BWW Exclusive Interview - Terre Blair Hamlisch Talks PBS's MARVIN HAMLISCH: WHAT HE DID FOR LOVE
The love story of Terre Blair Hamlisch and her husband, the late composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch, plays like a Hollywood movie. The couple courted over the phone, never coming face to face until the day Hamlisch proposed to her from the other side of a hotel room door, sight unseen. According to the legendary musician himself, his love for Terre blossomed purely through the sound of her voice.
Today, Terre Blair Hamlisch speaks exclusively to BWW about the wonderful years she spent alongside the multi-talented, Pulitzer Prize-winning musical genius, which will be doucmented in American Masters' Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love, premiering nationally Friday, December 27, 2013, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings).
One of the things which struck me in the documentary was the observation that Marvin heard music in everything, even the raindrops. It's just such a beautiful sentiment and I was wondering if you also found that to be true.
It is true. And it's interesting that you would pick that up because that's probably one of the most interesting things about him. In fact, Marvin had a children's book which he wrote right before he died called, 'Marvin Makes Music,' and It's all about the sounds and everything he heard.
He heard the world much, much differently than you and I heard it. He heard the rustling of the leaves in the trees, but he also heard the pitch of it. If we were driving and there would be the sound of a car screeching he would go, 'E Flat,' and so it's very interesting. He was a child prodigy, he was a genius, and geniuses in whatever field they're in, see and hear things very differently. He heard music all the time in his head, and he would say to me that it was a blessing and a gift, but it was also a curse because he would hear the music non-stop. In fact, we were once in Salzburg, going to the the opera and there was a bee or a fly or some sort of insect that had a buzz to it in our room and I think we almost had to change rooms because he heard it as if it were a 747 landing beyond the window sill. His ear was that finely tuned.
Marvin was such a huge fan of Broadway and of show tunes. What was it like to sit next to him in the audience as he watched a Broadway show? Was he always watching with a critical eye or could he just sit back and enjoy it.
(laughing) Very good question! Well to start with, to go with him and to sit with him in the movies was very trying
because he could hear when the score was manipulating us as a viewer for an emotional reaction. So for example he could hear the musical cue coming and he knew someone was about to get killed or someone was about to be sad, and that would drive him nuts, that someone would be that obvious in leading the audience. And often he would be so busy listening to the score while I'd be trying to enjoy the movie that he could really ruin the movie experience. When I first married him, oh my goodness, I remember I would say, 'Stop - you're ruining the movie!"
But with Broadway, it was a lot different. Marvin loved the movies, don't get me wrong, but going to Broadway shows for him was just wonderful because of the insight he had. And he always was so supportive of young composers, of his colleagues, he really enjoyed it and loved it. And in the Broadway theater, he was much more of a visionary and a leader for me because his enthusiasm for that forum was so great. Broadway music to him was his life, composing music of course was too, but the love and affinity that he had for Broadway, he wanted to see everything. And he always found good in everything and he always supported everyone.
And speaking of Broadway, A Chorus Line is of course synonymous with Marvin Hamlisch. And as they mention in the documentary, the show wasn't merely about a group of ensemble dancers, it was really a story about following your dreams and your passions, which is why it is so relatable to everybody. Did Marvin consider it his masterpiece?
You know, Rupert Holmes has a quote about how Marvin thought about all of his works as if they were adopted children, he never talked about one more so than the other. And I don't think that he loved one more than another. But I do think that he felt with A Chorus Line and Sweet Smell of Success, those two works, he felt more like he was running on all cylinders. He used to say that sometimes he felt like the porsche in the garage that he wasn't able to use. Because the work that he chose to do could be limiting and confining in its nature, and because Marvin had so much integrity for the work that he was able to do, he serviced the work. But I don't believe he felt that A Chorus Line had those limitations. I believe, as I said, he felt like he was running on all cylinders.