May 18, 2013

Alice's Best, Ruth's Naughtiest, A Classic Bande-Sonore-Francais, The Complete Yma, Plus A Thrusting Power Secret Song!

Alice Faye always seemed a lot smarter than the movies she was in. A tough cookie singer-actress signed at Fox, she stood out in a series of middling movies and musicals, like "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "Lillian Russell." But it didn't matter what she was in, audiences loved her, even as Fox worked hard to soften her tough edges and turn her into a "sweetheart."

When Fox ignored her demands for better roles, she famously sashayed to her car, gave her studio keys to the guard and drove home, becoming, as the New York Times noted, "One of the few stars to walk away from stardom at the peak of her career." No one, it seemed, was going to mess with this hardened former vaudeville showgirl.

Fox hit back by blackballing her, preventing her from going to other studios, but without missing a beat, she hit back, too, by becoming a singing star on the radio, which only increased her stardom. If you haven't caught Faye in a musical, a good place to start is "On The Avenue" or "The Gang's All Here." The latter has Faye singing a great torch version of "No Love, No Nothin'."

It also has Busby Berkeley's most hallucinatory dance scenes featuring Carmen Miranda, every one's favorite tutti-frutti-girl. The opening sequence alone, seemingly shot all in one take, has to be seen to be believed.

A lot of people don't remember Faye nowadays, which is a shame. She could act, she could dance, and best of all, she had a creamy-smooth contralto voice. "Alice Faye's Greatest Hits" - a Cheerful Exclusive! for you and yours - offers a treasure trove of Faye's best numbers. My favorite is the final tune, a combo of "You'll Never Know" and "No Love, No Nuthin.'" When you listen to it, you'll understand why Cole Porter called her "The best girl singer in Hollywood." She sounded adult, as if she'd really lived, which in the scrubby-clean wartime 40's was fairly unique.

"Adult" of a very different kind arrived in the late 40's and 50's in the form of Ruth Wallis, a deliciously risque cabaret performer who wrote her own double, even triple, entendre songs about sex, men, sex with men, gay men and vacation spots, like Jamaica (which promised plenty of sex, men, and sex with men). Here she is posing in front of a rather large penis piling before her friend Davy's pink dinghy. Looking for subtlety? Look elsewhere. 

There's lots of Wallis collections out there, but none that give you a truly full serving of her giggly raunch, so I made you a thirty-five track lossless collection, entitled simply "Ruth Wallis." It's all here, including her best tunes, like "Long-Playing Daddy" (which means exactly what you think it means), "Drill 'Em All" (which means exactly what you think it means), and "Queer Things Are Happening To Me" (which means exactly...well, you get the drift). It's a perfect collection to play, without warning or set-up, at any gathering with friends. Just wait for the reactions. 

I haven't seen "A Man And A Woman" in a while, but I caught a bit of it on TCM the other night and got to wondering if I was, in fact, watching an undiscovered camp classic. Blasphemy, I know, for it's regarded as one of the great "artistic" make-out movies of all time. But honestly, time has not been kind to the newly kitsch-seeming romance between Anouk Aimee and Jean-Louis Tringtinant. 

It was late, and I didn't want to wake up my Cuban Luvuh, yet I couldn't help but chuckle as Aimee and Tringtinant, glamorously disheveled, flounced and gamboled through the rain, past ravishing beaches and blinding sunsets, with tender glances, chaste embraces - all the while with a beatific mist surrounding them. It was the ultimate Pantene Pro-V Vitamin shampoo commercial and I had to turn it off when the photography started blurring here and there for romantic "emphasis." Otherwise, my laughter might have woken up the entire neighborhood. I can't wait to see it again from start to finish. 

And what of Francis Lai's immortal soundtrack? Trust me, kiddies, you want this. You may think you've never heard it, but you have, or at least the main theme, "Un Homme Et Une Femme," with its gentle cocktail hour chorus purring "Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da." It's wonderfully ripe and silly, yet sweet, too, just like the film. And I'm not ashamed to say that when I first saw the film years ago, I took it oh-so-seriously. This was art. This was real romance (I was sixteen, okay, so give me a break) (you were the same, admit it). 

Yma Sumac below. Proponent of subtlety:

I have no idea what that is atop - feathered headphones, maybe? - but I want them. And apparently, dear reader, you want Yma, because in a previous post, the Yma entry set a new record for the most downloads on the Cheerful. Can you believe?

Well, I hope you're sitting, Yma fans, because "The Exotic Lure of Yma Sumac," the definitive collection of her work, is just heaven, or three CDs chock-a-block with every single thing you could ever want from her and more, more, more! Since it's three CDs, it might take a while to download, but just click and do the dishes or watch some TV or or clip your toenails or something and it'll be done in no time. It's worth the wait.

Not everybody can be Kathryn Bigelow, or so notes the Secret Song File, who directs her own films with a bottomless glass of vino in hand. It's just how she is. Everything is under her control, including the soundtrack, and she knows just what she wants. Something with a little momentum (*cough*) from a male singer who has the same first name as THIS female actress.

Did you know? "The word "coulomb"refers to a quantity of electricity. Did you know? "Coulomb" is also a pretty close sound-alike for this male singer's last name. Surely you'll enjoy this spanking new CD as much as The Secret Song File does. If you don't, well, don't expect tickets to the premiere!

Caviar will be served on the red carpet, naturellement, because that's how it should be. 

Dab a little of your own caviar in the comments, if you like. Just don't make a mess.


Anonymous said...

The OOP DVD of "Un Homme et Une Femme" continues to sell strong (and at relatively high prices), as does the CD.

The soundtrack is one of the best,in my opinion, with interesting mix of Francis Lai and Baden Powell, the great Brazilian composer and musician. Samba Sarava is very exotic for the times! The most beautiful of the soundtrack is "A L'ombre de Nous," ending in a haunting loop of a beating heart.

Patricia Barber does a nice cover of the theme song on her Nightclub album.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

I love Patricia's version!

And for those looking for "A Man And A Woman" on DVD, you can rent it at Netflix here:

Faze said...

Alice Faye needed to be a tough cookie, being married to Phil ("That's What I Like About the South") Harris, later to voice the bear in Disney's "Jungle Book". She and Harris had a sit-com type radio program that positioned Phil as a kind of alcoholic Ozzie Nelson.

Sad thing about "The Gang's All Here" is that it big banana-driven production number is performed to the insipid "Girl in the Tutti-Fruitti Hat" rather than some thumping Warren-Dubin number as of yore.

Yma is mufti is slightly less frightening then in feathered earphones -- but those eyes! Would you call her "the thinking man's Carmen Miranda"

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Ooo, I like "the thinking man's Carmen Miranda," though I like Carmen no less than Yma (and love them both no matter what they wear).

As for Harris, he seemed to work nicely for Alice. They were very happily married for over fifty years until his death.

TB said...

This isn't a photo of Wes Montgomery. It's George Benson.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Thanks, TB