Culture / Film / Theatre

BBC Art Screen: From Glasgow to Broadway

Last weekend, I went along to the Glasgow Film Theatre to take in two documentaries that were being shown as part of the BBC’s brand new arts documentary festival, Art Screen.

The two events I attended could not have been more different.

On Saturday, I watched ‘Our Glasgow’, a journey through the city’s evolution from Scotland’s industrial core to its creative epicentre. Its highlight would have to be the featured interviews with Alasdair Gray, whose animated recollections of his time as an art student in Glasgow were entertaining, honest and delightful. Touching on Rennie Mackintosh, the Glasgow Boys, and the CCA’s beginnings as the Third Eye Centre, this half hour film succinctly condensed three decades of Glasgow’s colourful art scene, and tantalisingly explored the bright and unusual future of artistic culture in Glasgow.

My second film was the enchanting Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love. I have to confess that beyond the musical ‘The Chorus Line’, I did not know much about the composer/conducter/songwriter/all-round musical genius upon entering the cinema. Upon my exit, Hamlisch gained a new fan.

Hamlisch’s talent was abundantly clear at a young age, and he was accepted into Juilliard at the tender age of six, making him a bonafide child prodigy. His parents, who immigrated from Vienna shortly before the outbreak of World War 2, have expectations of him becoming a classical pianist. However, Hamlisch fancied himself as more of a Cole Porter than a Horowitz.

This juxtaposotion is continued throughout the documentary, with clips shown of Hamlisch’s musical comedy routines, and others of him as a composer, silent and sombre.

Hamlisch’s story is star studded from the outset, with Christopher Walken weighing in on his time at a Children’s Performance School with Hamlisch, and stories of the composer visiting Liza Minneli and Judy Garland to play for them.

At nineteen, a musical-minded Hamlisch became a rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl, and in doing so met Barbara Streisand. This cemented his musical theatre ambitions and his new dream became to have Streisand sing one of his songs- a dream he realised with the Oscar-winning The Way We Were.

The film details the musician’s illustrious works, from film scores to original songs to musical theatre sensations. Hamlisch is one of only 12 people to have won a Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy award. His smash hit ‘A Chorus Line’ also earned him a Pulitzer Prize for drama.

The darker moments in Hamlisch’s life are also mentioned, with the passing of his beloved mother, and the bittersweet reality of achieving so much so young. It is often implied that the older Hamlisch yearned to re-create his earlier successes.

The tributes to Marvin Hamlisch the man are poignant and it is clear that he a huge character who was surrounded by friends and admirers. The closing scene of interviewees singing snippets of his songs is the perfect summation of a man whose live was moulded by music and love.

Follow Gillian Furmage: @GillyFurmaage

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