Gregg Sherman To Highlight The Song-Writing Sherman Brothers At Coronado Island Film Festival - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Island News

Gregg Sherman To Highlight The Song-Writing Sherman Brothers At Coronado Island Film Festival

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2019 4:35 pm | Updated: 11:40 am, Sat Oct 12, 2019.

Perhaps the primary programming thread intertwined throughout the 2019 Coronado Island Film Festival is music. Chronologically, the thread starts with Gregg Sherman, the son of one of the song-writing Sherman Brother and nephew of the other. The Sherman Brothers, as we’ll soon see, had a prolific and successful song-writing run with the Disney Studios and also on their own, despite not getting along on a personal level for more than 50 years.

Next is singer, songwriter, and actress Michelle Phillips, of The Mamas and Papas fame, who will be one of the festival’s main honorees, receiving the Cultural Impact Award. Phillips is also known for her six-year run on the television series “Knots Landing” and for several roles in feature films.

Also part of the CIFF this year will be the movie “Echo in the Canyon,” from Director Andrew Slater, and Produced by Jakob Dylan in conjunction with Greenwich Entertainment. The movie depicts the birthplace of the California sound in the 1960’s including the Lauren Canyon area. Phillips is included among the star-studded musical cast who are interviewed for the 2019 documentary. The documentary will be shown Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Coronado Performing Arts Center.

Another honoree is songwriter Diane Warren, who will receive the Transcendent Award from the CIFF. Warren, the winner of a Grammy, and Emmy and a Golden Globe Award has been nominated for an Academy Award 10 times. She has nine No. 1 songs and 32 of her songs have hit the Top 10 during her career. Warren is also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The beginning of the CIFF’s musical thread begins with Gregory V. Sherman, who could easily be the subject of his own article. Sherman was an English major at UC Santa Barbara and, eventually became a writer-producer and carved out a 30-year career for himself.

Sherman described his big break into show business. “I had more than one, but I started as a sitcom writer on shows that would invariably be cancelled. I was a kiss of death for sitcoms that were around for a year or two, when I became a staff writer. I wrote jokes for a game show pilot and met a guy who started a whole genre. We worked on the show ‘Debt’ which was on the Lifetime Network and we won a Cable Ace Award. I went from head writer to producer in the first season. We did a few hundred episodes. And then I went on to ‘Win Ben Stein’s Money,’ on Comedy Central with Jimmy Kimmel. I was a writer-producer. We cleaned up at the Emmy Awards. It was the little game show that could. That probably launched thousands and thousands of hours of disposable television written and produced by me. My sitcom partner was one of the creators of ‘Ben Stein’s Money,’ and we still do projects together.”

Ten years ago, Sherman and his first cousin Jeffrey C. Sherman decided to produce a movie about their fathers. Gregg said, “One of the most important things for me and Jeff was that nobody had heard of them. They wrote the music for the movies you grew up with, and the fact that nobody connected these men to the vast body of work was the reason for the movie.” The movie entitled, “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers” was a feature-length documentary where Gregg served as the co-writer, director and producer.

“I personally didn’t think what my Dad and Uncle did was special. It seemed like everybody’s family was doing something special. I didn’t have an appreciation for their work until I was older. I didn’t find it remarkable then, and now I do. In making the movie, one of the biggest surprises for us was how few people knew about the personal disconnect between them. They kept the sibling rivalry away from the public, for 95 percent of the public we interviewed.”

As for the list of stars included in the movie, Sherman explained how they became involved. “People love our Dads. When they found out we were doing this movie, they clamored to be part of it. It was a testament to how people felt about them personally and as professionals. They did it out of respect for our Dads. Another pleasant surprise was how admired and appreciated they were by these superstars. My Dad (Richard, the younger of the two brothers) adored Debbie Reynolds and they became very close over a number of years. He never met a piano he wouldn’t play and the two of them would take over dinner parties. They loved and respected each other. And that was what made the film so important to me and Jeff. Our pitch to the Disney Company, and they weren’t in the documentary business at the time, was in three or four years, half of the people we need to interview for this will be gone. They understood the magnitude and timeliness of what we were trying to do. Several people who were integral parts of this including their boss at Disney AJ Carothers and my Uncle Robert were dying and we wanted to get those people on film.”

A list of the Sherman Brothers hits would fill most of the rest of this page, but the first big one was “You’re Sixteen,” which was originally a hit for Johnny Burnett, later a hit again as part of the soundtrack of “American Graffiti,” and a third time for former Beatle Ringo Starr. Gregg said, “When I think back to my appreciation for my Dad, I thought he wrote kiddy songs. But he had the No. 1 rock and roll song in the country, which was done by a Beatle. Now that was cool. What an idiot kid I was, but I was pretty excited.”

The Sherman Brothers biggest success was with the Disney production of “Mary Poppins,” which will be the focal point of one of two presentations Gregg Sherman will make during the CIFF. “They started writing the songs in 1960 when Walt Disney handed them the book. They wrote for two or three years, developing 35 songs, 13 of which made the picture. They over-wrote. What they didn’t realize when they were working and slaving on the movie was Walt didn’t own the rights to the book, which was written by Pamela Lyndon Travers. She flew out from London and said what they were doing with the movie was the worst thing in the world. My Dad and Uncle along with Don DaGradi from Disney had to sell her on it. She didn’t want Walt Disney touching her book, but the simple fact was she was broke and needed the money. During the presentation, she did start to sing along with “Feed the Birds,” which was Walt’s favorite song.” Rather famously at the premiere of “Mary Poppins” Travers told Disney that she had many changes she wanted made to the movie. Disney replied, “Pamela, that ship has sailed.”

“Mary Poppins,” garnered 13 Academy Award nominations and five wins for Disney, including Oscars for the songwriting team of Bob and Dick Sherman. Gregg Sherman added, “Disney knew ‘Mary Poppins’ was going to be his turning point. He was a visionary who knew what he had with the story and the film. He unleashed a whole bag of tricks in the movie and brought in the best of the best to make it. The Disney Studio today is a success due to ‘Mary Poppins.’ Prior to that they did television shows and cartoons. Disney wasn’t a major studio until ‘Mary Poppins.’ No film from Disney has been nominated for an Academy Award that many times since. Equally important was the amount of imagination and the fact they spared no expense to appeal to the child in all of us. Walt was an optimist and gave children of all ages hope for the future.”

To show one difference between the Sherman Brothers, Dick (Gregg’s Dad) keeps his Oscar on the mantle in his library. Bob used his as a door stop.

The Sherman Brothers left Disney after Walt’s death and teamed up with the Broccoli Family, the owners and producers of the James Bond films, to write the lyrics and music for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” which was another huge hit. Their biggest solo hit was written in 1964 for the Disney Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair, which was “It’s a Small World (After All).” The song was written at Disney’s request for UNICEF. Gregg Sherman added, “After the Brothers demonstrated the song, they were driving with Walt and my uncle said to Walt, ‘We would like to donate the proceeds of the song to UNICEF.’ Walt said, ‘Never give up the rights to that song, it’ll put your grandchildren through college.’ Walt was a total visionary and he could see what was going to happen. The Sherman Brothers split the publishing with Disney, and it is the most performed and translated song ever written. That’s not a bad thing to have in your arsenal.”

Later in life, (Bob died in 2012 at the age of 87; Dick is still alive at the age of 91 and lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 62 years Elizabeth), the brothers were awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2008, were enshrined in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and earned a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But perhaps more important to the Sherman Family, Stage A on the Disney Lot, where “Mary Poppins,” and “Jungle Book,” were recorded, has been re-named the Sherman Brothers Stage. Gregg said, “The giant letters are forever emblazoned on the Disney lot.”

At one point in the Sherman Brothers movie, it’s pointed out that the personalities of Bob and Dick Sherman can be compared to those of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. When asked if he agreed, Gregg Sherman said, “Yes, because my Dad is sunshine, and light and my Uncle is a darker hue and sardonic.”

And there are many more movies and songs the Sherman Brothers collaborated on. Bob Sherman listed their work on the movie “Charlotte’s Web” as his favorite film score. Other works included “The Parent Trap,” “The Sword in the Stone,” “Snoopy Come Home,” and the music for six “Winnie the Pooh” feature films.

Gregg Sherman will be presenting “The Boys, The Sherman Brother Story,” Saturday, Nov. 9 at 10 a.m. in the Winn Room of the Coronado Public Library. Sunday, Nov. 10 at 10 a.m., Sherman will return to the Winn Room to Present “Working with Giants: The Making of ‘Mary Poppins,’ a Special Presentation.” Diane Warren will be interviewed by Leonard Maltin Sunday, Nov. 10 at 1:30 p.m. at the Coronado Performing Arts Center, located at Coronado High School.

CIFF Executive Director Merridee Book said, regarding pass sales for the Festival, “We have been trying to tell people we are almost sold out of the Crown City passes. We are about 15 away from selling out. The beauty of it is we are having several films and presentations at the Coronado Performing Arts Center, which holds 500 people, so the Film Buff passes can be used. October 10 we open up for reservations for our Crown City pass holders. We’re still adding programming, but mostly we’re set with the way it is right now.”

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