DEAR JERRY: My primary area of music interest is Top 40 hit singles on original labels.
Among those is Dean Martin's “Return to Me” (Capitol 3894), a Top 5 hit in the summer of 1958.
Last year, I found a “Return to Me” VHS at a yard sale for a buck, and notes on the box make a connection between the film and Dino's recording.
As an added incentive, it is set in Chicago, my home town.
It turned out to be a great story, with top actors (David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Bonnie Hunt, Carroll O'Connor; Jim Belushi; et al.) and wonderful music, but it is the main title theme that prompts my letter.
Where did they find the extraordinary version of “Return to Me” played over the opening scenes and credits? It is nothing like on the record I have.
Unfortunately, not all of the song plays before noise and talk drowns Dean out.
I checked the closing credits carefully to see if they mentioned this but found nothing.
Please look into this, as I must have this version of “Return to Me” in its entirety.
Marty Vantrojen, Chicago
DEAR MARTY: No problem. Just get the easily available “Return to Me” Original Soundtrack CD (RCA 090266368020).
The album opens with Dean's version, sans dialogue and film sounds. The closing track is the same song, but by Joey Gian. Part of his role as a singer in the movie is performing “Return to Me” on stage.
Bonnie Hunt, also a Chicago native, not only played the part of Megan, the best friend of Minnie Driver (Grace), but this delightful film is her baby from stem to stern.
For “Return to Me” (2000), Bonnie Hunt directed, as well as wrote both the story and the screenplay (with Don Lake).
Bonnie is also the source of your bewilderment over the title song. She knew the tune from “Dino - Italian Love Songs” (Capitol 1659), a frequently played LP at the Hunt family home in the '60s.
For this collection, coincidentally recorded the month of Bonnie's birth (September 1961) and released six months later, Dean remade “Return to Me.”
No one is more qualified to expound on this project than Bonnie Hunt, so I asked a mutual friend (John Griffeth) to hook me up with Bonnie.
Though inundated with tasks and travel producing “Patriot,” her current film, Bonnie graciously called the very next day to enlighten us:
“No matter how many movies I make, “Return to Me” will always be a personal favorite, due in no small part to Dean Martin.
“He's one of my all-time favorites, not only because of his voice but his personality and humor. He brings a certain level of comfort and sophistication, which is hard to pull off. He was the ultimate combo platter.
“In fact, Dino really helped me write the script. I listened to Dean while writing and his songs gave me ideas for different scenes, emotions, and places to take the story line. Dean really played a part in this project.
“The title song itself has great personal meaning for me. My mom always had Dean's albums on the hi-fi when I was a kid, and I'd play them over and over.
“The tune we chose is Dean's original vocal from “Italian Love Songs,” but the arrangement and the music behind it is all new. We stripped the track down to just the vocal, then orchestrated it from scratch.
“The reason we didn't use the 1958 monaural master is we couldn't break out just his vocal, like we did with the 1961 stereo version.
“I must also credit Nicholas Pike, my very talented composer for the film music and my partner in the arrangement of the new “Return to Me.”
“We spent a lot of time together in the studio in 2000 working with musicians, adding the trumpet solo by Warren Luening, etc., until we came up with just the right sound and arrangement to serve Dino properly, as well as the film.
“We were even fortunate enough to have two or three of the musicians who played on Dean's 1961 “Italian Love Songs” sessions.
“I loved making this film. This is indeed story telling, and it's all a dream come true for me to be the person who gets to put all the elements together.”
Though Bonnie didn't ask for any plugs, I'd like to congratulate her on “The Bonnie Hunt Show,” debuting September 8th on NBC-TV. Look for it to air middays, just before “Ellen” (Degeneres).
Now in production is “Patriot,” starring Forest Whitaker, which is set for Christmas 2008 release.
IZ ZAT SO? Since Carroll “Archie Bunker” O'Connor is one of the co-stars in “Return to Me” (his last film), it is appropriate to cite how well Bonnie Hunt enhanced the cast while keeping it All in the Family.
Bonnie fashioned small parts for the following relatives:
Mother (Alice Hunt); Sister (Mary Hunt); Sister (Carol Hunt); Brother (Kevin Hunt); Brother (Tom Hunt); Niece (Kate Hunt); Nephew (Ross Hunt); Nephew (Patrick Hunt); Sister-in-law (Andrea Hunt); Brother-in-law (Thomas A. Senderak); and Husband at the time (John Murphy).
As to the abundance of Hunts, Bonnie laughingly recalls “I had to do it, we were on a low budget.”