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Documentary explores Sherman Bros. team

Hollywood Wrap with George Pennacchio
May 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a surprising new documentary about one of the most successful song-writing teams in movie history.The Sherman Brothers made movie music magic. But behind the scenes, that's a whole other story.

"Mary Poppins" is just one of the Disney movies which include the songs of Robert and Richard Sherman. The brothers' music was often light and cheerful.

But togetherness was not their style. Publicly, they were a team. But something happened in 1967 that destroyed their relationship as brothers.

Whatever it was -- and they won't discuss it -- it remains irreparable to this day.

"We didn't have a conflict when it came to writing. We both knew what we needed to do and we both respected each other," said Richard Sherman. "That's the key to this whole thing is that fact that I respected his brain, he respected my brain and we worked together very well."

Now, their sons are telling their fathers' tales in "The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story."

"Everybody that worked with our dads, not only did they love them but they never had any idea there was any conflict between them," said Greg Sherman. "They were able to keep up this public persona. Everyone was shocked when we told them some of the premise of our film."

"I think my dad's kind of private," said Jeff Sherman. "And he's humble. So those two things don't really mesh with the documentary about yourself sometimes. But he was very moved by it. and it's also hard to watch some of the things toward the end of the movie--which I won't go into--but, you know, it's emotional for him, deeply emotional."

For years, the brothers put on their best face ... friendly toward each other for the cameras.

And for the movies, they wrote songs for Winnie the Pooh ... and Tigger, too, and for "The Jungle Book," and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

Richard's favorite remains Mary Poppins.

The duo also wrote "It's a Small World." The original music for the Disneyland attraction, featuring various national anthems, didn't work.

So Walt Disney called on the Shermans to make it right.

"And then he said, 'You're going to write me a simple little song that says what this is all about, understand?' 'Yeah, Walt, sure, yeah,'" said Richard. "So it was like an assignment, and he says, 'And I want it simple so that we can translate it into various languages.'"

In the words of the song: "It's a world of laughter, a world of tears," and a world you never knew.

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