Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Composer Tells How It's Done

Cleveland Press October 23, 1967

The brothers Sherman, Richard M. and Robert B., write words and music -- not words and music separately but words and music together.

They did so for "Mary Poppins," for the latest Disney film, "The Happiest Millionaire," for the next Dick Van Dyke movie "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" which is now filming in England and for a third Disney musical, "The One and Only Genuine, Original Family Band."

"We collaborate on the whole song," explained Richard M. Sherman during the intermission of "Millionaire" at the Ohio the other night.

He had visited here for the opening of the movie, which was opening between Denver the day before and Philadelphia the next night.

"WE START with an idea and kick it back and forth," he continued. "We call it a hinge. The song hangs on it, just like a door.

"We don't try to fit a tune to words or words to a tune. We start with a premise and then try to work it out musically.

"In a musical movie the song should extend the screenplay. The action shouldn't stop while someone sings. Sometimes the song serves as a bridge that couldn't be handled any other way.

"WE LOOK for song spots, places in the story that cry out to be musicalized.

"We look for key words that fit the action or the story. 'Chim Chim Cheree' in 'Mary Poppins' is a song about chimneys but chimney isn't a very pretty word. So we invented something that sounded like it but was fresh.

"In 'Millionaire' we have a song called 'Fortuosity.' It's about faith in good fortune. It sounds a little like fortuitous combined with philosophy.

Sherman said that when "Millionaire" was first turned into a screenplay it was a straight comedy. That was more than two years ago. It was Walt Disney who thought it would make a good musical, according to Sherman, and he called in the song-writing team.

THEY PROVIDED 11 songs for the movie. It seems as though there are more, but Sherman explained that that is because there are so many reprises. He said that about half the movie's running time is music.

"'Mary Poppins' had 19 songs and I remember hearing a woman after a performance saying that she hadn't noticed that it was a musical," Sherman recalled. "I figure that's a compliment when it doesn't seem as though the story has been interrupted by the music."