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The boys: the Sherman brothers’ story (6/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 101 minutes.

About 15 years ago I started taking yoga because I had injured my hip. Eventually I came to know the lady who generally was next to me and we became friends. I discovered that she was a dancer who had also been Gene Kelly’s assistant choreographer. Several years later her boyfriend and she threw a party to show clips of all her movie appearances (including “Singin’ in the Rain”) that her boyfriend had put together. It was a very small party, maybe 15 people in all. Two of them were Robert and Richard Sherman, Oscar®-winners for “Mary Poppins.” They weren’t there to perform, merely to share some memories with an old friend, but, naturally. Richard sat down at the piano and played lots of their songs.

This is a documentary about the two brothers. What is surprising is that they weren’t good friends. In fact, Robert eventually moved to England and the two didn’t speak. Their two sons got a video camera and recorded interviews with both brothers, added some archival films, including an interview with the two of them conducted in 1984, added some film clips, and came up with an interesting story of their two fathers.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is quoted as saying:

A sentimentalist thinks good things will last;

A romantic hopes they will not.

 The interviews show the brothers as two completely different personalities. Robert is a romantic and Richard is a sentimentalist, and it shows in the way they acted towards one another and the way they speak about it.

One criticism I have is that rarely are the years of the occurrences of which they speak identified. This makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to orient oneself chronologically unless you have a good knowledge of their career. Such advance knowledge is unlikely, given that they were certainly not on the same page as people like Harry Warren, George & Ira Gershwin, and others who wrote for movies, despite having written “It’s a Small World,” the most translated song ever written.

There is very little music in this film. I would have liked to have seen full performances of many of their best-known songs. But, ‘twas not to be. The music is limited to clips, and that wasn’t enough.

I’m not sure that this documentary will make them any better known than they are. They wrote some tuneful songs with inventive lyrics, but they were never in the top tier of songwriters. Even so, it’s interesting.