NEW YORK -- The gravelly voiced Jimmy Durante crooning on MTV? It could happen, thanks to the popularity of the soundtrack from the romantic comedy hit "Sleepless in Seattle" (Epic Soundtrax), which this week strutted its way to No. 1 on Billboard's top albums chart. It is the fastest-selling soundtrack since the huge success of "The Bodyguard" last year.
Heavy on nostalgia and not-so-familiar renditions of old standards, the album has produced a hit single, a remake of "When I Fall in Love" by Celine Dion and Clive Griffin. Just released as the second single is Durante's version of "As Time Goes By."
"I believe we've just gotten the legal rights to do a Jimmy Durante video," said Nora Ephron, director and writer of "Sleepless in Seattle."
She was also instrumental in compiling the soundtrack. "I'm so excited that we get to be the instrument to put Jimmy Durante on MTV."
Durante, who died in 1980 at 86, also sings "Make Someone Happy" on the album, and it has Louis Armstrong's rendition of "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," Joe Cocker's "Bye Bye Blackbird," Nat "King" Cole's "Stardust," Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man" and Gene Autry's "Back in the Saddle Again."
Ms. Ephron said the soundtrack was made with an ear toward Cole's "Love Is the Thing," which she described as the "great make-out album of my teen-age years."
"It was orchestrated by Gordon Jenkins, who was famous for verylush musical arrangements," she said.
"I became sort of obsessed with him and kept saying his name over and over to music people I talked to."
When Marc Shaiman, the film's musical supervisor, came up with a Durante album orchestrated by Jenkins, she said: "It was one of those 'it's a sign' moments. We hoped to create some of that 'I'm lying face down on my bed wondering if anyone will ever love me' stuff that I associate with being a teen-ager."
Billboard's current chart of the nation's top-selling 200 albums is dotted with 15 soundtracks, including "Last Action Hero," "The Last of the Mohicans," "Menace II Society" and "Free Willy." Some of the music is integral to the plot, but other soundtracks are just intended to sell records.
Glen Brunman, senior vice president of Epic Soundtrax, described the "Sleepless" soundtrack as "essential to the telling of Nora's story" and "an emotional and musical souvenir" for people who loved the movie. He said the record label traipsed off the beaten track to market it.
It sent the Celine Dion-Clive Griffin video to news directors of local news shows across the country, he said.
"Their audience is very much the audience for this music, more mainstream than any individual radio station might pick up. The music got an incredible amount of exposure. We also exposed the record in lifestyle places. If you walk into beauty shops, restaurants, clothing stores, you hear this music a lot. It has entered people's lives in the places they go."