April 25, 2009 – The Documentary The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story Premieres at the San Francisco International Film Festival
“So many people know their songs, but not many people really know the boys.” – Julie Andrews
On April 25, 2009, the documentary The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story premiered at the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival. The film was then given a limited release in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Palm Springs, with a release on DVD in 2010. It has received positive reviews from critics, who were surprised at the backstory behind the high-achieving duo. The film was directed by Jeffrey C. Sherman and Gregory V. Sherman.
The documentary chronicles the often tumultuous relationship between the famous songwriting siblings, and begins in present day, where Richard is at the piano, while Robert is painting. Several people are interviewed about the impact the Sherman Brothers had on the films they worked on, with some acknowledging that people don’t know about the men behind the songs. Unfortunately, the two grew apart, and their sons Gregg (Richard’s son) and Jeff (Robert’s son) never saw each other until 2002 at the premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the West End, where they reconnected after forty years. There was a lot of animosity between Richard and Robert, with Gregg and Jeff trying to understand why. They head back to the past, starting with their relationship as kids, creating a group called Alley Productions, where they put on performances for the local kids. The two were very close to their father, who was a Tin Pan Alley songwriter. Robert wanted to be a novelist, while Richard was a bit of a troublemaker who ended up in military school. When WWII broke out, Robert enlisted in the Army and went to Europe. When they both went to college, Richard finally decided that his calling was to be a composer. The relationship between the two was more distant while in college, as their life experiences were vastly different.
After college, the two lived together and worked on their respective talents: Richard writing a grand symphony, and Robert working on the great American novel. Their father challenged them to work together to write a song, and they wrote “Gold Can Buy Anything (But Love),” which was later recorded by Gene Autry. Although it wasn’t a smash hit, it gave them a taste of writing. The story then touches on the boys’ respective marriages: Robert to Joyce Ruth Sasner, and Richard to Elizabeth Gluck. The two continued to write music, separately, but they finally got together to write the song “Tall Paul,” which would be recorded by Annette Funicello and become a great hit for the star. The song became a huge hit, and the two started working together from then on. After writing several songs for Annette, Disney asked them to write a song for a film, and had to play it for Walt. The two were soon hired to write the song “Let’s Get Together” for The Parent Trap, and then were asked to work on Mary Poppins, giving them a full-time position at the Disney Studios. The documentary explores the work they did with the studio and for Walt, and how their relationship was splintering. After Walt passed away, the two continued working on special projects in and out of the studio, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Aristocats, and for Peanuts animated specials. They didn’t stay at the studio for very long after completing work on The Aristocats and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, as the studio never felt the same after Walt’s passing. The two grew further and further apart, with their families not interacting. After a while, the partnership just grew apart, but would continue to write for special projects, including for The Tigger Movie. After his wife passed, Robert decided to move to London, which Richard remained in California. The two finally reunite at the premiere of Mary Poppins on Broadway, with Gregg and Jeff hoping the documentary will also help reconcile the two.