixing stage.  “It all worked great.”