Our friend, the piano, has quite a lot of awesome things going for it. With its ability to create beautiful music, elegant build and general classiness, it is undoubtedly a star in our eyes. But did you know that the piano is also quite literally a star? No, not the shooting-kind one, we mean the red carpet kind of star. You see, over the years the piano, in addition to making (sound) waves in the musical world, has built up quite an impressive resume of acting credits, and in some of the most iconic movies of the last century too. And let us tell you that when the piano is in a scene, it steals that scene! So with that said, let’s go down the list and ooh and ahh at some of the impressive highlights of the piano’s movie career, just in time for Oscar season. 🙂
In the iconic scene that what was probably the piano’s classiest and earliest role in film, Humphrey Bogart’s bar owner Rick commands his faithful piano player Sam to play ‘As Time Goes By’ with one of the most misquoted lines in movie history. ‘You played it for her, you can play it for me.’ Which is quite ironic when you consider the song starts with the line, ‘You must remember this…’
2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Drama, action, comedy, you name it! The talented piano is not limited by genre in terms of acting ability. In perhaps its most comedic role, the piano stars in the scene featuring a slapstick piano duel between Daffy and Donald Duck, probably the most eccentric characters ever to tinkle the ivories, as they play out an exhilaratingly fast-paced medley of songs. Though the scene comes shortly after the iconic moment where Private eye Eddie Valiant first lays eyes on femme fatale Jessica Rabbit, the piano shows no signs of intimidation from its vivacious costar, and effortlessly steals the scene, and the spotlight.
Hey, just because you’re big, doesn’t mean you should stop doing what makes you happy! Living by this golden rule, Tom Hank’s lovable character, who’s in fact a kid trapped in a grown man’s body in Big, just couldn’t pass a giant keyboard on the ground without giving it a go. The result is truly awesome, combining a full blown workout and great music to boot! The famous scene introduced us to the piano’s awesome cousin, creatively named the Big piano, which is played by the user’s feet tapping the keys to make music. Since shooting to fame from its scene-stealing role, versions of the Big piano have been installed in museums, children’s hospitals, and other public places around the world.
4. The Pianist
In the Pianist, the piano not only stars in a scene but essentially plays a central role in the plot of the Oscar winning movie. The movie tells the story of Władysław Szpilman played by Adrien Brody, a Jewish pianist who is in hiding from the Nazis during the peak of the Holocaust. His fate seems grim, until he is discovered by a Wermacht officer and is made to play a piano to prove his identity. His playing moves the officer to the extent that he promises to help Szpilman survive the war. In perhaps its most dramatic role, the piano serves as a lingering link to a civilized society and culture in a time when it seemed that all hell had broken lose. The unlikely bond over the piano formed between the two men and the hope it created in such dark times is truly inspiring. Rightfully, the movie won 3 Oscars, though we must raise an eyebrow at the fact that none of those Oscars went to the piano itself.
5. Tim Burton: The Corpse’s Bride
Did you know that the piano is not only a talented instrument and actor, but also quite a good couple’s therapist? In Tim Burton’s creeptastic Corpse’s Bride, the piano does what no amount of flowers could ever do, thaw an icy silence. In the beautiful and sweet scene, Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), is heartbroken by Victor (Johnny Depp), who has deceived her. Victor, initially attempts to verbally apologize for lying to her, but is met with an angry stare. Not until he plucks up the courage to plop down on the stool by Emily, who is fervently ignoring him by playing the piano, and striking up a beautiful melody of his own on the piano, do the two eventually reconcile and end up playing what has since been dubbed “Victor’s Piano Solo”.
Once again proving it’s the doctor of love, and yet again showing it is boundless in terms of genre, the piano makes a dazzling appearance in the fantasy-romance flick Twilight. In the scene, Edward, plays a hauntingly beautiful piece for his non-vampire chosen lady love, Bella. It seems to do the trick, because the wooed Bella quickly appears by Edward’s size, captivated and enticed.
If there was ever a scene stolen by the piano, this is it. In Shine, the disheveled, chain-smoking David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush) wanders into a restaurant. Helfgott had previously suffered various hardships and mental breakdowns, and as he approaches the restaurant’s piano, the restaurant’s patrons take notice and begin to taunt him, as he appears to be more of a walking joke than a promising pianist. Well, what did your mama teach you? Never judge a book by its cover! Just as one patrons mockingly yells, ‘Hey baby, what about a tune?’ Helfgott begins to play Flight of the Bumblebee, leaving the noisy restaurant virtuously silent in disbelief, shock and awe. How’s that for first impressions? We’ll just call David Helfgott the Susan Boyle of pianos and leave it at that. 🙂
8. The Piano
Continuing to take the world of cinema by a storm, the piano once again lent not only itself but its namesake to the film ‘The Piano’. The movie tells the story of a mute pianist named Ada and her daughter in 19th century New Zealand. Relatable to any pianist, it revolves around Ada’s passion for playing the piano and her efforts to regain her piano after it is sold. The highlight of the scene above is undoubtedly when Ada is finally reunited with her piano on a beach, greeting it as an old friend and playing into the dazzling sunset.
Thought the piano can only play classic dramatic roles? Well how about kooky ones? In Candelabra, the eccentric pianist Liberace, played by Michael Douglas, seems to be trying to break a piano world record of his own as he plays as fast as he can on an equally outlandish piano. The result is a fun-paced scene that is thoroughly entertaining and in the words of Matt Damon’s character in the movie, “Incredible!”
So readers, which piano scene moved you the most? To which piano performance would you give an Oscar? Sound off in the comments below!