Songs from the Non-Musicals


Some of the most memorable films live on in our affections not just because they’re beautifully shot or well acted or superbly scripted. Sometimes what really makes them stick in our memory is a song…

The right sort of song – presented in the right way, in the right place, and at the right time – is capable of heightening emotions to such an extent that it crystallises a feeling forever. In the world of cinema, it’s not just musicals that can do this; it can apply to films that just feature a song or two. The very best make the hair on your neck stand on end, not just the first time but every time you hear them.

The first example today undoubtedly falls into the hair-on-end category. It’s from what may well be the most popular film ever made, at least amongst a vast swathe of men and boys – though I struggle to understand how anyone can fail to find Zulu stirring:

Next is a song that was so successful that its fame has probably transcended that of the film it featured in, Laurel and Hardy’s 1937 Way Out West. I remember finding it absolutely hilarious as a boy. It still tickles.

More Welsh singing I’m afraid. But it’s unavoidable, isn’t it? If you watch this clip from How Green Was My Valley to the end you’ll spot a clear indication that what we’re watching is fiction: I just can’t imagine a house-proud Welshwoman, no matter how discombobulated, allowing all those dirty boots into her parlour.

Finally, something from one of the greatest films ever made, not least because of its atmospheric use of music. Wild at Heart is a beautiful, sometimes quite stunning, reworking of a number of filmic traditions. It’s a brutal film but irony has never been so affectionately deployed. Nick Cage plays an infamous wearer of a snakeskin jacket – “a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom” – and here he is rocking a number of worlds:

A version of this post originally appeared on The Dabbler in October 2010.
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2 thoughts on “Songs from the Non-Musicals

    May 20, 2013 at 13:08

    Those Welsh ladies look as if they have just come back from a day trip to Riyadh.

    Michael Smith
    May 21, 2013 at 00:03

    I read somewhere that most of the men at the Drift were actually English. Either way, you too can pit yourself against the Zulu horde in this fun game for all the family:

    Evacuate the burning hospital! Hack through the walls with a pickaxe! Build the mealie bag redoubt! Use volley fire!

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