Voters probably had André Previn and Joseph Gershenson‘s musical numbers in mind when they awarded Elmer Bernstein the Oscar for his original score to THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (1967). And you can see why. Much as Bernstein’s score does, Previn’s arrangements and Gershenson’s musical direction make the numbers sparkle even when the film struggles to do so.
This tongue-in-cheek musical spoof of the Roaring ’20s stars Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, James Fox, Carol Channing, John Gavin, and the sublime Beatrice Lillie, the owner of a hotel for single women who just happens to run a white slavery ring on the side. The proceedings define the word “silly” but the stars seem to be having a blast and so do we.
The musical numbers mainly encompass period standards such as “Jazz Baby,” “Poor Butterfly,” and “Rose of Washington Square.” One of two original songs by the Oscar-winning team of James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn (“All the Way,” “High Hopes,” “Call Me Irresponsible”) is the delightful title song. Cahn’s typically witty lyrics rhyme “adorable” /”Sodom and Gomorrah-ble” and “criminal”/”women’ll” while Van Heusen’s upbeat tune perfectly captures the period. Add to that the clever title cards, the sight gags, and Julie’s priceless double takes and you have the makings of a truly memorable main title sequence.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the movie from those opening minutes. Plus it has one of cinema’s most treasured truisms: “I wish my fronts weren’t so full…they sure ruin the line of your beads.”