After their Oscar win in 1965 for “The Shadow of Your Smile” from The Sandpiper, composer Johnny Mandel and lyricist Paul Francis Webster were nominated for a Best Song Oscar for “A Time for Love” from the 1966 film An American Dream. While the Oscar eluded them the song won the Golden Laurel Award in 1967.
Based on a controversial novel by Norman Mailer, An American Dream starred Stuart Whitman as a congressman who, having achieved great success in all of his endeavors, kills his wife (Eleanor Parker) in a drunken rage. Janet Leigh co-starred as his angry former mistress. There was an outcry by feminists who reproached Mailer for his treatment of women in the book. While the movie was panned by the critics, Mandel’s score received favorable attention.
Webster’s fairy tale lyric, set to Mandel’s romantic melody, imagines settings that invite love:
A time for summer skies
For hummingbirds and butterflies
For tender words that harmonize with love
Although the song never charted, it has been covered by many jazz musicians. Vocalist Tony Bennett, trombonist Bill Watrous, and pianist Renee Rosnes titled albums after the song. Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson, Abbey Lincoln, and the Stan Kenton band all covered “A Time for Love,” and Shirley Horn recorded it under the direction of arranger Mandel on her memorable 1991 CD Here’s to Life. The song was recorded in the late ‘90s by saxophonist Eric Alexander, vocalist Kurt Elling, and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Since 2000 bassist David Friesen, pianist David Hazeltine, and vocalist Jane Monheit have featured the song in albums.