Was “Unchained Melody” Actually the Melody to the Film Unchained?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: “Unchained Melody” was actually the melody to the film Unchained!

We as a music-listening audience are so used to song titles that don’t seem to make any sense (“Rainy Day Women #12 and #35,” as a for instance) that a song like “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers has been accepted pretty easily, despite the fact that there is no mention of the word “unchained,” or heck, “chains” even, anywhere in the song.

As it turns out, that is because the song actually came out years before the Righteous Brothers got a hold of it, when it was the title track of the 1955 prison film, Unchained!!

As I discussed in a recent Movie Urban Legends Revealed, during the 1950s, buoyed by the success of the main song from High Noon, movie studios began to demand that songwriters come up with a “hit” song that they could get played on the radio before a film’s release to hype the upcoming movie.

It was with this in mind that the good folks at Warner Brothers approached songwriters Alex North and Hy Zaret to come up with a main song for the film Unchained. Trying to come up with a romantic song for a prison movie was difficult, but they eventually decided on the idea of a man trapped in prison dreaming of his love, separated from him by bars.

And when you look at the song in that context, it totally works…

Oh, my love
my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
a long lonely time

And time goes by so slowly
and time can do so much
are you still mine?

I need your love
I need your love
Godspeed your love to me

The film was a total bomb at the box office, but the song was big enough to spring a number of minor hits by a few different artists, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song (it lost to a similarly mercenary composition, the title track to Love Is a Many Splendored Thing).

Over the next few years, the song would pop up on various albums by various artists, but it wasn’t until a decade later that the Righteous Brothers had their classic version.

So there you go! Now you know what the title of “Unchained Melody” means!

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

2 Responses to “Was “Unchained Melody” Actually the Melody to the Film Unchained?”

  1. “ripped from the searing pages of Reader’s Digest!”

    Oh my, how salacious!

  2. Ha! Yeah, that part is pretty hilarious. Although, back in the day, Reader’s Digest was more of a…certainly not RISQUE, but definitely slightly more of an edgy magazine (slightly).

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