Pop Goes The Movies: MRS. ROBINSON - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Pop Goes The Movies: MRS. ROBINSON

Coo, coo, ca-choo...
By 1967, the year of The Graduate's release, Simon & Garfunkel had reached national fame in the United States, touring colleges and releasing a string of hit singles and albums, including the million selling Billboard #1 The Sound of Silence. Director Mike Nichols was a fan and was using several of their existing songs, including The Sound of Silence, as a pacing device for the editing of The Graduate. During this time, Nichols met with Columbia Records chairman Clive Davis to ask for permission to license some Simon & Garfunkel music for the film. Davis viewed it as a perfect fit and envisioned a best-selling soundtrack album so rather than propose a purely licensing deal for already released material, he posited that the duo also record some new songs to soundtrack Nichols near-completed picture. However, Paul Simon was not immediately receptive to the idea, viewing movies as akin to "selling out", but he agreed to meet with Nichols and after being impressed by the directors wit, and the film's script, he offered to "write at least one or two new songs" for The Graduate.

Make no mistake though, this was not out of the kindness of Simon's heart - Leonard Hirshan, a powerful agent at William Morris, negotiated a deal that paid Simon $25,000 to submit three songs to Nichols and producer Lawrence Turman.

As detailed in the 2010 biography penned by Marc Eliot, Paul Simon: A Life, several weeks after the initial meeting, Simon showcased two new tracks for Nichols and Turman, titled Punky's Dilemma and Overs. Neither of which Nichols was particularly taken with, and he asked the duo if they had any more songs to offer. Art Garfunkel explained...
"Paul had been working on [a new song], but there was no name in it and we’d just fill in with any three-syllable name."
The name at the time they were primarily using was Mrs. Roosevelt, but the track was only part-finished. However, knowing Anne Bancroft's character in the movie was called Mrs. Robinson, Garfunkel said...
"‘What about Mrs. Robinson?' Mike shot to his feet. 'You have a song called "Mrs. Robinson" and you haven’t even shown it to me?'
Paul Simon reportedly revealed...
"It's not for the movie... it's a song about times past—about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff."
Garfukel continued,
"We explained the working title and sang it for him. [Nichols said] 'It's now about Mrs. Robinson, not Mrs. Roosevelt'. Mike froze it for the picture as 'Mrs. Robinson'."
Nichols later commented,
"They filled in with dee de dee dee de dee dee dee because there was no verse yet, but I liked even that."
And so a classic cinematic theme was born...

Recorded on February 2nd 1968 at Columbia Studio A in New York City, Mrs. Robinson was not actually released whilst The Graduate was in its original theatrical run, rather it was made commercially available more than three months after the release of the movie, but through its numerous radio plays Mrs. Robinson became an important cross-promotion for the film and saw many cinemas bringing back or extending their showing of The Graduate.

Nichols went on to win Best Director at the 40th Academy Awards, the only winner among the seven nominations The Graduated had received. Controversially Mrs. Robinson was ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. This was because of the fact that a part-version of the song existed already, albeit as Mrs. Roosevelt, and Academy guidelines state that a nominee must have been written exclusively for the film in which it appeared.

I suspect this didn't trouble Simon & Garfunkel too much as Mrs. Robinson became the duo's second chart-topper, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as peaking within the top 10 of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain, among other countries, and in 1969 it became the first rock song to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

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