The Happy Ending
The Happy Ending (1969) was writer-producer-director Richard Brooks’s deconstruction of modern marriage, featuring an Oscar-nominated performance by Jean Simmons (Brooks’s wife at the time). Fairy tales typically end with the couple living “happily ever after”; Brooks wanted to examine what comes afterward in the modern world, and how it often fails to live up to the advertising. Simmons plays Mary, a woman who—like many of her generation—married at an early age (to tax attorney Fred Wilson, played by John Forsythe). By middle age she is trapped in a loveless suburban prison of a home, turning to booze and pills to medicate away her lackluster days. On the day of her 16th wedding anniversary Mary hops a plane to the Bahamas, where she reminisces about events of the past year (depicted as flashbacks): her tawdry, unpleasant 15th anniversary party (spoiled by Fred’s obnoxious clients); Fred’s affair and her retaliatory suicide attempt; and their subsequent failed reconciliation.
Brooks was a hot filmmaker at the time, having made Elmer Gantry (1960), The Professionals (1966) and In Cold Blood (1967). The Happy Ending was a personal project not only in that it starred his wife but also in its expression of a politically liberal and feminist view of modern gender relations. The film received mixed reviews although critics were appreciative of Simmons’s performance and the attempt to make a statement about the inequities of the modern marriage, using a complex flashback structure that was to some extent indebted to European “New Wave” cinema. Also lauded were Conrad Hall’s cinematography, lensed in part on location in Denver (home of the Wilsons) and the Bahamas, and the excellent score by Michel Legrand.
The late 1960s were Michel Legrand’s heyday and The Happy Ending is revealed here to be one of his greatest and most entertaining film scores. Legrand was personally chosen for the film by Brooks (they had not worked together before) and, according to press notes, “flew from Paris and spent three months conferring with Brooks while writing the music.” A song was required to encapsulate the film’s point of view about marriage so Legrand and lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman—reuniting after their Oscar-winning “The Windmills of Your Mind” from The Thomas Crown Affair the previous year—created a beauty in “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” It is practically the quintessential example of a great movie song, featuring a memorable, slightly unorthodox melody, poetic, literate lyrics, beautiful orchestration, and a perfect relevance to the story at hand—the title says it all. In the film, vocal versions (sung by Michael Dees) are not merely excerpted coming from car radios (for example) but play in full through key montages bookending the marriage of the principal characters.
Speaking in an August 2007 NPR interview about the creative process with Legrand, Alan Bergman revealed, “With Michel, we can’t write lyrics first, we prefer not to write lyrics first, we prefer to have the melody. We feel that when we have the melody there are words on the tips of those notes and we have to find them.” In the same interview, Marilyn Bergman reminisced about the creation of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”:
Richard Brooks came to us one day and said, “I want you to write me a song that is to appear twice in the film. Early in the film I want it to function as perhaps a proposal of marriage between these two young lovers but I want to hear the song again at the end of the film.” 16 years later the wife has become alcoholic and left her husband and is in a bar and goes to a jukebox and selects a song and then sits down with a lineup of martinis in front of her. And he shot this beautiful montage during which time she drifts into a kind of reverie while listening to the same song. And he said, “I don’t want you to change a note or a word, but I want the song to mean something very different when you hear it the second time.”
So that was a very interesting, challenging assignment. And Michel Legrand wrote six or eight tunes (as is his wont) for this spot, and they were all beautiful, but none of them really struck the three of us as being right. And we said to him—because as he was writing music we were sitting trying to solve the dramatic question of what the song should be about—we said to him, “What happens if the first line of the song is ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’”
And he said, “Oh, I like that.” And he put his hands on the keys, and as long as it takes to play that song, that’s what he played, from beginning to end. And he said, “You mean something like that?” And we said, “No, we mean exactly like that.” Alan said to him, “Play it again.” And he said, “Oh, I don’t remember quite what I played.” Luckily we had the tape machine going, so we had the music.
Beyond the song—which is adapted to form the basis of numerous cues—Legrand provides a great variety of score and source cues that were only hinted at on the soundtrack LP released by United Artists. Two additional songs (sung by Bill Eaton, with lyrics by the Bergmans) score Mary’s Caribbean vacation with a tropical flavor, while source cues provide tuneful diversions in styles ranging from soft jazz to raucous pop-rock. On the classical end of the spectrum, Legrand’s instrumental passages (some of which were not used in the finished film) are beautifully hewn and orchestrated by the composer himself to stand out as far more than simple renditions of the song without lyrics: they not only empathize with Mary’s story but often provide a subtle irony and humor to evoke her journey. Finally, Legrand uses a delicate sense of classical form and Baroque harmonies to lend a sense of timeless, aching nostalgia to the bittersweet story of a marriage on the rocks.
Legrand’s score was appreciated by the critics. Charles Champlin in the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Michel Legrand, Alan and Marilyn Bergman have collaborated on a theme (not title) song which has a lovely romantic optimism that Brooks, in all honesty, could not quite give the story. Legrand’s score overall has the feeling that it was written entirely in the wee small hours of the morning, over brandy and sweet regret.” Variety commented: “Michel Legrand has contributed a slick, bluesy score with one circa-’50s-style ballad, ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’ that is as bittersweet and poignant as ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ in context.” The Hollywood Reporter had a criticism, but one more applicable to the film: “Michel Legrand’s score is a mistake, the intention having been to further emphasize the romantic illusion of the woman’s life. It is one emphasis too many and the one most likely to prompt the audience to believe that the film has fallen prey to the same illusions.”
The Happy Ending was recorded during an era for which most United Artists master tapes have since bitten the dust except for the album masters—the gods of film music have deigned to smile on this one, however, for the ½″ three-track scoring sessions (complete except for Michael Dees’s vocals and selected bits and pieces) exist in pristine shape in the MGM vaults. The complete soundtrack has been reconstructed from the ½″ tapes and ¼″ album master and is presented across discs 5 and 6 of this collection. To reconstruct the LP sequence, program these tracks:
- What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (disc 6, track 1)
- Collage (Main Title) (disc 6, track 9)
- Diamonds Are Forever (disc 5, track 2)
- What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (disc 6, track 10)
- Floating Time (disc 5, track 9)
- Hurry Up ’n’ Hurry Down (disc 6, track 14)
- Whistle While You Swing (disc 5, track 22) [start of LP side two]
- What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (disc 5, track 3)
- Something for Everybody (disc 5, track 11)
- The Pause That Refreshes (disc 5, track 21)
- It Ought to Be Forever (disc 5, track 18)
- Smooth Sailing (disc 6, track 5)
- What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (End Title) (disc 6, track 8)
- 1. Collage (Main Title)
- The main titles unfold in 1953 over shots of young Fred Wilson (John Forsythe) driving Mary (Jean Simmons), his wife-to-be, out on a date. Legrand’s innovative “Collage” features a walking-bass jazz track (recorded as “Main Title Floor”) over which no fewer than 19 overlays appear, to indicate the hustle and bustle of the city—as if picked up by the car’s radio when the vehicle passes by. A hint of the main theme (“What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”) is one of several glimpses of the themes and styles to come in the body of the score. On this premiere CD release, the sequence ends with a symphonic “Big Finish” as source music for a romantic drive-in movie.
- 2. Diamonds Are Forever
- This lovely, Baroque-flavored cue (having nothing to do with James Bond—the film of that title was released two years later) accompanies a montage detailing the courtship of Fred and Mary, tempering their picture-perfect romance with a sadness beautifully conveyed by harpsichord sonoroties and evocations of Bach. The cue emphasizes the ritualistic nature of romance, as if the characters are merely cogs in a machine—and yet Legrand’s music carries great beauty as well.
- 3. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (First Time)
- Michael Dees sings the main theme as Fred and Mary’s courtship montage continues with a romantic ski trip.
- 4. Till Death Do Us Part
- Fred and Mary are wed, accompanied by an over-the-top piece of symphonic triumph as Mary’s thoughts (images of romantic movies) are displayed, juxtaposed with her slightly bewildered expression. Tellingly, the cue ends with strings (recorded separately) frittering downward—like a balloon deflating and falling back to earth.
- That Trapped Feeling
- By 1969 Mary is trapped in a loveless marriage, medicating herself with pills and alcohol. During a stolen moment she looks longingly at a magazine advertisement for a vacation in the Bahamas; Legrand echoes her thoughts with a light Caribbean cue that foreshadows “Hurry Up ’n’ Hurry Down” (disc 5, track 10).
- 5. Soft Sell
- Fred, a tax attorney, visits one of his clients: ad man Harry Bricker (Dick Shawn). This light Muzak cue (featuring Legrand on vocals) is heard as source music at Bricker’s agency.
- 6. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (Bedtime Story)
- Mary “drops out” of her life and boards a plane for the Bahamas. During the flight she reminisces about a bedtime story she and Fred told their daughter Marge years ago when the young girl perceptively asked about the meaning of “happily ever after.” A music box-style rendition of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” plays for the intimate moment.
- 7. Is Everybody Happy?
- Mary flashes back to her 15th anniversary party with Fred—a drunken affair attended by Fred’s obnoxious clients. This jazz-rock instrumental is the first source cue heard at the party.
- 8. Blowout
- Legrand’s writing really swings in this jazzy party instrumental featuring smoking performances, particularly by muted trumpet.
- 9. Floating Time
- The party music takes a turn into sensuous string writing (a cue ambiguously score or source) as Mary converses with a female guest in her bedroom. The cue title refers to Mary’s pontification about a state of perfect inebriation she once achieved for an entire month.
- 10. Hurry Up ’n’ Hurry Down (extended version)
- Mary arrives in the Bahamas, where she hooks up with Flo (Shirley Jones), a college friend she recognized on the flight, and Flo’s (married) boyfriend, Sam (Lloyd Bridges). Bill Eaton sings the Bergmans’ lyrics about carefree tropical relaxation to Legrand’s music; in the finished film, the first 1:15 is a different take featuring a more pop-based instrumental track that was not available on the master tapes.
- 11. Something for Everybody
- A second Caribbean song (again sung by Bill Eaton) plays as the threesome hit the beach.
- 12. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (Walk Along Beach) (album version)
- Feeling left out of Flo and Sam’s romance, Mary walks on the beach in a melancholy mood and takes a photograph for a young couple. The main theme plays as she recalls her own young love with Fred. This is an extended version of the cue recorded for the Happy Ending LP.
- 13. Three’s a Crowd
- This track is the first of five versions of two source cues recorded for Mary, Flo and Sam hitting a resort restaurant and casino. Legrand’s alternate versions are so different that they are all sequenced here concurrently without seeming redundant. The film version of “Three’s a Crowd” lays down a happening groove for the casino, where Mary is spotted by a hustler, Franco (Bobby Darin).
- 14. Bahama Blues v. III
- This mellow track for jazz trio (piano, drums and acoustic bass) is used as restaurant source music, preceding disc 5, track 13 in the finished film.
- 15. Three’s a Crowd (alternate)
- This is an unused, faster version of disc 5, track 13—feeling like a completely different piece thanks to the up-tempo energy.
- 16. Bahama Blues v. I
- This tropical big band jazz piece was not used in the finished film.
- 17. The Windmills of Your Mind (Bahama Blues v. II)
- Heard at the casino bar—where Franco introduces himself to Mary—is this jazz trio rendition of “The Windmills of Your Mind,” the hit song by Legrand and the Bergmans from The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). In a bit of verisimilitude, the song was very popular in 1969, and a very plausible selection to be played as Muzak.
- 18. It Ought to Be Forever
- Franco seduces Mary on his houseboat, believing her to be wealthy. A sumptuous, jazzy piece with luscious strings accompanies the romance—until she mentions her husband is not, in fact, a millionaire. Franco abruptly turns off the radio (stopping the music cue) and drops his Italian playboy act.
- 19. The $100 Understanding/Siren Effect/Emergency Room
- Mary gives “Franco” a $100 bill to thank him for the small excitement his charade has brought her. The main theme emerges out of a bubbling, infectious Legrand creation (“The $100 Understanding”)—until Mary flashes back to a near-death experience when she overdosed on pills and had to have her stomach pumped in the emergency room. In the finished film, “Siren Effect” is an eerie sustain for dissonant strings to emulate the ambulance that races Mary to the hospital. Heard on CD—but omitted from the film—is a dynamic piece of dark, symphonic-jazz underscoring for Mary’s near-death experience (“Emergency Room”).
- 20. Reconciliation
- Continuing the flashback, Mary recovers from her suicide attempt—which had been brought on by Fred’s affair with a client—and tries to make a fresh start in her marriage. The first minute of this track is the version of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” Legrand intended for Mary’s homecoming—in the finished film this was replaced with the record version of the “Finale.” The balance of the track is the same as in the film, with a romantic version of the main theme as Fred and Mary go on a second honeymoon, segueing to primarily jazzy statements as Mary sneaks alcohol more and more frequently during her day-to-day activities.
- 21. The Pause That Refreshes
- This track was not used in the finished film although it did appear on the Happy Ending LP. Judging by the title, its jazzy inflections (featuring a solo flutist humming into the instrument) were meant to underscore Mary sneaking drinks.
- 22. Whistle While You Swing
- This second humorously jazzy cue for Mary’s alcoholic exploits (she spritzes booze into her mouth from a perfume dispenser while buying an expensive fur coat) was used in the film.
- 23. The Stripper
- Fred is apoplectic about Mary’s shopping spree at a clothing store; he demands she “take it off” so she performs an obnoxious striptease in the store’s dressing room, for which Legrand re-recorded David Rose’s famous “The Stripper.”
- 1. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (Record Source)
- Her marriage again in shambles, Mary goes to a bar to drown her sorrow in cigarettes and alcohol and reflect upon the disappointments of her life. The second vocal version of the main theme (again performed by Michael Dees) forms a bookend with the first—this time playing for the end of love rather than the beginning.
- 2. The Accident
- Mary flees the bar (to avoid Fred) and causes a traffic accident. Images of the accident (and her subsequent arrest) are intercut with flashbacks of her troubled life; Legrand provides an abstract piece of jazz (with memorable use of walking bass) which in the film (and represented here) is overlaid with dissonant brass and percussion tracked from “Emergency Room” (disc 5, track 19).
- 3. Bahama by Night
- The film returns to the present with Mary luxuriating in the Bahama surf at night, smiling in a type of catharsis. In the finished film, the end of the cue is used to replace the beginning; both are gentle versions of the main theme. The next day, Mary and Flo confide in each other accompanied by a new theme, a kind of Parisian two-step (the first part of this music dialed out of the film); Mary also spots Franco, putting on his playboy act for an older woman. The main theme returns the next night as Flo tells Mary good news: Flo and Sam are getting married.
- 4. Smooth Sailing v. II
- Disc 6, tracks 4 and 5 are two versions of a cue not used in the finished film. Version 2 is an elegant, Baroque-flavored piece.
- 5. Smooth Sailing v. I
- The first version of “Smooth Sailing” has a similar classical tone but more of a contemporary flavor with the use of rhythm section. Although not heard in the film, it was included on the Happy Ending LP.
- 6. Situation Wanted
- Mary returns to Denver, where she moves into her own apartment and looks for a job; abstract jazz (featuring walking bass) evokes the cool modern world. A brief section (1:16–1:31) heard as Marge walks into a department store to find Mary working there is dialed out of the finished film. The jazz resumes as Mary and Marge go for a walk, and at 2:14 the piece becomes a reflective version of the main theme as Mary reunites with her daughter, Marge (Kathy Fields).
- 7. Mary and Fred
- Fred finds Mary in the city; they talk and reflect. Legrand’s elegant, slightly Baroque version of the main theme was not used in the film (which instead played one of the overlays from the “Collage” main title to start the scene). Legrand’s cue is reminiscent of his unused score for The Appointment (FSMCD Vol. 6, No. 11).
- 8. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (End Title) (album version)
- Fred asks Mary to return home but she declines. The film ends on a bittersweet note with the end of the “happy ending” and a final, beautifully melancholy version of the main theme. This is the extended version of the finale used on the Happy Ending LP.
Additional and Alternate Cues
- 9. Collage (Main Title) (album mix)
- This is the version of the main title presented on the Happy Ending LP, without the “Big Finish.”
- 10. Transition
- These are two versions of an unused transition cue that was meant to be heard in the film somewhere between “Roadmap for Casablanca” (disc 6, track 21) and “Hail to the Chief” (disc 6, track 22).
- 11. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (Record Source) (instrumental alternate)
- This is an alternate instrumental version of disc 6, track 1 that was included on the Happy Ending LP. It is not merely the backing track from the vocal version but a different orchestral arrangement of the theme.
- 12. Party Source
- This piece of jazz-rock source music was presumably recorded for the anniversary party sequence, but not used in the finished film.
- 13. Happy Anniversary, Baby
- This rock source cue (heard at the anniversary party prior to “Blowout,” disc 5, track 8) features a raucous vocal that has been drawn from the finished film’s edited music stem, as the vocal track was otherwise lost.
- 14. Hurry Up ’n’ Hurry Down (album version)
- This is the version of “Hurry Up ’n’ Hurry Down” included on the Happy Ending LP—omitting the central instrumental passage from the film version (disc 5, track 10) that played under dialogue.
- 15. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (Walk Along Beach) (film version)
- This is the shorter film version of disc 5, track 12.
- 16. Siren Effect/Emergency Room (alternate)
- Mary’s flashback to her overdose is presented in alternate versions: the “Siren Effect” is Legrand’s first recorded take, with more elaborate, seesawing strings; an alternate version of “Emergency Room” (part of which is heard in the film—see disc 6, track 2) tacets the strings heard on disc 5, track 19.
- 17. The Accident (alternate)
- This is Legrand’s recorded version of disc 6, track 2 without the overlay from the alternate version of “Emergency Room.”
- 18. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (End Title) (film version)
- This is the shorter version of the finale music—featuring the main theme—as heard in the film.
- 19. Newsreel and God Save the Queen
- In the film, this source music appears immediately after the “Collage (Main Title)” as the drive-in theater shows a newsreel covering the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
- 20. Organ for TV
- This source cue is heard at a bar where a soap opera plays on TV; Mary goes there for a midday drink with her maid, Agnes (Nannette Fabray), early in the film (after “Soft Sell,” disc 5, track 5) while Fred phones all over town trying to track her down.
- 21. Roadmap for Casablanca
- After the 15th anniversary party, Mary turns on the TV and watches Casablanca, swooning along with its love story. Legrand re-recorded excerpts from the famous Max Steiner score, which interpolates “As Time Goes By” by Herman Hupfeld as well as “La Marseillaise.”
- 22. Hail to the Chief
- While Mary heads to the Bahamas, Fred entertains guests alone at his and Mary’s 16th anniversary party. The TV set is on, playing Richard Nixon’s presidential inauguration; Legrand recorded “Hail to the Chief” as source music although a library version was used in the finished film.
- 23. Auld Lang Syne
- Harry Bricker drolly plays “Auld Lang Syne” on the piano at the abortive 16th anniversary party.
- 24. Organ for TV Show
- A second piece of soap opera source music is heard on Mary’s kitchen TV set after disc 5, track 20.
- 25. America the Beautiful
- A ragged version of “America the Beautiful” is heard ironically under a brief montage of Mary desperately trying to improve her looks by hitting the gym; this precedes disc 5, track 22 in the finished film. — Lukas Kendall
From the original United Artists LP
Music and film have at least one thing in common: their primary function is to evoke images.
In most instances, I believe, the score of a movie ought to be contrapuntal. Film music should do more than punctuate a moment or bridge two scenes; it can and should induce an audience to recall earlier emotional involvements. Music should create a mood, a texture, on which the filmic action is structured.
The score, in skillful and imaginative hands, becomes more than “background noise”—it becomes, instead, a vital “character.” Therefore, the choice of composer is a most serious consideration.
I felt that Michel Legrand was the proper choice for The Happy Ending. His vast reservoir of musical knowledge ranges from classical to modern jazz. He is a consummate artist, a most demanding professional. Most of all, he is “romantic” by nature.
Unlike other composers, Legrand is not derivative. He does not repeat himself. He does not “farm out” his work. He actually writes his own score, does his own arrangements and his own conducting. He is first and last a Man of Music, not a salesman of canned tunes in a glossy supermarket. Michel Legrand is a rarity in the movie world—an original talent.
Too often a song is inserted in a film for spurious reasons—or no reason at all. In The Happy Ending the song is a vital factor in the unfolding of the story. At the beginning of the movie, the song is part of the romantic myth; later it serves as counterpoint when reality unravels the myth. The several variations on the song-theme have distinct and separate functions toward story development.
The lyrics, therefore, had to be more than hastily assembled rhymes. The “words” had to tell story, had to probe character with wit, clarity and brevity. The same lyrics had to serve myth and reality in concert with the filmic images.
The “casting” of such lyricists led to the inevitable choice of Alan and Marilyn Bergman. They have the depth of feeling, empathy for the story and the capacity to reach for the ultimate. Even their title “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” became an integrated, pertinent part of the story.
The Bergmans and Legrand previously collaborated on “The Windmills of Your Mind.”
The writers of the words and music understand each other; they understand The Happy Ending.