Nov 7, 2012

Dolores Swings, Liza Springs, Helen Stings, Plus More Herrmann And A Dirty Water Lily Secret Song!

Dolores Gray was born too late! She had a striking face and a great figure, yes, but she could also act and dance and sing. She had "It," as they say. Unfortunately, her rise was in the 1950's, just when the major studios were headed toward collapse, and when musicals, once churned out by the yard full, were sputtering toward irrelevance (save for a few final hurrahs like "The Band Wagon") (though even that was a clunker). If her rise had occurred just one decade earlier, she would have been a huge star. 

So back then, where did that leave Dolores? Mostly in blah musicals you likely skip past on TCM, such as "It's Always Fair Weather," and tired comedies like "The Opposite Sex," a bland remake of "The Women." Luckily, Dolores could always count on supper clubs and cabarets - her extravagant shows are legendary - and she reportedly knocked 'em dead in the first UK stage production of "Annie Get Your Gun."  

Even better, one night on Broadway, a curtain burst into flames, creating a huge blaze while she was singing on stage, but Dolores refused to stop - even with the arrival of fire trucks. Terrified, audiences watched as fireman leaped up onto the stage, rushed behind her and noisily put out the roaring fire. "I just kept singing louder and louder to drown out the noise," she later said. She won a standing ovation by show's end, and an award for bravery from the NYC fire department commissioner. 

"It's not a very happy life unless you make it very big," she once noted, and she didn't just make it big, she lived big. In public, she was always outrageously attired and jeweled (that get-up above is tame for her), and attended only the swankiest clubs and eateries - and with a different man on her arm each night, even though she was married. 

Oh, and throughout her entire life, she sang with a bullet lodged in her lung - which couldn't be removed - from a gangland shoot-out in Chicago when she was a girl (I swear I'm not making this up). "Miss Dolores Gray," a Cheerful Exclusive! contains some of her best numbers. A few tracks in the beginning are a bit dicey in terms of recording quality, but trust me, stay with it. Dolores delivers. 

You may not have heard of Dolores, but of course you know Liza. Hot-cha! Jazz-hands! Me and my Cuban Luvuh have been to see her twice in the past few years, and while the voice has gotten a bit rough - she can't reach those high notes now, though she tries - her energy on stage is even more astounding than it's ever been before (if that's even humanly possible) (in her case it is).

While we were watching her perform last time, I noticed some under-twenty-five audiences members enjoying the show. They'd never heard her sing, but they knew her from TV, likely by way of "Arrested Development" and her many late night talk show appearances. If you're one of those wee ones, hold on tight. This Cheerful Hot-cha Exclusive! is just for you. This is how Liza really sounds. If you already know Liza (like I know Liza), then rejoice. This LP's a goodie.

Now that you've been blindsided by Liza, it's time for Miss Humes to come in and finish the job.

In yet another Cheerful Exclusive!, Miss Helen Hughes is here with her 1974 blues-and-jazz LP "The Incomparable Helen Hughes," which includes more than a few songs written by the diva herself, like the naughty "Contact Me, Poppa" ("Contact me, Poppa, if you want my engine to turn!" she promises) and the lovelorn "I Cover The Waterfront."

She was called "the human trumpet" given her ability to swing and phrase like a good trumpeter. She doesn't stray far from the melody - no wild improvisation for her - but instead uses rhythm and sharp intonation, toying with a song's lyric for her own intent (in this way, she prefigures Della Reese). Present day "hipsters" (shudder) have supposedly re-discovered Humes, but you and I were onto her long before they were, weren't we? (say "yes").

Before we part company, I mustn't forget my devoted Herrmann-heads! As promised, here's part 3 and 4 of this fantastic 14 part collection, this time including the complete restored soundtracks for "The Ghost And Mrs. Muir" and "The Day The Earth Stood Still" (the latter with alternate tracks!).

Some people just don't behave the way you want them to, and so must be dealt with properly. This was the case at The Secret Song File's prom not too long ago. I mean, he was cute and all (blonde ringlets!) (that blue leisure suit!), but he was only halfway likable.

And wouldn't you know, "halfway likable" perfectly describes this dirty diva's very latest CD, which means the first half's terrific - really, no joke - but the second-half's just plain wretched. What to do, what to do. Keep or kill?

In the past, she told us we're beautiful and dressed like a mangy truckstop hooker who'll do you for a can of Red Bull and a SavOn register coupon. She's still dressing like a hooker - even on that awful talent show - and yet she can still sing. At least in the first half. I'll leave the keeping or killing up to you.

If you live in Colorado, the country knows what you're doing right now. 
And the country is jealous. 
Well played, Colorado, well played.

Leave a few puffs or a bit of resin in the comments if you like!


den81164 said...

ps. the liza lp has been in print again for several years now, on her complete a&m collection

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Goodness, you're right!
Oh, well. Here it's lossless, if that counts for anything. ;)

grubbmichael said...

Dolores Gray, legendary indeed.

(1951) Two On The Aisle OBC
(also featuring the amazing Bert Lahr!) Favorite track - "How Will He Know?" Intoxicating!

(1957) Warm Brandy

(1959) Destry Rides Again
(also featuring Andy Griffith)

(1963) Let Me Entertain You


The Cheerful Earfull! said...


What a treasure trove. Thank you, Grubbmichael.

Anonymous said...

The Liza folder only has 8 tracks - seems to be missing. Am I missing something?

(Thanks so much for posting - your blog is fantastic!)

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Hey, Anonymous - the Liza has eleven tracks, but I moved it to a different server in case there was something wacky going on, so try again. :)

Anonymous said...

Yay! That worked! You're a doll. ;)

Bob said...

The Hermanns are greatly appreciated.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're welcome, Bob.
(and more to come) (of course).

Faze said...

Can remember seeing Dolores Gray in "It's Always Fair Weather" last year and wondering who IS this? Why wasn't she an immense star, a household word, or even punch line? This is not the kind of person who falls off the radar. And yet the 60s seem to have swept over her like an obliterating cloud, at least as far as little boys in the midwest were concerned. The many-lived Liza, fortunately, suffered no such obscurity. Thanks for all.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Yes, Liza survives and soars - unless of course, we are by now witnessing Zombie-Liza (!).

As for Dolores, what I would give to have seen her London turn in "Gypsy" in the late 80's/early 90's.

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with Faze.....When I saw "It's Always Fair Weather" for the first time, it left me curious about Dolores Gray's career. The "Thanks a Lot" routine is pretty thrilling stuff. It left an impression on me.
Only four movies......kind of a shame.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

I agree with you both!

Favorite quote: "I'm going to sing you a song. I do hope you just love it. And even if you don't, I don't really mind. As long as you love me!"

Classic. You know she wrote that herself.