Friday, January 10, 2014

The Best Classic Movie Songbooks

There are roughly 20 million people in America who play the piano and, of these musically-inclined folk, some several million are film fans as well. After us ivory-ticklers sit watching our favorite classics, such as Bing Crosby crooning "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra" in Going My Way, or Kathryn Grayson warbling "Make Believe" in Show Boat, we want to plop down at our piano and play these tunes....even if we can't sing along as well as they can ( quite frankly, in the privacy of our own homes, who cares what we sound like ). So you would think that with millions of movie-loving-toe-tapping piano players in America, movie songbooks would be big business, right? Well, judging from the amount of songbooks that are available to the seems like not. Hal-Leonard Publications and Alfred Publications have currently cornered the market in songbook publishing and while they offer a nice collection, most of the beloved tunes we enjoy listening to in the movies have yet to make it to sheet music format. ( I've been waiting for years to see The Ghost and Mrs.Muir transcribed!! ). 

Since today's selection is quite narrow, below we have gathered together the best songbooks from 1930 onward to the present day. Thanks to eBay and the countless used bookstores that can be found online, these books are quite easy to find now and a mighty fine little collection of film music can be enjoyed by procuring these titles. 

Note : Most of these titles link to Amazon, but when Amazon did not have it, the link takes you to eBay. 

Studio Collections : 

The Music of 20th Century Fox : Volume One 1929-1959  - Alfred Publishing released this fine collection of some of the best songs from the 20th Century Fox films spanning thirty years of its history. Unfortunately, they only scratched the tip of its surface. From a studio that boasted talented composers such as Bernard Herrmann and David Raksin, and featured such actresses as Alice Faye, Marilyn Monroe, and Shirley Temple, an entire book series should have been offered. Pictures and histories of the composers highlight the book. Songs include : Down Argentine Way, Now it Can Be Told, Forever Amber, The Song of Bernadette, An Affair to Remember, The River of No Return, Ruby, and The Theme from Peyton Place. 

Warner Bros. 75th Anniversary Series - This stellar series from Alfred showcases some of the best music of Warner Brothers in four separate books. Each includes original sheet music covers, behind-the-scenes info as well as a great selection of music from some of WB's more obscure films. Songs include : Theme from Rebel Without a Cause, By a Waterfall, Wait Until Dark, A Majority of One, Tall Story, Now Voyager, The Constant Nymph, Forty Second Street, Sonny Boy, Dust be My Destiny, Lady Barbara Theme, The Old Man and the Sea, The High and the Mighty, Be Careful How you Wish, Splendor in the Grass. 

The Paramount Song Folios #1-11 - Great books for the real hard-core Paramount film fan. Most of these songs are otherwise obscure to the average popular music listener. The series also features photographs and biographies "of your favorite bandleaders". Song include : The Fleet's In, I Remember You, That's for Me, With the Wind and the Rain in your Hair, Rhythm on the River, Blossoms on Broadway, True Confessions, Why Fight the Feeling, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Golden Earrings. 

That's Entertainment! - 60 Songs from MGM's Greatest Musicals - This book features the songs from all of Metro's most famous musicals, notably the ones that appeared in the That's Entertainment movie series. There is an introduction by Cary Ginell. Songs include : Silk Stockings, Babes in Arms, You Made me Love You, Bless your Beautiful Hide, I Fall in Love Too Easily, Easy to Love, Get Happy, Manhattan, Just One of Those Things, Ten Cents a Dance, A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody, The Trolley Song, Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart. 

The New Illustrated Disney Songbook - This fantastic book includes some of the most beloved songs from the Walt Disney animated and live-action films and includes some beautiful color photographs. Songs : Baby Mine, The Ballad of Davy Crockett, E'vry body Wants to Be a Cat, The Bare Necessities, Jolly Holiday, Love is a Song, Let's Go fly a Kite, Under the Sea, Little April Shower, Bella Notte, When You Wish Upon a Star, Candle on the Water, Fortuosity. 


Songwriters : 

Songbooks that spotlight the talented composers and lyricists that made Hollywood music as great as it is. 

The New Sammy Cahn Songbook - Sammy Cahn, one of the greatest lyrisists ever, had an enormous body of work that included many many great film themes. Songs in this book include : Bei Mist Bir Du Schon, Come Fly with Me, Day by Day, Love and Marraige, Our Town, Pocketful of Miracles, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Best of Everything, High Hopes, The Tender Trap, Written on the Wind.
The Elmer Bernstein Collection - Elmer Bernstein had a very impressive songwriting career in Hollywood and this great collection includes songs from the films The Age of Innocence, By Love Possessed, The Ten Commandments, Cast a Giant Shadow, Walk on the Wild Side, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Man with the Golden Arm, Hud, The Great Escape, Hawaii, The Carpetbaggers and even the theme song to Ellery Queen. How cool is that! 
The Hoagy Carmicheal Centennial Collection - Hoagy Carmichael had a great stage presence and a great flair for pounding out  a memorable melody at the piano. This book includes 56 of his standards, many of which were featured in films. Songs include : Georgia on my Mind, Lazy River ( The Best Years of our Lives ), Skylark, Ivy, Stardust, Two Sleepy People, Heart and Soul and The Nearness of You. 
The Alan and Marilyn Bergman Songbook - The husband and wife team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman wrote a number of great songs throughout the 1970s and 80s. This book includes the songs they wrote for The Summer of '42, Yentl, Tootsie, Best Friends, Fame, Pieces of Dreams, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Fitzwilly but it neglects to include their television hits ( Maude, Good Times, Alice, In the Heat of the Night ). 
The Irving Berlin Anthology - Now what composer is more well-known and beloved than Irving Berlin? One book is just not enough to cover all the wonderful tunes that he wrote for the movies.....but this collection does a nice job of touching on this best. Songs include : Cheek to Cheek, Blue Skies, I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, White Christmas, Puttin' on the Ritz, There's No Business Like Show Business, How Deep is the Ocean, Change Partners, Alexander's Ragtime Band, This Year's Kisses, My Defenses are Down. 
The Songs of Burton Lane - Burton Lane is usually associated with Broadway, and rightly so, for he composed many great showtunes in his 45+ year career, but he also did a number of Hollywood songs and this book includes a selection from both fields : Finian's Rainbow, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Dancing Lady, Babes on Broadway and Royal Wedding. 
The Johnny Mercer Centennial - Johnny Mercer was one of America's greatest lyricists and this collection highlights 46 of his musical hits, including : Dream, Fools Rush In, Accen-tu-ate the Positive, I'm an Old Cowhand, Hooray for Hollywood, On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe, Too Marvelous for Words, The Sweetheart Tree, Moon River, Laura, That Old Black Magic, My Shining Hour. 
The Songs of Hugh Martin - Martin is best known for being the composer of Meet Me In St. Louis but he wrote a number of great tunes aside from this film. This collection includes 34 of his songs...such as The Boy Next Door, The Trolley Song, Ev'ry Time, Over and Over, Pass that Peace Pipe, On Such a Night as This, Connecticut, and Diamonds in the Starlight. 

The New Henry Mancini Songbook - Now this is truly a fantastic collection from one fantastic composer! Henry Mancini wrote scores of unique, finger-snapping music to countless films from the late 1950s to 1960s. This collection of 88 songs includes his most famous movie and TV themes, Moon River, The Days of Wine and Roses, The Pink Panther theme, The Thorn Birds, Theme from Peter Gunn, as well as some of his lesser-known but equally entertaining scores : Arabesque, Bachelor in Paradise, Dear Heart, Man's Favorite Sport, Moment to Moment, Mr. Lucky, Remington Steele, Soldier in the Rain, The Sweetheart Tree, and Two for the Road.

The Sherman Brothers Songbook - Two brothers who wrote some of the most uplifting and downright cheery music ever created. In the ten years they worked at Walt Disney Studios they wrote over 50 tunes that became beloved classics. Some of 34 songs included in this collection are : Let's Get Together, Hushabye Mountain, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Lovely Lonely Man, The Slipper and the Rose Waltz, It's a Small World, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, The Age of Not Believing, Feed the Birds, Charlotte's Web, You're Sixteen, Winnie-the-Pooh and Ten Feet Off the Ground. 
The Leslie Bricusse Movie Songbook - Leslie Bricusse was one of the most sought after film composers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This collection highlights some of his greatest film scores, including : Goldfinger, Doctor Dolittle, Talk to the Animals, Happiness, Le Jazz Hot, Thank You Very Much, A Shot in the Dark, Pure Imagination, I've Done Enough, Where are the Words. A seperate book, "The Leslie Bricusse Theatre Songbook" covers his stage work. 

The Songs of Jule Styne - Musicals just wouldn't be musicals without the talent of Jule Styne. This Hal Leonard collection features 61 of Styne's best songs. Make Someone Happy, Let Me Entertain You, Funny Girl, It's Magic, Three Coins in a Fountain, Time After Time, I Fall in Love Too Easily, Diamond's are a Girl's Best Friend and People. 
The Jerome Kern Collection - Jerome Kern's most lasting legacy is his score to the classic stage production Show Boat, but he wrote a number of great songs to films like Cover Girl, Roberta, Lady Be Good, Centennial Summer, Can't Help Singing, High, Wide and Handsome. This book highlights his work on stage and film. Songs include Till the Clouds Roll By, Look for the Silver Lining, Show Boat, Make Believe, Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Why Was I Born, The Folks Who Live on the Hill, Can't Help Singing, Long Ago and Far Away, The Way You Look Tonight and Pick Yourself Up. 

50 Gershwin Classics - Gershwin wrote an unbelievable amount of great music in his short lifetime and this collection includes 50 of his best. His music was recorded by every great performer from the 1930s up until the present time and are a major part of the Great American Songbook. Songs in this book include An American in Paris, But Not for Me, Embracable You, A Foggy Day, I Got Rhythm, Love is Here to Stay, Swanee, Someone to Watch Over Me, Funny Face and 'S Wonderful. 
The Cole Porter Song Collection - This two volume book collection spotlights 100 of Cole Porter's best songs, spanning the years 1912-1958. Each includes song analysis, publicity stills, original sheet music covers and informal shots from his scrapbook. Songs include : So in Love, In the Still of the Night, Don't Fence Me In, Be a Clown, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, Begin the Beguine, I've Got You Under My Skin, I Get a Kick Out of You, Night and Day and Easy to Love. 


Performers : 

A selection of books from some of Hollywood's most famous performers. 

The Judy Garland Souvenir Songbook - 68 songs from 23 of her motion pictures are included in this "souvenir" sampler. Selections include music from Meet Me in St. Louis, The Wizard of Oz, That's Entertainment, and The Pirate. The book also includes black and white photographs from her films and a complete filmography and discography. 

Shirley Temple Song Album No.1 & 2 - This series was released when Shirley Temple was at the height of her popularity and it features her biggest hits such as Animal Crackers in My Soup, At the Codfish Ball, The Right Sombody to Love, Little Colonel, Curly Top, Baby Take a Bow, and When I Grow Up. Also, a lovely collection of colorized stills is used as inserts between each song. 

The Deanna Durbin Song Folio - Who can resist Deanna Durbin's angelic voice, or the beautiful songs that she sang in her films? This folio includes some of her most memorable tunes such as Someone to Care for Me, That Certain Age, Serenade to the Stars, My Own and I Love to Whistle but sadly does not include The Turntable Song, Love at Last, Something in the Wind, or It's Foolish but Its Fun. Pooh. It was later re-released as "Songs Deanna Durbin Sings".

Bing Crosby Favorite Songs - this collection was released shortly after Der Bingle's death in 1977 and features his favorite songs which, not surprisingly, include many of his film hits....Sunday, Monday and Always, The Second Time Around, Swingin on a Star, The Road to Morocco, Zing a Little Zong, Going My Way, Moonlight Becomes You and June in January. A nice collection but don't expect to find White Christmas among his favorites. 

The Doris Day Songbook - Brighten up your day, with Doris Day! This book includes "15 cherished fan favorites" such as I'll See You in My Dreams, It's Magic, Pillow Talk, Que Sera Sera, Secret Love, Sentimental Journey, and Teacher's Pet as well as some other songs ( Day classics??? ) : Fools Rush In, Don't Take Your Love from Me, Happy Endings and Quizas, Quizas, Quizas, but it sadly neglects her 1960s hits. Where are Send Me No Flowers, Move Over Darling, Do not Disturb, and Please Don't Eat the Daisies? Oh well, the book has nice cover art anyway. 

The Frank Sinatra Anthology - this stellar series from Hal Leonard combines 200 of Ol' Blue Eyes greatest hits into two compact paperback books. Songs include From Here to Eternity, April in Paris, High Hopes, Young at Heart, Come Fly with Me, In the Still of the Night, Luck Be a Lady, Pocketful of Miracles, The Second Time Around, Too Marvelous for Words, The Tender Trap, Witchcraft, and All the Way. 


Collections :  

A series of songbooks that combine a wide variety of classic movie themes from all eras.

Robbin's Hollywood Dance Folios #1-18 - Another collection of rare songs for the hardcore classic movie buff. Some of these just elude me entirely.....Okey Toots, An Earful of Music, Ninon, Mississippi Honeymoon, On a Sunday Afternoon, I Got a Feeling Your Foolin, Don't Blame Me, Once in a While, Out of the Deep, With a Feather in Your Cap. Each book includes a nice selection of photographs from the films the songs are featured in. 

AFI's 100 Years 100 Songs - A good selection of classic songs from the films that made it to the AFI top 100 greatest films list. Songs include : Over the Rainbow, As Time Goes By, White Christmas, Mrs. Robinson, The Sound of Music, Make Em Laugh, Somewhere, High Noon, The Rainbow Connection, Tonight, Thanks for the Memory, Puttin on the Ritz, Forty Second Street, Cabaret, Yankee Doodle Boy. 

The Movie Fakebook - 5th Edition 500 Songs and Themes - Although this book features a good selection and some rare movies themes ( see listing ), most of the songs are from films dating from 1965-1995...not what I would call "classic". Oh, come to think of it, it never states it is a classic movie fake book. Barbarella, Barefoot in the Park, breakfast at Tiffany's, Chinatown, Casino Royale, Gigi, Hush Hush Sweet Charolette, Inch Worm, Jingle Jangle Jingle, Kissin Cousins, Louise, Love Letters, Memories, Naked Gun, Odd Couple, Psycho, A Place in the Sun, This is My Song, A View to a Kill, and Tomorrow Never Dies. 

Movie Classics ( World's Greatest Music Series ) - Unlike most of the other movie compilation songbooks, this one is not printed by Hal Leonard or Alfred Publishing but rather by Warner Brothers. So don't expect to see any MGM musicals tunes among here. Although the book featuers alot of new movie tunes it does include some great classics such as Love Theme from Ben-Hur, Laura, Days of Wine and Roses, Blue Moon, The Magnificent Seven, On Green Dolphin Street and Love is a Many Splendored Thing. 

Classic Hollywood Themes - Alfred Publishing put out this Classic Hollywood Themes book in 1997 and they included a really good selection from some of the top composers...Maurice Jarre, David Raksin, Dimitri Tiomkin, John Williams, Henry Mancini....but alas, no Bernard Herrmann. Songs include Casablanca, The Ballad of the Alamo, Cheyenne Autumn, Ziegfeld Follies, The Man That Got Away, Theme from The Apartment, Giant and Evergreen. 

Anthology of Movie Songs - This Hal Leonard book features a good sprinkling of classic film scores mixed in with "new" movie themes such as Dancing Queen, The English Patient, ET, Forrest Gump and Schindler's List. Classics include Theme from Romeo and Juliet, The song from Moulin Rouge, Make Someone Happy, Baby Elephant Walk, The Candy Man, To Sir with Love and Wonderful Copenhagen. 

Did you like our selection? Let us know which songbooks that you enjoy the most, or which ones you would like to see on this list. We'll tweak it until it is just right! 


  1. Fabulous! I loved reading about all those collections. We have the Disney, the Hoagy Carmichael, the Berlin, Porter and Gershwin in our stash.

    The Disney collection was the only book my son would let me read to him. We would read the title, the film, the composers and then sing each song together. The first time he saw the Sherman Brothers on a DVD extra his eyes popped right out of his head. It was as if Santa had come down the chimney.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post CW! Everytime I start to play a song from the Disney songbook I end up getting caught up looking at the lovely pictures and forget to play the songs themselves. ;-) It sounds like you have a really great collection. The Henry Mancini Songbook is my favorite...he wrote so many great theme songs!

  2. Our daughter is a flutist and during high school recitals "Baby Elephant Walk" and "The Pink Panther" were her "go to" pieces because of her dad's fondness for Mancini. I tear up listening to his score for "The Great Mouse Detective". We'll have to get together for a sing-along sometime.

    1. Mancini is my dad's favorite composer too! He had such a flair for writing beautiful music...and so very versatile too. Jazz, swing, sweeping ballads, lilting melodies, you name it, he could compose it. Interestingly enough, I think his favorite song was one he did not write himself - Love theme from Romeo and Juliet. He always performed this during his concerts and included it in alot of his albums too.

  3. Oh my goodness! What a treasure-trove! There are a bunch here that are going on my wish list. Thanks for rounding them all up!

    1. Isn't it wonderful discovering new things? Especially music. :-)

  4. Wow. I play the piano (so-so) and it's hard to find sheets for songs that I actually know. Thanks for this, girls! Now I need an international credit card and I'll sweep Amazon. ;)

    1. Glad you liked the post Le...Stick with eBay if you can't access Amazon and you'll find some real bargains there - although shipping costs will pinch either way!

  5. How did you know that just last week, on January 10 in fact, my voice coach and I were wishing that they would put out a Warner Brothers collection. I guess I'm going to have to spend a little post-Christmas money on myself to expand my musical library. You are the best!

    1. Ooooh, you'll like the WB books! The 1930s/40s book include some of the hard-to-find Dick Powell numbers and even the songs from Priscilla Lane's films. And right now they are selling for under $1 used. Who can beat that!