Tag Archives: Ethel Merman

Mary Martin and Ethel Merman – Medley on TV in 1953

download (2)In 1953, Mary Martin and Ethel Merman sang a medley on live TV, reprising not only their greatest hits, but also summarizing the entire history of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway from the early 1900s to 1950.

It took me a little while, but I think I’ve accounted for all the songs that they touch on during the 12 minute medley (some of which they only sing for a few seconds). If I missed any songs, please let me know! I’ve tried to provide the exact time on the video when they sing each song and also indicated who sings which songs, though I have not listed reprises of songs. Near the end, there is overlap, as both Ethel Merman and Mary Martin take turns singing various songs while the other sings “Tea for Two,” then they both sing “Tea for Two” together.

  • 1946 – “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Broadway Annie Get Your Gun (Irving Berlin) – [Ethel Merman: 0.13]
  • 1949 – “I’m In Love With a Wonderful Guy” from  Broadway South Pacific (Rodgers and Hammerstein) – [Mary Martin: 2.13]  
  • 1909 – “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (Gus Edwards, Edward Madden), seems like ultimate nostalgia song – [Ethel Merman: 3:28]
  • 1905 – “Wait Until the Sun Shines, Nellie” (Harry von Tilzer, Andrew B. Sterling), Mary Martin sang this song with Bing Crosby in Birth of the Blues in 1945 – [Mary Martin: 3.43]
  • 1921 – “The Sheik of Araby” (Ted Snyder, Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler), popular around the same time as Rudolph Valentino – Ethel Merman: [3.58]
  • 1926 – “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)” (Harry Woods), Lillian Roth was known for this song, it also inspired the restaurant chain, Red Robin – [Mary Martin and Ethel Merman: 4.20]
  • 1912 – “My Melancholy Baby” (Ernie Burnett, George A. Norton), also sung in Birth of the Blues – [Mary Martin: 5.05]
  • 1913 – “You Made Me Love You” (James V. Monaco, Joseph McCarthy), Al Jolson, Judy Garland both remembered for this song – [Ethel Merman: 5.42]
  • “1927 – “Mississippi Mud” (Harry Barris), Bing Crosby introduced this song while with The Rhythm Boys – [Mary Martin: 6.16]
  • 1923 –  “I Cried for You” (Arthur Freed, Abe Lyman, Gus Arnheim) – [Ethel Merman: 6.45]
  • 1918 – “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” (John Kellette, James Kendis, James Brockman and Nat Vincent) – [Mary Martin: 6.49]
  • 1917 – “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” (Harry Carroll, Joseph McCarthy adapted from Chopin’s Fantaisie- Impromptu) – [Ethel Merman: 6.54]
  • 1935 – “I’m in the Mood for Love” (Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields), Frances Langford introduced it in the movie Every Night at Eight – [Mary Martin: 6.58]
  • 1931 – “I Love a Parade” (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler), in movie Manhattan Parade – [Ethel Merman: 7.03]
  • “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain” (Lew Brown, Sidney Clare) – best I can find, it was written in 1926, though Ricky Nelson seems to have made int his own after 1953 – Jolson sang it in 1926 – [Mary Martin: 7.07]
  • 1925 – “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” (Ray Henderson, Sam M. Lewis, Joe Young), Jolson best known for this song, he also sang it in The Singing Fool, his follow-up to The Jazz Singer – [Ethel Merman: 7.11]
  • 1929 – “I Got a Feeling You’re Fooling” (Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed), introduced in The Hollywood Revue of 1929 – [Mary Martin: 7.16]
  • 1928 – “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” (Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields) – [Ethel Merman: 7.21]
  • 1928 – “I’ll Get By (As Long as I Have You)” (Fred E. Ahlert, Roy Turk), Billie Holiday best known for recording it – [Mary Martin: 7.25]
  • 1950 – “You’re Just in Love” (Irving Berlin), Ethel Merman introduced it on Broadway in Call Me Madam, also in 1953 movie adaptation – [Ethel Merman: 7.30]
  • 1949 – “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein), Mary Martin introduced song in South Pacific on Broadway – [Mary Martin: 7.34]
  • 1934 – “I Get a Kick Out of You” (Cole Porter), introduced by Ethel Merman in Broadway musical Anything Goes – [Ethel Merman: 7.44]
  • 1936 – “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (Cole Porter), introduced in movie Born to Dance by Virginia Bruce – [Mary Martin: 8.08]
  • 1938 – “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” (Cole Porter), Broadway musical Leave It To Me! was Mary Martin’s Broadway debut, where she introduced the song – [Mary Martin: 8.36]
  • 1930 – “I Got Rhythm” (George and Ira Gershwin), Broadway musical Girl Crazy, Ethel Merman’s Broadway debut, introduced song, musical also made Ginger Rogers a star – [Ethel Merman: 9.38]
  • 1924 – “Indian Love Call” (Rudolph Friml, Herbert Stothart), Broadway operetta Rose-Marie, immortalized on screen by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in 1936 movie adaptation for everlasing lampooning – [Mary Martin: 10.23]
  • 1925 – “Tea for Two” (Vincent Youmans, Irving Caesar), Broadway musical No, No Nanette – another standard that feels like the ultimate nostalgia song – [Ethel Merman and Mary Martin: 10.23]
  • 1933 – “Stormy Weather” (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) introduced by Ethel Waters, Lena Horne also known for song in 1943 movie of the same name – Ethel Merman: [10.47]
  • 1932 – “Isn’t It Romantic?” (Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart), introduced in 1932 film Love Me Tonight by Maurice Chevalier – Mary Martin: [11.10]

The amazing thing is that there was still more Broadway history to go. In 1953, Mary Martin had still not essayed Peter Pan (1954) or The Sound of Music (1959) and Gypsy (1959) was still in the future for Ethel Merman, as well.


Posted by on July 6, 2016 in Music


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“You’re the Top”

So, I’m taking a brief break from my blog. A dearth of ideas (I’m clearly not watching enough movies right now) coupled with a busier week than usual has resulted in little blogging. I was straining to think of something for Friday, but then it occurred to me that chatter for the sake of chatter probably does not make for compelling reading. But I will be back Monday…and will still be online reading blog posts.

However, today I thought I would post a song that I absolutely adore. I’m in the process of learning the lyrics. At the moment, I keep singing the first few verses ad nauseam. “You’re the Top” was written by Cole Porter for his 1934 musical, “Anything Goes.” It was introduced by Ethel Merman. The musical never did get a good film adaptation, but has been revived multiple times on Broadway, most recently in 2011. I even got to see it once in Seattle (though I thought the tap dancing was a bit flaccid, but perhaps my standards are a bit high).

The lyrics are delightful, but filled with so many contemporary allusions that I went in search of an article that provides historical annotations to the lyrics, which I definitely recommend reading.

Here is a somewhat bleary video featuring Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby in the less than faithful 1936 film adaptation (half the songs were apparently removed to make way for songs written specifically for Crosby). But the rapport between them is fun. The lyrics have, however, been considerably modified.

And Ethel Merman again in a 1934 recording.

And I can’t leave out Ella Fitzgerald. She is pure pleasure to listen to.


Posted by on March 16, 2016 in Music


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Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938)

Alexandersragtimeband1938Alexander’s Ragtime Band is all about the music; specifically Irving Berlin’s music. 20th Century Fox producer Darryl Zanuck wanted to make a biopic of Irving Berlin, but Berlin wasn’t interested, so instead they made a film about the fictional Alexander (Tyrone Power) as he goes from violin student who conducts a small band in bars to up-and-coming bandleader to respectable bandleader who gives a concert at Carnegie Hall. The music Alexander plays is all written by Berlin.

The plot is pretty thin: Tyrone Power pines for Alice Faye, Alice Faye sings and pines for Power, Don Ameche sings and pines for Faye, while Ethel Merman sings and pines for Power. Poor Merman and Ameche. No one seems to pine for them. But at least they can sing. Tyrone Power primarily spends the movie waving his arms about, pretending he’s conducting a band.

Actually, it’s not as bad as I make it sound. The actors are all engaging (with the possible exception of Tyrone Power, who I usually like, but not as much here) and excellent singers (except Power). The music is sensational and worth anything: infectious, buoyant, joyous; I could not get some of those songs out of my head. There’s the title song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” which Irving Berlin wrote in 1911 and was his first hit. Another knockout song is “Heat Wave,” sung by Ethel Merman.

Tyrone Power is bit of a callow stick-in-the-mud (though a handsome one) as Alex, a man who’s first priority is the music he loves. His band consists of Charlie (Don Ameche), a good friend who plays the piano and composes songs. Davey (Jack Haley) plays the drums. The band also picks up Stella Kirby (Alice Faye), a brassy, vulgar loudmouth who quickly morphs into an elegant and classy lady. She and Alex clash frequently, initially in relation to what she’s wearing (she likes feather boas, he doesn’t). Charlie falls in love with her as she is, but after she becomes a lady, Alex suddenly discovers that he loves her, too. Stella even sings the love song Charlie wrote for her to Alex, but Charlie is very gracious about it (he’s practically a sucker for martyrdom in this film).

Irving Berlin, Alice Faye, Tyrone Power, Don Ameche

Irving Berlin, Alice Faye, Tyrone Power, Don Ameche

But Stella and Alex have another row, she leaves the band and Alex goes to war (WWI – an opportunity to sing “Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” which Berlin wrote in 1918 after he was drafted). The story begins to drag a little as Stella, Charlie and Alex all feel sorry for themselves (though Charlie’s still very brave about it), but fortunately Ethel Merman arrives like a breath of fresh air and sings a few knockout songs, though she too joins the pining club, but she remains practical about it. She and Charlie both know that there really will be no one for Alex and Stella but Alex and Stella.

I must confess that the romances did become a bit tedious. I thought Ameche and Faye actually have better chemistry (they made five movies together) than Power and Faye. In The Rose of Washington Square, Power and Faye work as a couple because she seems more mature than him and mothers him a bit, which is not exactly what Alexander’s Ragtime Band calls for. Also, I thought Ethel Merman was a better fit for Power; she’s a nice contrast of personality and loosens him up. I guess I’m just a sucker for rooting for the wrong romantic couples. I have this problem a lot.

Other problems with the script abound. At the beginning of the film, a plot thread involving Alex’s disproving aunt (Helen Westley) and music teacher (Jean Hersholt) is introduced only to have it disappear until the end, where they suddenly reappear and are very proud of him.

Ethel Merman on stage

Ethel Merman

I’ve kind of trashed the plot, but I really do like the movie. It’s a frustrated kind of like, but I still like it. It’s the music and the performers. There is no skimping on the songs, which seems to come at a pace of every five minutes. It’s almost a music video. The music is supposed to range from 1911 to the late 1930s, but it’s all played like ’30’s swing, but that’s not a complaint. It’s wonderful. And it’s fun to hear the contrast between Faye and Merman, one with a warm, intimate voice (Faye got her start on radio) and the other knocking it out of the ballpark (Merman is Broadway all the way).

I also like the general aura of the film. It’s not historically accurate, but it’s fun and I love films about bandleaders and musicians from that era. And as I said, the music is worth anything.

This scene is from the beginning, when both Stella Kirby and Alexander’s band are seeking a job at a saloon. Alexander’s forgotten his music, so they use a score sitting on the bar, which turns out to be Stella’s. Indignant, she joins the music and the manager likes how they work together so well that he hires them both, as long as  they perform together.

Here’s Ethel Merman singing “Heat Wave,” which was written in 1933 for the revue “As Thousands Cheer.” It was introduced by Ethel Waters.

Here is both Ethel Merman and Alice Faye singing “Blue Skies” in Alexander’s Ragtime Band. “Blue Skies” was actually written in 1926 for a Rodgers and Hart musical called “Betsy.” The musical wasn’t a success, but the song certainly was.

“Now It Can Be Told” was one of the few new songs Berlin wrote for the movie and was nominated for Best Song, though it lost to Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin’s “Thanks for the Memories.”


Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Movies


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