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Evening Primrose (1966)

mv5bmtmzmde2ntuzml5bml5banbnxkftztcwndm1mjy4mw-_v1_uy268_cr40182268_al_Evening Primrose is a musical written for the television series ABC Stage 67, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and I am indebted to Realweegiemidget for making me aware of this film. It sounded too quirky to pass up. A sort of grotesque little Romeo and Juliet set in a department store.

Anthony Perkins is Charles Snell, a poet who decides to get away from the world and devote himself to inspiration and poetry by hiding out in a department store. To his surprise, however, the department store is  already inhabited by people, who pose as mannequins during the day and live their lives at night. Almost all of them are elderly. Mrs. Monday (Dorothy Stickney) is the original resident, arriving in the department store before the turn of the century. During various depressions (1921, 1929) more people arrived.

There is one young person there, however. Ella Harkins (Charmian Carr) was left in the department store as a child and now works as a servant to Mrs. Monday, though she is viewed and treated as an outsider. Charles is immediately enchanted with her, but Mrs. Monday and her people have very strict rules. One does not associate with Ella, who is not living there from choice; one cannot ever leave (they are afraid of exposure); and one apparently must do everything Mrs. Monday says, who’s really running a kind of snobby dictatorship. Her will is enforced by “the Dark Men,” mysterious inhabitants of a mortuary who periodically visit to enforce Mrs. Monday’s laws by turning people into mannequins.

It makes one wonder very much how many of the mannequins are really mannequins and how many are simply corpses. Interestingly, all the mannequins are young people. Though one perhaps could make a case that the elderly inhabitants, playing their bridge, dancing their waltzes, are half-mummified, too.

It’s ironic. Charles left the world so he could leave the petty money and social concerns of life and encounters another oppressive society in microcosm in the department store. Ella and Charles have to meet on the sly while he teaches her how to read and do arithmetic. It’s actually very touching, along with Ella’s desire to “see the world,” which she can barely remember. She poignantly sings about her memories in a song that compares things like the sky to various department store items.

It’s a rather romantic film, if ironic and deeply quirky, even horror-ish, and it totally had me going until the end, at which point I was a little horrified. I laughed, and was a bit horrified.

downloadEvening Primrose, as I understand it, is distinctly minor Sondheim, but the songs are rather catchy and poignant, especially “Take Me to Your World. It was televised in color, but only recently did they find and released the black and white copy on DVD. It still looks rather grainy, but the film has a certain atmosphere about it. It made me think of a wax museum.

I must admit to being taken aback to learn that Anthony Perkins did a musical, but he does well. His voice has a somewhat limited range, but it works for the role. Charles Snell is still a little eccentric, but one still feels completely invested in his character.

I can’t help but think of Charmian Carr as Liesl, but it was nice to see in her an another film. Here, she is sad, eager, both brimming for life and longing for it – they are a rather adorable couple. If you like Perkins or Carr, are in the mood for something a little offbeat or are a fan of Stephen Sondheim, it’s definitely worth seeing.

The film can currently be seen on youtube.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Movies

 

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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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