Dec 9, 2012

Tis The Season With Bing, Abbe, Dimitri, Plus Exclusive Burlesque, More Herrmann And A Monster Secret Song!

Have you seen "It's A Wonderful Life" a million times? Me, too. By now, when I see bits of it here and there while switching channels during the holiday season, I'm reminded not so much of the movie's story or the actors, but where I was when I first saw it, or who I once watched it with - family, various friends throughout the years (once, I saw the awful/hilarious Ted Turner colorized version in which everyone seemed to have the exact same beige-sludge skin color) - and those memories are happy enough. I actually never need to see it again. Ever.

So I was surprised when I played the Dimitri Tiomkin soundtrack. It's happier and gentler then I remember, and I guarantee, if you play a few tracks at your next holiday gathering, people may not know what it is right off - but they'll know it's from an old movie they love. Just wait; the memories will come flooding back. To add to the fun, this CD also includes tracks from "Miracle On 34th Street" and a suite of music from 1951's "A Christmas Carol."

Bing Crosby, if he's remembered at all today, is mostly known for his Christmas LP with the Andrew Sisters and the movie "White Christmas" (a few of you might might recall him as an aging orange juice TV pitchman) (or performing a duet with, of all people, David Bowie) (I'm still trying to "un-see" that; they so didn't belong together).

But Crosby (he's the demure one in blue feathers with a sly Danny Kaye at his side) was a wildly popular singer in the 30's, 40's and 50's. His "Stephen Foster" LP - here in a gorgeous restored version - is a fine example of how effortlessly warm, even soothing, his vocal delivery could be - it's not quite sexy, but it's not neutered, either (like the dreary Perry Como, whom I loath).

There's a good selection of songs, including "I Dream Of Jeanie With The Long Brown Hair" (no, really); the only person I've ever heard singing that before is Bugs Bunny (this, apparently, is what Bugs was lampooning). For some reason, even though none of the numbers are Christmas songs, just hearing Crosby singing reminds me of the holidays.

Abbe Lane does not remind me of the holiday season, but this hot-cha Broadway and nightclub bombshell is welcome all year-round:

Did you know? She was "the swingingest sexpot in show business," and once said, "Jayne Mansfield may turn boys into men, but I take them from there." For those quotes alone, how can you not like her?

Of her marriage to Francesc "Cugat" de Deulofeu, the famed and notoriously volatile Cuban-born bandleader, she offered this terse sum-up, "Oh, those (gossip) columnists. He was never really jealous or mean. Just Latin."

And yet in 1992, she wrote the novel "But Where Is Love?" I haven't read it (yet), but it sounds like a deliciously campy roman a clef wherein Julie, a fictional Broadway beauty, falls helplessly in love with...Paco, a tyrannical and jealous Latin bandleader. Why didn't she just write her memoirs? Maybe they're coming (we can only hope). In the LP "The Many Sides of Abbe Lane," marvel at her vamping and cooing and teasing. She wasn't dubbed "Too Sexy For TV" for nothing.

Speaking of cooing and moaning and general carrying on, many kids these days seem to think they're, like, "soooooo hawt" - and more so than the previous generation, which is what I thought of my previous generation. And on and on.

But I'm beginning to think that all those young 1920's flapper girls and their rum-running boyfriends had it a lot hotter than any of us. Everything they did was illegal. Illegal hootch, cocaine for days, partying till dawn in secret speakeasy clubs, guys with tight pants, girls with sheer spangled dresses - they scandalized an entire nation which, just before them, was practically Victorian. And what did they listen too?

Find out in this jazzy Cheerful Exclusive!, which brings together a remarkable collection of music from the flapper girl era. There's singers like Cab Calloway, whose song "Minnie The Moocher" is still rousing (and haunting); Slim and Slam, who use hipster scat and vocalese improvisation (Slim was still performing in the 1970's), Louis Prima, Fats Waller and many more.

To get an idea of how revolutionary these songs were, imagine how the emergence of rock and roll and Elvis changed music forever. In this period, the switch was even more stark; from twittery 1800's-era numbers like "The Fountain Song" ("While strolling through the park one day, in the merry-merry month of May...") to hot, unexpurgated jazz. Give a listen. You'll be riveted.

Be joyful Herrmann-heads! It's time for parts 9 and 10 of the delicious 14-CD Herrmann overview at Fox. Included this time is Herrmann's only western score for "Garden Of Evil," a little-seen 1954 release with Gary Cooper and Susan Hayward.

The score is wonderful - it's Western to the nnth degree - but the movie itself? I forgot I saw it almost before it was over. The most I can recall are a few blink-and-you'll-miss-them scenes with this Latina tempress:

Oh, yes, mis queridos, it's Miss Rita Moreno, who played a character known only as "Cantina Singer." Happily, this release includes, for the first time, both of her numbers. There's also Herrmann's score for "The Egyptian," which sounds as grand as ever.

"Hello? Hello? Can you hear me now? What'cha wearing? Really? Tee-hee. I'm only wearing culottes. Oh, don't say that! What are you, some kind of monster?"

As the Secret Song File knows, if you ask for a monster, make sure that's what you want! And, yes, that was a hint, though it may not help, because this talented Brit has barely been on the scene for a year (if that), but already, his groovy 4-song EP collection is catching fire. Just remember, sometimes a creature is spelled with a "k." And if that makes any sense at all, then ka-learly you've had too much eggnog.

Sometimes monsters stand under the mistletoe, so be careful!

Spread a little holiday cheer in the comments, if you like.


KH said...

"Bing Crosby, if he's remembered at all today…"

Why diss Crosby like that? He was one of the most famous entertainers of the 20th century. And his popularity started in the 20s, and lasted into the 70s. Apparently he wasn't a great father, but if we start looking at stars' personal lives…

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Sorry for the diss - which wasn't intentional. As for his Daddy Dearest reputation, I deliberately left that out. At this point, his work should be allowed to stand on its own.

KH said...

Crosby was doing great work in the mid-20s with musicians from your burlesque collection. And singing a duet w/David Bowie 50 years later! Amazing career.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Plus he was fine as can be in "Road To Bali" with Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope, my favorite of the "Road" pictures.

Faze said...

Great photo of Abbe Lane! Great post altogether! I'm humbled as both a Bing Crosby and Stephen Foster fan to not have known of the existence of this album until now. Can't wait to listen. (I hope you've read the Gary Giddens biography -- really adds dimension to Crosby's not entirely unjustified "Hollow Man" image.) And Cab! And those K-creatures in the Secret Song. Great day in the morning ... sublime.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're so welcome, Faze! And, no, I haven't read the Giddens bio, but thanks to you, it's on order at my library now. I'm looking forward to learning more about him.

KH said...

Two words: Paul Whiteman.

grubbmichael said...

For sharing only....
Thought you would certainly get a kick out of this gem I found:
Phylicia Allen - Superstar Josephine

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Delicious! Thank you so much, Grubbmichael. This is indeed a treasure to have.

bing stills said...

Any chance of re-upping the Bing Crosby-Stephen Foster? Would love to hear it - your blog is a great resource as well as entertaining. Thanks in advance!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Voila, Crosby & Foster just for you. Enjoy!

bing stills said...

Thank you for re-upping the Crosby and Foster link. Much appreciated!