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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.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2016 in Music

 

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Anna and the King of Siam (1946) – Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison

220px-Anna_and_the_king_of_siam75I love The King and I. The music, the songs, the chemistry between Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, Oscar Hammerstein’s positive and uplifting view of humanity that is present in all his musicals. It is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best musicals. However, after watching the 1946 Anna and the King of Siam – with Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison and directed by John Cromwell – I do have to admit that in comparison, The King and I is not an especially nuanced story.

Anna and the King of Siam is far richer, covering a greater period of time and with more characters given more depth and motivation, though the story is the same and there are actually a lot of scenes and dialogue that were later used in the musical. Fortunately, I only occasionally expected someone to break into song (Irene Dunne could have done it, too). Truly, the movie stands on its own and is especially well-made.

The movie begins, as in The King and I, with Anna Leonowns (Irene Dunne) arriving in Bangkok with her son, Louis (Richard Lyon), to teach the king of Siam’s children and some of his wives. Many of the events follow just as in the later film, too. They are met by the prime minister, called the Kralahome (Lee J. Cobb), Anna rather unceremoniously meets the king (Rex Harrison) and impresses him with her boldness and intelligence, and then she meets the children. There is the same story regarding her desire for a house rather than to live in the palace (specifically in the harem – Anna feels rather bad about bringing her son into a harem). The same clash of wills, the give-and take, the learning of respect and appreciation for each other. The same friendship between her and Lady Thiang (Gale Sondergaard), the king’s first wife and mother of the oldest prince, Chulalongkorn (Mickey Roth). The same incidents regarding the king’s desire to demonstrate to Britain that Siam is not a barbaric country and the same friendship between Anna and the King. One difference is that in the 1946 movie, there is less unspoken romantic tension. It is mostly a friendship, though a very warm one, which consists primarily in discussion.

annaandthekingofsiam

Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison

Rex Harrison’s king of Siam is more of a philosopher. He was evidently persuaded years before by the Kralahome to give up being a monk and be king. He can be almost childlike in his curiosity and desire to do the right thing, but he is insatiably inquiring and always reading. There is actually a very touching friendship between him and the Kralahome (who has a very one-dimensional role in the King and I), who feels responsible for having put him in the difficult and dangerous position of being king. The king is trying to make Siam more Western in the face of growing European influence in Asia, and reveal a crueler side that very nearly drives Anna away for good.

Anna is also far more nuanced. She doesn’t just go charging in with her determined, no-nonsense British satisfaction that she is always right (as Anna does a little bit in The King and I). Anna is often right, but she also makes a number of misjudgments and has several cultural misunderstandings. There is a culture clash when she first arrives and she does not initially understand the king and the difficult position he is in as king. After an argument with him over her house, she is determined to leave and it is the Kralahome who asks her to stay and tries to get her to see things in a different light. Later, she gets so caught up in the king that she does not see that Prince Chulalongkorn is longing for more of her attention and teaching.

I really enjoyed the character of the Kralahome in this film, too. He and Anna interact almost as much as she does with the king and he acts as a kind of go-between for Anna and the king. Intelligent, dignified, diplomatic, he also has a good sense of humor. Gale Sondergaard won an Oscar for her performance as Lady Thiang, the first wife of the king who loves her husband but knows that she no longer has either his love or his ear. Instead, she must now look out for her son, crown prince Chulalongkorn. Linda Darnell is billed third, but she has a fairly small role as Lady Tuptim, who was a gift to the king and is also his current favorite, until she realizes that the king now listens to Anna rather than to her, and runs away to the man she loves.

king-of-siam-annaApart from the relationship between Anna and the king, there are two other significant themes in the film. One is the theme of home. When she arrives in Siam, Anna wants a house. When she is considering leaving, the Kralahome suggests that since she has no home or family in England, she should consider making Siam her home, her place to put down roots. Siam becomes not just a place where she works, but the place where she forms her relationships and ties.

The second theme is that of the crown prince, who represents the next generation. It takes a while for Anna to see clearly how much the prince wishes to learn; it takes an explanation from Lady Thiang, who cannot give her son what he needs and it is really only after Anna loses her own son that she sees that the prince has been lost in the shuffle of the palace, which revolves around the king.

Not especially historically accurate, the film is nevertheless excellent. I like Irene Dunne in pretty much everything she does. She could do comedy, drama and musicals, anything. Rex Harrison, Lee J. Cobb, Gale Sondergaard are also excellent. I found it a very touching film and especially enjoyed the relationships between the characters. It doesn’t have the joyous music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, but what it does have it does just as well, and I think is a better story. Though I must warn potential viewers that the film conforms to contemporary practices of the time by casting all white actors to play the Siamese characters. The actors do, however, endeavor to give their characters dignity and make them more than just caricatures.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Drama, Historical Drama

 

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Why Are Songs About Spring So Sad?

Today is the first day of spring, a wonderful day of new life and new growth. So, I thought what could be better than to celebrate this day of new life and new growth than to find some songs about spring. I thought there would be some joyous songs, expressing new love or how lovely nature is or something similarly upbeat. What I found instead was an impressive barrage of downbeat songs about loneliness and heartbreak. Who knew that spring could bring out more misanthropes than Christmas?

Here is a song by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, called “Spring is Here,” which sounds like a nice sentiment, until you realize that they are writing about how spring may be here, but they don’t notice because they are all alone. I really like this version, sung by Frank Sinatra. I generally prefer his earlier stuff to his later work; he seems to get too slick in his performance later, but has a touching pathos early on.

And here is another lovely, lonely, heartbreaking song called “Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year,” by Frank Loesser (“Guys and Dolls,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”). It is sung by the great Sarah Vaughan. This song details how the singer has been left by their love, so now spring isn’t coming, or is coming more slowly.

Now this song is trying to have it both ways, though on the whole it is a more positive song. “April Showers,” made famous by Al Jolson, though sung here by Sinatra. Apparently, April sucks, but at least the second half of spring gets better. The rain and troubles bring flowers in May. I think it is significant that this song was written in 1921. There was a depression going during 1920-1921, to be followed by a relatively quick bounce back and the roaring twenties.

If you go to youtube and type in Ella Fitzgerald and spring, about a half dozen songs come up: “Spring Is Here,” “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” “I’ve Got the Spring Fever Blues.” I was wondering if “It Might as Well be Spring,” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair should count as a spring song. It’s not technically about spring. The singer is in love and all in a flutter and restless and that “it might as well be spring,” but it’s not actually spring, though at least the singer is in a relatively happy state and new love is being born, which is a sentiment consonant with new birth in spring.

Finally, I did manage to locate one genuine happy springtime song, meant to be sung specifically during spring (though it is not a Jazz standard or standard of The Great American Songbook). It is from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: “Spring, Spring, Spring.” Six brothers and their girlfriends welcome the coming of spring after a very, very long winter in the mountains.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Great American Songbook

 

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